It was a full weekend for the Washington Women’s RFC. Saturday the women hosted Raleigh Venom for the Furies’ second matrix match of the fall season. Sunday, Beantown traveled to Manassas to play the Furies in Week 3 of the WPL. Both teams played with heart, with Fury pride, and with each other in executing the game plan. In short, the weekend was one loss, one win, one team.
The Furies Division 2 squad took to the turf Saturday afternoon for the second match in the Division 2 season against Raleigh Venom. After kicking off to the blue and gold, the Venom quickly gained possession, broke the line, and dotted down the first try of the day only 10 minutes into the game. They returned again, breaking tackles to line up a total of 14 points with only as many minutes gone. In the stands, the Fury fans cringed at the idea of what the full 80 minute game might have in store. But the D2 Furies found their footing and fired it up. From the restart both teams battled for the ball handing possession back and forth around the 50. Inside Raleigh territory, the Furies gained a turnover and the momentum that would ultimately give them the upper hand for the remainder of the game.
A slew of penalties kept both teams on their toes. Raleigh put the ball to boot to advance down the field, finding turf at the Furies 22. Fullback Elske Tielens fielded the ball and made an unusual fullback-prop connection, handing the ball off to Rebecca Villareal who continued to gain ground. From the ruck, captain and scrumhalf, Suzanne Haggerty kicked to bring play back to the 50 m line. With the lineout Raleigh took control again and drove it back into the Furies’ half. A penalty was given to the attackers 5m from the tryline, but the Furies defense worked together and held up the try. The Furies were able to show their superiority in the pack through a series of scrums, wheeling defensively and driving back the Raleigh scrum at every opportunity. Washington continued to turn up the heat on the Venom, pressuring the backs into committing infractions. Given the opportunity, the Furies’ backs started to find each other on the field and make the connections to get the ball out wide.
Both teams struggled to maintain possession. Raleigh sent unsupported runners through the Furies defense, allowing DC to poach the ball or provoke infractions. Finally, nearing the halftime whistle, the Furies put the attacking game plan into action. Forwards and backs each did their part and, on the wing, Rachel carried the ball over the line for the Furies, bringing the score to 14-5.
As the half drew to a close Raleigh brought play to the Furies’ goal line. Big defensive hits drove them back and an advancing wall of Washington defense pressured the Venom backs. The ball moved from hands to hands as the Raleigh backs lost ground under Furies’ D. The fight continued inside the DC 22, with several penalty-induced scrums to both teams and defensive pressure holding the attackers at bay. The Raleigh flyhalf found herself square to the posts, with ball in hand and drop-kicked for points, unsuccessfully. The Furies worked together to push into Raleigh territory. On the wing, Christina broke through the line. Rachel effortlessly fielded a Raleigh kick and fed it across the field, bringing in forwards and backs to implement the game plan. As the Furies gained and drove back the defense the clock wound down. Half time saw the Furies down 5-14 Raleigh.
The Furies continued to give it their all in the second half. Flanker Anna Savage stood out for her textbook tackles and aggressive offensive runs. Shortly into the second half Raleigh was awarded a penalty and used the opportunity to put more points on the board. The Furies answered, with Sharifa Love taking the ball in a turnover and running 50m to bring the score to 21-12.
This half, play was much more dynamic across the field. The teams moved the ball from one end of the field to the other, each vying for another try. While the home team was visibly winning the set pieces, Raleigh’s strength in the backline was clear. A penalty and lineout to the Venom precipitated another try for the visiting team.
As the game progressed the Furies continued to find each other on the field. On offense, they worked together to draw in the defense, and pass the ball out wide. Defensively, big hits kept Raleigh at bay and a flat wall of blue and gold forced errors. Fifteen as one, the Furies played with heart and aggression. Penalties from both teams kept possession in turmoil, but Raleigh capitalized on these moments, breaking through the defense and dotting down three more tries before the final whistle.
The Venom left the field with the 45-12 victory, but the Furies were not defeated. The first 2 games of the Furies’ inaugural Division 2 season, the team has faced some of the toughest competition they’ll see in pool play, and made immense progress at playing together as one, with fury passion and pride. In two weeks the team will play the Maryland Exiles, for their third matrix match, and hungry for a win.
The excitement of Furies rugby carried over into Sunday where the WPL side hosted Beantown for their first meeting this season. The Furies are familiar with the physical aggression that Beantown brings to the pitch, and came out ready for it. As Beantown ran forward punches, the wall of blue and gold held them at bay. Impressive tackles forced the attacking team to relinquish precious meters. From the sidelines, Fury supporters were energized and captivated by the intensity on the field. In the scrums, the Furies utilized a technical knowledge and precision brought by a combination of experienced and skilled players; just like the day before, the Furies took charge in the scrums, wheeling the opposition and forcing them backwards. Several penalties to Beantown gave them a forward momentum that brought them to the goal line. DC continued to drive them back on defense, but their center found a hole and scored.
This would no go unanswered. The Furies took play into the Beantown half and fired into their defense, advancing on the goal line. Washington took possession off a lineout at the 5m line. The ball went through the hands of scrumhalf, flyhalf and to Darcy Miller who took it over the line to even the score.
The half continued as ferociously as it had begun. Beantown moved the ball through the backs, looking for a break from the 50 m line. Sally O’Malley burst on to snag the ball and carry it half the length of the field for another try. A succession of penalties moved the ball from one team to the other. As the half wore down, Beantown again earned a penalty that set them in motion. The ball traveled to the sideline where it was touched down in the corner. Again, the score was even.
Despite both teams’ reputations for strength in the pack and forward-oriented style of play, this game belonged to the back triangle. From one side of the 50 to the other, kicks came from the backline, fielded, and returned by fullback and wings. Rookie Lauren Rhode put her boot to good use, gaining ground from many penalties. At fullback, Sally O’Malley connected with Lauren, Emily Miller (first half), and Amanda Street (second half) on the wings, counterattacking and defensively shutting down their Boston opponents.
The intensity of the battle never let up. Possession flip-flopped and the even match between teams ensured that neither one came close enough to score. Well into the second half the Furies found themselves in view of the Beantown goal. A scrum was set and flyhalf Katie Bell faked a pass to her centers before ducking under the uprights to dot it down and put the home team in the lead. A conversion by Lauren gave a full margin of a 19-12 lead. The final whistle declared the Furies triumphant.
The victory over Beantown, the first in a dozen years, showed the hard work and dedication of the Furies, and earned them the number 2 spot in the WPL Blue Conference ranking.
The players on the fields this weekend weren’t the only source of Furies Pride. Both days there were fans on the sidelines- teammates come out to support one another, as well as family and friends to cheer on the home teams. The solidarity of the Furies Nation both on and off the field make the team a success.
Across the board, the Furies are earning bragging rights. Putting up a 2-1 record of in the WPL. Fielding a competitive Division 2 team with a fire and potential to keep improving and earn their own W’s before the season is out. Having the depth to roster a B-side for either of these matches. As Candace Gingrich-Jones preached at the 35th Anniversary Banquet, win or lose on the pitch, as long as we’re Furies, we’re always #winning.