WPL Round 1 Wrap-Up: New Kids On The Block Making Noise

Round 1 of the WPL kicked off this weekend, with eight of its ten teams squaring off. 

Just a week removed from 7s nationals, many of the women playing were making the quick turnaround from the 7s code, but it didn't seem to slow them down much. 

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Here's how it went down in Week 1:

Berkeley All Blues vs Oregon Rugby Sports Union

Fresh off a 2nd place finish at 7s nationals, the All Blues showed little signs of fatigue on Saturday as they took care of their rivals from Oregon, 29-5

The week nearly got off on the wrong foot for Berkeley; their jerseys went missing just days before the game. However, University of Cal Berkeley men's head coach Jack Clark stepped up and tracked down a set of gold and blue Cal jerseys for the All Blues to wear, helping them out for the day and keeping the color scheme mostly the same as their typical kits. 

The game took a while to take off, with both sides scoreless for the opening 23 minutes. Eventually Berkeley found a breakthrough when winger Laura Thacker scored and flyhalf Samantha Miller converted to give the All Blues a 7-0 lead. 

Five minutes before halftime, Berkeley went in again, this time through the other winger, Maggie Simpson. Simpson was carving up the ORSU defense all half, and finally reached pay dirt when she broke a tackle, zoomed around the left edge of the defense, outran the covering defenders, and bowled over the sweeper for a try in the corner. At half, the All Blues led 12-0. 

Five minutes into the second half, Laura Thacker dotted down for her second try of the game, and after the conversion the All Blues led 19-0. 

Just five minutes after that one, Thacker completed her hat trick and the score was now at a near insurmountable 24-0 lead with less than 30 minutes remaining. 

With 12 minutes to go in the game, Bulou Mataitoga scored to extend the lead to 29-0. The Fijian-born fullback came on as a substitute in the second half and showed why she was named to the FloRugby Club 7s Dream Team a week ago. 

ORSU finally got on the board in the 74th minute, when Brett Zimmerman punched one in towards the left sideline. ORSU played well all game, but just weren't clinical enough with their chances. The late score was a deserved one, but make no mistake Berkeley was the better team on the day, and got their WPL campaign off on the right foot. 

Berkeley 29
Tries: Thacker 3, Simpson, Mataitoga
Convs: Miller 2

Tries: Zimmerman

Life West Gladiatrix vs Glendale Merlins

Life West laid down a serious opening statement Saturday, defeating perennial contender Glendale in just the Gladiatrix' first WPL outing. The 43-21 victory over the Merlins is a message to the rest of the league that the new kids on the block mean business. 

 A pair of tries from USA Eagles Amy Naber-Bonte and Hope Rogers in the first 10 minutes took Life West out to a 12-0 lead before ex-Penn State prop Anziv Nalbandian struck back with a try of her own. Fellow Penn Stater and US Eagle Gabby Cantorna added the extras and it was 12-7 with 26 minutes gone. 

Just moments later, Life West fullback Sisileti Hingano, who also takes the kicks for points, went over for her first try of the season to push the score to 17-7. Only two minutes after that, Naber-Bonte was in for her second of the game and with four minutes remaining in the half, Life West had built a 24-7 lead. 

Right before the halftime hooter, though, the Merlins scored through outside center Julie Tordonato, the Glendale stalwart bringing the score to 24-14 at the break. 

One minute into the second half, Life West regained the momentum. Scrumhalf Lauren Kenyon dotted down and Hingano made the conversion to push the lead back to 17 points at 31-14. 

Kenyon went in for her second of the match just five minutes later, and with the 30 minutes to play, it was now a commanding 36-14 lead. 

Glendale responded in the 54th minute through another former Nittany Lion, this time Rachel Ehrecke crossing over to breath life back into the Merlins and bring the score to 36-21. 

But, that's as close as they would get. Another late try from Hope Rogers and conversion from Sisileti Hingano pushed the lead out 43-21, and that's how it would end. This was just the WPL start that Life West was looking for.

Life West 43
Tries: Naber-Bonte 2, Rogers 2, Hingano, Kenyon 2
Convs: Hingano 4

Glendale 21
Tries: Nalbanian, Tordonato, Ehrecke
Convs: Cantorna 3

Beantown RFC vs Atlanta Harlequins

The women from Boston opened their 2019 WPL season with a great win over the Atlanta Harlequins, 32-22. The Harlequins fought back from a big deficit but were unable to complete the comeback. 

Beantown got on the board first through UC Santa Barbara grad Amanda Schweitzer. The outside center went in after nine minutes to give her side the early 5-0 lead. 

Seven minutes later, Beantown No. 8 Yejadai Dunn scored and the score was extended to 10-0 with 16 minutes gone. 

Boston added a third try through winger Kathleen Phelan at the 22 minute mark and, after Tatjana Toeldte banged over the conversion, it was 17-0 to Boston. 

Atlanta finally got on the scoresheet through UCF grad and Club 7s Dream Teamer Cortney Kuehl. The No. 8 went over and flyhalf Corrine Heavner knocked over the extras to close the gap, 17-7 at the half hour mark. 

Heavner, the Penn State alum, slotted a penalty kick minutes later to take the score to 17-10, but Beantown answered on the final play of the half. A try by ex-Tulane winger Brittany Dykes extended the lead back to two scores, 22-10 Beantown. 

Eight minutes into the second stanza, the women from Beantown were in again, this time by way of center Rosana Wright. With her try, Boston lead 27-10 with just over half an hour to play in the game. 

The Harlequins weren't ready to roll over just yet. Cortney Kuehl, Kuehler than the other side of the pillow, went in for her second try of the match and it was back to a two-score game, 27-15, with 29 minutes remaining. 

At the 60th minute, Atlanta got itself well and truly back in the game through prop Lisa Jackson. The long time Raleigh Venom player was able to dot down on debut for the Harlequins and all of a sudden the score was 27-22 heading into the final quarter of the game. 

However, Beantown showcased its strength in depth, making wholesale changes immediately following the Jackson try. The subs paid off, as Beantown held Atlanta scoreless the rest of the way while adding another try of its own after Amanda Schweitzer touched down in the 68th minute for her second of the day. 

Atlanta showed resilience to fight back, but Beantown demonstrated great poise to withstand the rally and pull out the season-opening win. 

Beantown 32
Tries: Schweitzer 2, Dunn, Phelan, Dykes, Wright
Convs: Toeldte

Atlanta 22
Tries: Kuehl 2, Jackson
Convs: Heavner 2
Pens: Heavner                    

Chicago North Shore vs Twin Cities Amazons

The women from Chicago got their WPL campaign rolling with a big 31-10 win against the Amazons from Minnesota. 

In front of a strong homecoming crowd, North Shore handled Twin Cities in the first half to stake a comfortable halftime lead. 

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