The DWRC Reaps the Rewards of Intensive Winter Conditioning, Going 3-0 on Whirlwind Tour in Scotland.
Departing from the “Big White” during a bona fide blizzard, all 25 tourists actually made the redeye flight on March 12, with one delayed bag the only negative outcome of the start of what turned out to be a “charmed” spring break in Scotland. The sun seemed to follow the team around the normally rainy, history-laden island, and helpful, engaging Scots greeted the DWRC at every turn. Referees were unusually fair-minded and able, competition was good, and most importantly, apart from a sprained ankle, no injuries were logged during the tight three-match schedule.
The DWRC used their training time on the frigid Hanover Plain so wisely this winter that opponents and onlookers alike were visibly impressed with their obvious fitness and physicality, so much so that the inevitable sleep deprivation of finals, papers completed overnight on the plane, jet lag, and the four hour time change did not seem relevant to the DWRC performances.
Very productive practices in Dundee just hours after our arrival, and in St. Andrews again on Friday, accompanied by some very good meals and two long nights of sleep helped the team catch up and prepare to play in the invigorating but constant wind that blows across the pitches of Scotland.
March 15, 2014 DWRC 29, St. Andrews 19
The St. Andrews University WRC were magnificent hosts, and, with a couple of experienced club side players from Edinburgh in their starting line up, also provided a great, competitive match for the DWRC. Three minutes after the opening whistle #12 Charlotte Knott ’15 counter-rucked to win possession at the St. Andrews 30, and #10 Tatjana Toeldte ’16 quickly delivered the ball down the line to #13 Audrey Perez ’17, who powered it over for the first try of the match. Michaela Conway ’15 put her first of many tour conversions through the posts to go up by 7. Dartmouth moved the ball wide quite well, despite the long winter with relatively few handling sessions, and fullback Diana Wise ’15 and winger and captain Pallavi Kuppa-Apte ’14 both posted tries before half. Conway converted Kuppa-Apte’s try. But St. Andrews had also come to play, as crafty #9 Agnes Chauvet, a hopeful for the French National team, snuck through an inside channel at a ruck to keep her team in the match for a half-time score of 19-7.
A St. Andrews knock-on off the second half kickoff set up a DWRC scrum on the St. Andrews’ 30 meter line, and #8 Leandra Barrett ’15 scored from a number #8 pickup with some fancy footwork and great fending. The kick fell just wide and the score went to 24-7.
St. Andrews dug in and went to a vertical game using their size advantage in the forwards, a tactic which proved useful as their big forwards pounded down the field, retaining possession and again getting much-needed points on the board when one of their 2nd rows crashed through the Dartmouth defense and into the try zone. The try was converted, narrowing the lead to 24-14. At the 34 minute mark St. Andrews struck again to bring the deficit within a try (24-19), but the DWRC shook the cobwebs off and responded with a brilliant offensive series, resulting in Audrey Perez’s 2nd try of the match and a final score of 29-19.
March 18, 2014 DWRC 14, Stirling County Women’s Rugby Club 8
The DWRC’s next match was much faster-paced, against much more experienced players, under the lights in Stirling Rugby Club’s well-appointed stadium. Defense on both sides was organized and fierce, with the Americans living up to their hard-hitting reputation and the swift Scots making it difficult for the young Dartmouth players to break into the open. Law interpretation at the ruck also played a role in the DWRC’s scoreless first half, as penalties accrued for the visitors while the home team seemed somewhat inoculated against the referee’s frequent whistle. Stirling managed to shut out the DWRC in the first 40, while scoring a single unconverted try, and the score stood 0-5 at half.
Stirling was again on the boards first in the second half, as Dartmouth missed a penalty kick attempt and Stirling answered by sinking one shortly thereafter. After that, however, the tides began to turn, as they usually will, in favor of the fitter, more explosive team. On this night, that team was the DWRC. A slew of outstanding tackles by Stirling’s designated DWRC “woman of the match” #1 Jovalee Thompson ’14 and incredible offensive support by DWRC’s designated “woman of the match” #5 Allison Brouckman ’15 sparked the beginning of the second half, and Dartmouth’s ball movement also improved as the visitors settled into the task of coming from behind. #10 Tatjana Toeldte ’16 added dimension to the game with some well-placed kicks, opening up the possibilities of delivering the ball to the DWRC’s speedy wings. And those possibilities were realized with two back-to-back tries towards the end of the match by wingers Aiko Laski ’17 and Kerry Anne Conlin ’16, both converted by Michaela Conway ’15 for a final score of 14-8.
March 20, 2014 DWRC 33, Glasgow University 7
The final match of Tour 2014 was another game under the lights against a full university side (no club players as “fill ins”). The rain that had been absent during the entire tour came down with purpose, and cold winds that accompanied the downpour made spectating, especially for our beloved bus driver in full highland dress, including kilt and traditional knee socks, less than pleasant. Luckily, Glasgow provided competition at a level at which all of our newer players could participate, and rolling substitution was allowed as it was in all of these “friendlies”. This was a fitting culmination to our matches and tour, for while the conditions were somewhat miserable, it was the only day in the entire tour in which the weather was remotely unpleasant, and it was wonderful in that it was the only match in which all players got plenty of play-time. With rolling subs every few minutes (to avoid hypothermia on the sidelines) the DWRC dominated the match, and it was heartening to see that newer players were holding their own, especially in the second half when all of them were in. Michaela Conway went 4-5 on conversions. #8 Leandra Barrett ’15, #10 Tatjana Toeldte ’16, and #13 Audrey Perez ’17 scored in the first half to finish it at 21-0. The second half score sheet included an impressive converted try by Glasgow’s #15, another early try by Perez, who then came out for the remainder of the match, and a try by winger Kerry Anne Conlin ’16 to bring the final score to 33-7.