DII Nationals Championship
Albany 34- Albuquerque 22
11/14/10 11am kick-off
This was the 7th time Albany had travelled to nationals but only the second time ever that Albany had played for a national title. We had come up short 4 years ago against Raleigh. Now, in 2010, we felt like it was our turn to finally bring home the championship. Pre-game jitters were evident in warm-ups, the team was quiet and the waves we ran just before kick-off were filled with dropped balls. We brought the club together for once last huddle to calm our nerves and with a cheer of "FINISH" we took the field to take on the Albuquerque Atomic Sisters. Albuquerque was another team we didn't know much about, they had played on Friday when we were either warming up or playing. We we had been expecting to meet defending-champs Raleigh in the finals, however the Atomic Sisters blew them up 22-7 on Friday. Obviously, Albuquerque could hang with the top teams in DII- we knew we would have to play to the best of our abilities if we were going to walk off the pitch as champions.
The match started off with solid rucking and quick off-loads in contact by both clubs. The backs on both sides launched several kicks early, testing each other for weaknesses. With nine minutes gone, one of the Albuquerque kicks paid off- it pinned us deep in our 22 and their support runners were able to score the try (no conversion). The next 10 minutes saw a back and forth battle with neither team able to get much of anything going. Our back were having a hard time linking up and breaking the gain line and our forwards, while rucking well, weren't able to break thru either. At the 19 minute mark, we cut the lead down to 5-3 off a JoAnne Kos penalty kick. However, less than five minutes later, we committed a penalty of our own in front of our try-line that Albuquerque was able to turn into a try and conversion. The score was 10-3 Albuquerque. With 15 minutes left in the half, Albany dug deep, settled down and regain our style of play that had got us to the finals. With four minutes to go in the half, Kate Fuller found space on the outside to score and smartly touched it down close to the goal posts, to give JoAnne a better angle to convert, which she did. The game was now tied 10-10. Two minutes later Albany was able to put the Albuquerque back-line under pressure with great ball movement and looping support runners. Ruth Robertson brought it home to give the club one more score before half (Kos conversion). Score was 17-10 going into the second.
The half time talk saw one of the senior members of the club give an impassioned speech about leaving everything we had on the field and to not to let up until the very end. When we took the field again for the start of the second, we were able to pick up where we left off- controlling our possession, moving the ball well and holding them on defense. About 6 minutes into the second half, JoAnne Kos got into the try zone and converted her own score, giving Albany a 14 point lead, meaning Albuquerque would have to convert two trys to tie the game... a nice lead but not enough to keep a team with explosive runners like Albuquerque at bay for long. It was one of those hard-charging runners that found the in-goal next, cutting our lead to 9 points with just over 20 minutes to play. Albany didn't tighten up their play though and kept their game plan going of the forwards providing a stable platform for the backs to attack from. At this point in the match Albuquerque also stopped kicking the ball as much since our back three were starting to counter-attack well. It was winger Willow Eyers who scored next, getting a pass out wide that she ran in from about 30 meters out. The score was 29-15 with about 14 minutes left. We started to get some more fresh legs in at this point so we could keep up the pressure until the very end. We got our final score of the match when fullback Beth Fairall touched the ball down for 5. There was 8 minutes left in the match at this point and any thoughts of victory were quickly slipping away from Albuquerque but they fought hard until the final whistle. The efforts paid off when they got a try and conversion on the last play of the game. The final score was Albany 34- Albuquerque 22. JoAnne Kos was named MVP of the match- it was well deserved recognition for a great display of atheisms, skill and mental focus, not just in the final but on Friday as well.
Albany's competitive DII women's rugby club.