Saranac/Lake Placid, NYJuly 30th and 31st, 2011
Saranac… Can-Ams… Christmas for rugby players. No matter what you call it, it is a weekend that rugby players from across this corner of the globe eagerly anticipate every year. And after a spring filled with cold, wet and generally miserable weather for 15's players, Mother Nature decided to show everyone a little love and provided some beautiful weather.
Onto the rugby:
All the women's teams this year were in one division- divided into 8 pools of three teams each. After pool play the top team and the 2nd place team from each pool would play each other on Saturday evening in their respective championship or consolation quarter-final.
Albany was placed in a pool with Hudson Valley and Blackhorse (a team from Fredonia), the other pool in our bracket contained Beantown, New England Motley and Morris. Hmmm, I wonder what will happen...
Anyway, Albany's first match of the day was against Hudson Valley a D3 club from MetNY. That said, Albany was also without seven of their regulars from last year's squad so this was definitely not a game to take for granted. Being a little rusty after not playing 15's for over 2 months, Albany wanted to set the tone immediately and take control early on to get some breathing room. Early on Albany looked to exploit any lapses in HV's defense. The surest path to the try-zone was found on the outside as winger Willow Eyers put the finishing touches on some solid play that had started in the middle of the pitch with just 2 minutes gone. Off the re-start Albany was pressuring again and this time it was forward Erin Putnam displaying some agile running up the center of the field for Albany's next score, Beth Fairall added the conversion. Hudson Valley defense solidified after the two quick scores and the next ten minutes of the match remained scoreless. As the Albany forwards steadily worked the center of the pitch, it enabled space on the edges to open up and winger Willow Eyers was sprung for two more tries before the half was up; 22-0 Albany at the half.
The second half saw a steady flow on fresh legs enter the match as the club looked to manage playing time with two more games now in their future. The subs each added their own valuable contributions and the team kept up its pressure whether on offense or defense. Four more players found the try-zone in this half, with Albany forwards Carrie Emigh and Nicole Vidro scoring the first ten points. The last 12 points of the half were taken care of by fullback Beth Fairall and newly graduated high school player Rachel Bryk, who got her first Albany try to close out the game.
Final score: Albany 47 - Hudson Valley 0
Second match of the day kicked off at 2pm against Blackhorse Rugby- a SUNY Fredonia team. Blackhorse did not put in a good showing against Hudson Valley earlier that day... maybe it had something to do with the fact it was an 8am game and they are college students. Anyway they must have spent the time between their matches recuperating and regrouping as they definitely did not go down without a fight. Blackhorse held their own against Albany and held the team to only two scores in the first 22 minutes of play. The 5 minute mark saw Willow Eyers dot down her fourth try of the day with another Fairall conversion. It was back ball again that capitalized on the work up front of the forwards as center Lauren Sirkin trotted in for a score close to half. 12-0 Albany at the half, a good start but there was much for Albany to improve on in the second half.
Steady pressure and good ball retention in phase play earned Albany a try 8 minutes into the second half with a nice run by center Ruth Robertson. Another Beth Fairall conversion kick built the lead to 26. Blackhorse held defensively for the next ten minutes but failed to get much going when they had possession of the ball… as a result much of their efforts were expended on defense. This seemed to take its toll with 5 minutes left in the match as three more Albany tries were scored. Kristin Bonomo started it off (Fairall conversion), Beth decided to put more than 2 points on the board at a time and scored her own try that Rachel Bryk converted. The third and last try of match was run in by Ruth at the whistle.
Final score: Albany 38 - Blackhorse 0
With the win over Blackhorse and first place in pool H, it was on to the championship quarterfinals take on Pool C's top team... Beantown.
Despite never haven beaten Beantown in a tournament, Albany is always hopefully that each time they play, this will be the time they can keep it close and pull out a win. This year there was a better chance than usual as Beantown had only two of their Premier League starters and the rest of the club filled out by the true B and C-side players. Albany was ready to play as soon as the ball was kicked off- a fired up Carrie Emigh and Kristin Bonomo took the lead in assaulting the heart of the Beantown line, whether on offense or defense. The rest of the team followed suit and the opening minutes of the game saw Albany display an intense go-forward, pressuring style of play that kept Beantown on their back foot for quite a while. Beantown was able to release some of that pressure at the 7 minute mark when they fed the ball into the hands of their Eagle fullback who quickly darted up the center of the field making several defenders miss on her way to scoring a try. Five minutes later it was a similar story, this time on the outside, to make the score 12-0. However Albany shook off the lapses in defense and resumed the pressure on defense. The hard effort paid off and it there was only one more try in the first half (in injury time). 19-0 Beantown lead at the half.
Second half opened with Albany looking to retain possession of the ball and get things going offensively. Their efforts were rewarded when Ruth Robertson turned on the jets to beat Beantown’s fullback on the corner for Albany's first score of the game. The game continued on in much of the same way as the first half, with Albany applying good pressure but Beantown able to capitalize on any lapses on Albany's part. Two more converted tries by Beantown at 8 minutes and 16 minutes put the game out of reach for Albany. The final score was Beantown 33 - Albany 5. Not the victory Albany had wished for but a solid effort nonetheless and solid start to the club's 15's season.
Final score: Albany 5 - Beantown 33
MVP's of the Match:
Rookie fly-half Abby Brigham, for her grace under fire, especially against Beantown and veteran lock Alicia Backus, for proving that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.
Albany's competitive DII women's rugby club.