River Wraps Up with 4th Place Finish in NERFU Division II Bracket

Following its first year in Division II, having ascended from D-III last fall, the women of Charles River took 4th place at the annual NERFU tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, last weekend.  The Lady Rats earned a seat at the Sunday Consolation Final after splitting with Burlington (VT) and Seacoast (NH) on Saturday.  There, the Orange and Green battled Portland (ME), falling 26-5 in a tough, physical match.  River celebrated the end of a successful tournament and a productive spring season, having finished in the middle of the standings in their challenging new division.

The Rats began the tournament early, facing Burlington, the #2 seed, in a scheduled 8:45AM match that was unceremoniously pushed to 8:30AM by tournament officials.  Burlington utilized their strengths on the petite, grass-strewn field, tying the ball up in the forwards for almost the entire game.  The “Burly Girls” rucked and mauled skillfully, leaving the vastly outsized and outweighed Rat Pack at a significant disadvantage.  Though the wily Rats halted Burlington drives on several occasions, the Vermont visitors would manage to power two tries through.  Burlington’s first try came after a penalty deep in the River red zone in the first half.  Their second came as they mauled directly from a scrum, rolling their team into the River try zone for the score.  In an unfortunate draw for the Rats facing the Burlington power forwards, the match had been scheduled on the tournament’s smallest pitch.  With little room to run to the outsides, River was forced to contend with the repeated mauls and short forward punches that mark the Burly Girls’ play style.  Despite valiant efforts, they fell short in their quest for the first match, closing the game at 12-0.

After just a brief break, Charles River again took the pitch against Seacoast in their second match.  This time, the Lady Rats had more than enough to overcome their opponents.  On the strength of stellar games from Alicia Scahill (fullback) and Susan Lackey (flanker), River crashes through Seacoast, storming back after ceding the first score.  With the opportunity to run, River utilized its speed advantage for several tries.  Scahill had two tries in the game, and flanker Susan Lackey impressed with her speed on a long run for a try as well.  In the pack, the Rats drive back Seacoast scrums and stole several lineouts.  In their trademark “fifteen-as-one” style, River banded together to take a 29-5 win in the second match of the tournament.

With their day 1 schedule completed early, River took the rest of the afternoon to enjoy other rugby matches at beautiful Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI.  Despite rainy conditions, most of the Rats remained ocean-side to cheer on the Charles River men, as well as other clubs that the Orange and Green have befriended.  After significant bracketing delays, the Lady Rats learned in the evening that they had earned a bid to the DII Consolation Final, against Portland.  After spending a celebratory evening on the town, clad in faux fur, the Rats prepared for the morning Consolation final.

Taking the pitch early once again, a skeleton crew of healthy Rats in a shuffled lineup kicked off against Portland at 10AM.  Portland took a very early lead, scoring on a breakaway during their first possession.  Despite the early adversity, Charles River battled without pause.  They surrendered one more try in the first half, but also managed to punch in a score of their own.  The play started on a very strong ruck from Kara McAuliffe, who secured ball possession for River.  Moving the ball inside the Portland 22-meter mark, the Rats transitioned the ball through several phases, then from scrumhalf Geni Beninati and out to the backs.  Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee punched the ball through the defense, sliding in to the Portland try zone for the score.  As time passed, the game became increasingly tense.  Fortunately, the Rats managed to stay relatively cool in the face of questionable on-field antics, including taunting, post-whistle shoving and deliberate contact, and one thrown punch.  The shortened roster and early starts wore on the Rats, though, as they ceded two additional breakaways for scores in the second half.  River threatened on two other occasions, but were unfortunately unable to finish their drives.  At the referee’s final whistle, Portland had taken the match 26-5.  Overall, the Rats were happy with the win, having played a closer game than was indicated by the score.  With the loss, Charles River also took 4th place in Division II.  Having risen from Division III the previous fall, the Rats celebrated the middle-of-the-pack finish, in a new bracket in which they could easily have been the bottom seed.

As the season closed, the Lady Rats celebrated another successful year with a well-balanced crew of enthusiastic players.  While maintaining a strong on-field presence against some very challenging competitors, the Orange and Green also remain a tight-knit group who take pride in their sense of humor and dynamic social personae.  The Lady Rats would like to thank their coaches, Bob Ryman and Brian Lottridge, for their dedication and unwavering enthusiasm during the year.   They thank all of the fans, including the Charles River Men’s Club, who supported them during their matches this year.  A special Rat salute goes to Captains Jehanne “Juggs” Junguenet and Maegan Hoover, for fearlessly leading the Orange and Green through all adverse situations with poise, grace, and humor.  River would also like to acknowledge the executive board, headed by President Whitney McCoy, for their tireless work with all of the fundraising, organizing, scheduling, dotting (i)s, crossing (t)s and recordkeeping required on the business end of running the club.  Without these women, there can be no Charles River Women’s Rugby.

The Rats will return to action this summer at Cape Cod 7s, and will co-host the Gate City 7s tournament on August 10th with the men’s side.  They wish all fans and friends a healthy and relaxing summer.  UP RIVER!