On Friday, the No. 7 Harvard Radcliffe Women’s Rugby club opened its season with a 61-0 blowout win against No. 9 West Chester University in West Chester, Penn. The victory gives the Crimson a 6-0 series history, a 2-0 series history at West Chester, as well as a season opening win for the second consecutive year.
“We were feeling pretty good walking in,” sophomore Dominique Cantave said. “We had been working on a new attack plan, and we were really excited about testing it out against a team in our league. I was personally excited to see the team chemistry at work, because we have a couple of new players that have integrated seamlessly into our dynamic.”
The game began with a tense and scoreless first ten minutes before Harvard broke to open scoring with junior tighthead Akweley “Q” Okine earning her first try of the season, bringing the Crimson to 5-0. Sophomore flyhalf Delia Hellander then converted to bring the score to 7-0.
“First 10 or 15 minutes were definitely hard fought,” sophomore Emily Prentice said. “We were pretty evenly matched. Our prop Akweley Okine made a great 50m break by working off the ball and receiving a good offload which turned the pace of the game offensively. And two of our freshmen on the wing, Sabrina [Kim] and Milan [Roberts] had great speed on defense and some big hits in the first few minutes that set the pace for defense.”
With the Crimson rolling on all cylinders, the team didn’t look back as the scoring continued when sophomore Dominique Cantave maneuvered to earn a try, her first of two during the match. The team unsuccessfully attempted a conversion, keeping the score at 12-0 Harvard. As the Crimson continued to add to its lead, its offense was able to expand along with strong defensive support, opening up the opportunity for more players to begin scoring.
Junior flanker Ginny Miller fought out of a lineout maul to score a try to bring another five points for the Crimson, 17-0. Hellander secured a try heading into the half, but Harvard was not done scoring before the break as freshman wing Roberts opened her Crimson scoring sheet with a score before the whistle.
With four different players scoring in the first half, Harvard headed into the halftime break with a 27-0 advantage over the Rams.
“In rugby each phase is like starting over,” senior captain Learned said. “Each phase is a new opportunity to test what we have been practicing. Focusing on that aspect of rugby keeps us all very focused throughout the game.”
After halftime, the Crimson maintained that focus from the first half to continue dominating the game. Cantave scored her second try of the game to bring the score to 32-0, leading the Crimson’s scoring with ten points.
With the flood gates open in the second half, Learned earned a try, and was followed by junior Caitlin Weigel scoring a successful conversion to bring Harvard to 39-0. Weigel then added to the Harvard tally with a score and a conversion for 46-0 Harvard. The Crimson continued to find holes in the West Chester defense as Okine scored from an offload without a successful conversion for 51-0. T
he final score of the game was capped off by freshman wing Kim to give Harvard a 61-0 victory over the Rams.
The Crimson defense ended the match with a blank sheet after the strong display against West Chester prevented even a single score against the Crimson. By the end of the game, ten different Harvard players contributed to the scoring effort with six different players scoring in the second half alone
“It gives us a good platform to build off of this season,” sophomore Camille Bean said, “and it's a great confidence-booster for the team.”
—Staff writer Kim Arango can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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