The Start of the Fall 2012 Season in DII

An energetic Charles River Women’s Rugby squad is poised to shake things up in Division 2, having split two close matches in their fledgling D-II career. Burlington (VT) squeaked by the River Rats, earning a late single-score victory on their windy home turf last Saturday. This week, returning home to Boston, the Lady Rats sought redemption. They achieved it, earning an even 1-1 record with a 12-5 victory against Hartford (CT). A keen defense has buoyed the Rats’ efforts so far—the Orange and Green have held opponents to single scores in each of their first two matches.

With a surging roster of returning veterans and rookie talent, Charles River came out fighting against an experienced Burlington squad.  Despite controlling the action for much of the first half, the Rats had trouble stringing together multiple series for a score. Shaky first-game hands and steady gusts of wind may have been a factor, hampering River’s usually explosive line. River’s “Rat Pack” of forwards, though, maintained ball possession with finesse.  The patient scrum foiled repeated attempts by Burlington to barrel the ball up the field.   Attempts to wheel play wide also largely fell flat for the “Burly Girls” in first half, owing to a strong defensive efforts from the Rats’ back line.  After 40 minutes of gridlocked play, the teams broke for the half.

Confident but still scoreless, Charles River reengaged for the remaining half.  A reenergized Burlington began to mount sustained pressure on the Lady Rats for the first time in the match.  Burlington’s forwards rolled into River territory, powered by strong bursts.  After successfully holding up one attempted Burlington try, the rats finally succumbed to the sustained offensive.  A quick series of forward carries after a 5-meter scrum gave the Burly Girls the first score of the match.  The conversion gave the home team another two points, creating a 7-0 score that would stand as River could not answer in the remaining time.  Despite the loss, River captains Amanda Martin and Jehanne “Juggs” Junguenet praised the sustained effort of their club in their inaugural D-II match.

In B-side action, Charles River highlighted the burgeoning young talent on their newly-bolstered roster.  Rookie scrumhalf Geni Beninati controlled the action fluidly.  Outside center Bridgette MacFadden had several sharp runs through the middle, while wing Casey Gavin showcased her speed and athleticism to the outside.  In the pack, Rachel Gaffney provided some much-needed depth for River at a position where they have been historically short-staffed.  The outlook is bright for the Orange and Green with so many talented newcomers joining.

In downtown Burlington after the matches, the captains honored lock Jess Packard from the forwards, and, collectively, the back line, as Women of the Match for the A-side.  Burlington awarded their visitor MVP to River’s Captain and inside center Amanda Martin.  River selected returning speed back Alicia Scahill for the B-side MVP.  At fullback, Scahill played very well against Burlington in the second match.  Charles River blissfully celebrated the season opener with Burlington, reifying the traditionally congenial relationship between the two clubs.

This past weekend, River geared up for their home opener, hosting the Hartford Wild Roses at Moakley Park.  Not having played a match against Hartford in the past three years, River knew little about what to expect from the Roses.  With aggressive preparation, though, and the hiring of new head coach Bob Raiman, River came prepared to launch themselves to their inaugural DII victory.  Boasting what may be the largest registered roster in the history of Charles River Women’s Rugby, the Rats brought the heat.  A shuffled back line still clicked for River, with captain and inside-center-turned-flyhalf Amanda Martin leading the play calls for the backs.  Centers Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee and Cassie Cox linked well with fullback Maegan Hoover, and River’s wings dazzled.  Veteran Katy Wilks and rookie Genevieve Beninati, making her A-side debut with the Rats, made a formidable duo.  Wilks made attention-grabbing runs as well as tackles, and Beninati scored her first Charles River try, on a nifty series that cycled through the River pack and the entire back line.

The try broke a scoreless game in the second half, but provoked a vigorous reaction from Hartford.  The Roses marched quickly down the pitch, sparked by the very strong running of a talented fullback.  After just two resets, the visitors touched the ball down, tying the score.  Not to be overcome by the resurgence, Charles River gathered and reformed.  The veteran Rat pack leadership of Captain Jehanne “Juggs” Junguenet, Kara McAuliffe, Lisa “Natty” Natalicchio, Anne “Wales” Beaumont, and Christina “C” Andronico would calm the storm up front for the Orange and Green.  Veteran fulcrum scrumhalf Erin Gillespie deftly dug the ball out cleanly for the Rats, orchestrating smooth transitions.  The ever-impressive Susan Lackey was merciless in tackles and rucks, relentlessly pursuing and shutting down Hartford.  Julie “Traut” Trautwein and Jess Packard were spectacular in lineouts.  Trautwein and Andronico lifted Natalicchio to several steals, and the formidable Packard grabbed several miscalculated Hartford throw-ins.  River’s second try, which proved to be the game-winner, was touched down after a breaking run the middle from 8-man Andronico.  The play had started when vet Kara McAuliffe forced a turnover.  River celebrated wildly, taking the lead 12-5 after Maegan Hoover converted the two-point kick.  The go-ahead score with the clock winding down gave the Rats an emotional boost that floated them through the rest of the afternoon.  At the referee’s final whistle, River converged, celebrating a win earned by tries from rookie Geni Beninati in her first ever A-side match, and Christina “C” Andronico—one of the club’s founding members.

Charles River returned to the pitch in B-side action, again displaying a new wealth of talent through the roster.  Returner Jen Garner (#8) led the charge for the Rats, displaying both aggressiveness and poise in the second side.  Reliable veteran Whitney McCoy steadied the newly-formed tight five, with vet flanker Linda Morris keeping the pressure on Hartford through the second match. The game featured a debut performance from Kate Adams in the pack, marking another Charles River inauguration. Lock Sabrina Neuman, who has continually sharpened her skills during her seasons with the Rats, proved reliable in loose play for the River ladies.  Despite ceding a score to Hartford, the Lady Rats played consistently and determinedly, carrying a prodigious effort through nearly thirty links in the Orange and Green chain on the afternoon.  The home team rebounded, scoring twice in the second half to make it a two-victory day for Charles River.

The day had been a productive and celebratory one for the Rats, who evened their record to 1-1 in their challenging new division.  Captains Martin and Junguenet honored perennial heavy-hitter Susan Lackey and center Sarah “Bee” Wetherbee as game MVPs for the A-side.  They selected Jen Garner as the B-side Woman of the Match, with the visitors’ nod going to Captain Amanda Martin for the second straight week.  Charles River would like to thank Burlington for hosting them last Saturday, and to Hartford for traveling up to Boston this weekend.  They would also like to thank the many fans that came to support them at home during their first D-II victory.  The Lady Rats will be back in action next Saturday, September 22nd, against Portland (ME) at their home Moakley Park.