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Women's Rugby Defeats Army, Advances to NIRA National Championship

Women's rugby competes against Army West Point in the national semifinals for the NIRA National Championship on Nov. 12, 2022. This weekend, the Crimson will face Dartmouth to play for the championship.
Women's rugby competes against Army West Point in the national semifinals for the NIRA National Championship on Nov. 12, 2022. This weekend, the Crimson will face Dartmouth to play for the championship. By Samuel M. Bennett

The Harvard women’s rugby team defeated Army West Point in a resounding 41-24 victory in the first round of the NIRA National Championships this past weekend, successfully avenging its Oct. 29 loss and sending it through to the final, where the team will play Dartmouth.

The Crimson, on the hunt for its first championship since 2019, started off its campaign on a high note. A rematch in the first round provided a great opportunity to adjust and score a key win.

“Our first loss to Army was pretty hard,” said freshman Lennox Landon in a written interview. “We knew that we were the better team, so losing by two with a final kick was a difficult way to lose. Going into the semis, we really wanted to exploit the home field advantage. One practice before the game we spent 20 minutes just making up cheers that we could use during the game! We really wanted to be ruthless in our comeback and bring the energy and I think we did exactly that.”

The crowd at Mignone Field certainly energized the team. After Army got out to a quick 7-0 lead on its first possession, Harvard took control. Senior captain flyhalf Alex Pipkin grabbed a toss from sophomore flanker Sofia Hilger and ran the ball in for a try, and a conversion by sophomore fullback/wing Chloe Headland quickly tied the game. The score remained at a stalemate until around the seven minute mark, when another stellar pass from Hilger set up junior flyhalf Brogan Mior for the breakaway try. Another try and subsequent conversion, this one ran in by first-year outside back first-year outside back Cameron Fields, making the score 19-7 at the half.

The Crimson did not take its foot off the gas in the second half. Less than two minutes in, first-year center/fullback Tiahna Padhilla took the ball up the left side and ran it into the try zone. Another conversion put the Crimson’s lead at a comfortable 27-7. After the Black Knights scored a quick try to close the gap to 27-14, the home team showed off their defense, with London scooping up an errant backwards pass and running it in for the score. London spoke highly of the team’s ability to score a wide variety of tries.

“I really loved how dynamic and creative we were in this game,” she said. “As a whole, I believe this team takes pride in backing each other. No matter what happened, we were right there for each other and that allowed us to create some amazing continuity and pretty plays.”

The two teams continued to battle, but with under eight minutes to go, Fields displayed her amazing speed, outrunning everyone up the left side and scoring the try. Another conversion from Headland left the score at a comfortable 41-17. Though Army was able to get another try in the minute before closing time, it was too little too late, and the Crimson secured the victory, 41-24.

Now, the team’s attention has turned to the championship game this Saturday, Nov. 19 in another rematch, this time against Dartmouth, who handed the Crimson its first loss of the season on Oct. 15.

“Going into this weekend, we want this to be our peak game,” said London of the team’s mentality. “We're ready to leave everything on the pitch and give it our all….Our whole theme this season has been building each game. Our semi game was definitely the best so far, and we're ready to play our best game yet this Saturday!”

–Staff writer Mimi S. Koenig can be reached at miriam.koenig@thecrimson.com.

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