Baby Steps … Midwest Final Four Recap

So our rugby season here in Wisconsin is done. We finished fourth at the Midwest Tournament in Minneapolis this past weekend. Valks won it all after beating the Amazons in Sunday’s final.

But it was important to us that we even got there. And despite a complete breakdown against the Valkyries on Saturday, we rallied back and played our hearts out on Sunday’s game against North Shore. The scores don’t reflect it.

Every single player made strides forward on Sunday, played physically and despite the fact that we have a lot of things to work on for next season, we had some positives.

I’m very much looking forward to the break from rugby now though. I’ll admit it. My whole team, especially our team leaders needed a break, physically, mentally, emotionally.

Good luck to all of the teams advancing to the Sweet 16s. And thank you to all of my Wisconsin teammates.


ADDED: I realized that my exhaustion from the weekend didn’t leave me very objective regarding my team and the weekend’s results. And people would still want to know the results … even if it’s tad painful, my team is not ashamed that we lost.

So the Valkyries beat Wisconsin 116-0 (according to Goff’s report) on Saturday. Our team just came ready to lose I guess … I don’t really know what else to say. We failed early on to ruck and tackle, and then later when we finally started rucking and tackling, we were just worn down. We traveled with 16 players all weekend. Awesome. I played wing all weekend (I know, weird, huh?) and I faced a lot … and by that I mean A LOT … of 3 on 1s, 2 on 1s and even a particularly fun 5 on 2 situation that I shared with Tonya. I think a lot of our younger/inexperienced players were just in shell shock. I don’t know what else to say. It was a growing game for us Wisconsin girls. To the Valkyries credit, they are well-coached, very fit and play the game beautifully and cleanly.

The Amazons beat Chicago North Shore 20-17 after a late rally by North Shore on Saturday. These two teams just beat the everliving shit out of each other. For the second week in a row (they finished league play last weekend against each other too). It was a good game to watch, although I thought that the Zons better dominated the pack play and pretty much shut down North Shore’s ability to get the ball out to their back line, which is what North Shore depends on. To North Shore’s credit, their pack has improved this year to better balance their backline and that made the difference in their late rally. The Zons missed every one of their conversions as well. There was also a heat of the moment fistfight between Pam Kosanke at flyhalf and a Zon prop or lock that drew cheers from the sidelines. Kosanke had fists of fury going on for a few seconds and both players were sinbinned for it with yellow cards.

A few of the Zons players were throwing a lot of dirty unnecessary crap into the games this weekend … from our view on the sidelines, we saw some blatant stomping, punching and pushing that the sir seemed blind to. Ham received a uncalled for punch to the face in the championship match and in a moment of later-labeled “zen”, didn’t punch the Zon back like she deserved so as not to risk a possible red card.

Interesting note on the two referees … we had a female referee each game who was pretty whistle happy with offsides calls, etc. The second match of each day had a male referee who dished out 2 or more yellow cards per match but wasn’t as whistle happy …

Sunday’s games saw our team playing North Shore for third place and the Zons and Valkyries playing for first place. North Shore scored first on us early and kept us pinned down a bit in our try zone, but we held them at the line. Right from the whistle, our entire team was playing much more physically and together. We came back hard and took advantage of some dumb mistakes by North Shore to pin them in their zone and kept pounding until we got the ball in to tie the game up 5-5. We would later get close again and score 3 points on a penalty kick. Our pack did much better against North Shore this game, we won a fair amount of scrums, got clean ball from the rucks and overall, we’re holding our own. What killed us was a combo of our third-phase play (as in we were stopping North Shore in first play, and then second, but not third breakdowns) or one of our players would miss a key tackle and the NS backline player was off through a hole. These situations gave North Shore a lot of tries on us … final was 76-8, but not confirmed. And not including the try where the North Shore winger touched it down three meters out from the try zone either. Oops. It’s the big white line …

I think our less experienced players learned a lot about tackling yesterday and remembering to trust their teammates and that your shoulders, not your hands, are what you use to tackle. And Scottie entertained Nicole and I with Eminem’s “Shake that Ass for Me”.

The Zons and Valks final was very physical, but the Zons were clearly worn out from Saturday after a while and the Valks dominated offensively, except for a late try by the Zons after the Valks lost scrumhalf Katy Hertel to the sinbin (for a questionable card). Final score 34-5. Final’s game photos available here at Dropkick. I’ll post more links when Dropkick includes the rest of the weekend.

Both the Valks and Zons go to Kansas City and North Shore travels to South Carolina.

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Filed under Chicago North Shore, Midwest RFU, Minnesota Valkyries, Twin Cities Amazons, WWRFC

9 responses to “Baby Steps … Midwest Final Four Recap

  1. Anonymous

    I’m not sure any team should ever allow themselves to beat another squad by 116 points. Couldn’t you get to 60-0 and then find ways to manipulate the score? After using all your subs there still shouldn’t be a reason to score 116 points against a squad.

  2. Blondie

    Maybe I was just too busy, but I was surprised when I saw that score posted on goff. I don’t remember that many tries … but like I said, I was busy playing. I have to let somebody else do the scorekeeping.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “manipulate the score” either … I can only assume the Valks themselves didn’t know the score was this high either.

    It’s done. And in the past. You learn from it and go forward.

  3. nurugger8

    there were some serious moments on the sideline where I thought to myself, oh shit. Is our team prepared for the fact we MIGHT lose to Madison (especially after you countered and we were tied).

    That same counter killed us on Saturday against the Zons. Had they not rallied back so quickly, given Sara’s great run at #12, I think we could have had some serious momentum. Sadly, and I talked to the sir about this, she never had the chance to do anything again.

    I was proud to be a part of that rally, but you are right, there was some serious dirty play. I had my foot grabbed at the bottom of the ruck by their second row and she was physcially twisting it trying to break my ankle. What is the point in that? My flanker basically got on top of her and verbally berated her (and physically restrained her. It’s a shame as the Zons have a great scrum and maul but their good rugby is overshadowed by their dirty reputation.

    I liked the female ref for her control of the game and felt she was fair to both sides. She also gave the best pre-game ref talk I have ever heard and was very clear and concise.

    Best of luck in the offseason! See you in the spring.

  4. Anonymous

    In regards to the poster who said: “I’m not sure any team should ever allow themselves to beat another squad by 116 points.”

    Are you suggesting the winning team should hold back and not play the best they can? From the write-up on Goff, it seems that the Valkyries did move to working on more patterns (which to me means they worked on multiphase ball rather than just scoring anyway possible – granted I wasn’t there, but having played for a team that ended up on the top side of several scores like this through the years, this is what we would have done).

    And the idea that using all your subs should preclude a huge score…well kudos to the Valkyries for having the depth to obviously make a lie out of that…it’s great when a club has way more than 15 players who could start in a championship game at any time and not lose a step.

    We play a competitive game people – and at least as far as I know, we’re all here to win and play the best possible rugby that we can without apologies….wouldn’t it be an insult to your opponent to ever bring less than that to the pitch?

  5. Anonymous

    As always, two sides to a story. Here’s a bit more to fill in the “dirty rugby” story from a friend on the Zons:

    “Pam was raining down cleats and elbows before she finally got tagged by our tighthead and they exchanged a few fists and both got sin binned.
    Oh yeah and Ham got cold cocked after an altercation on Sunday by one of our flankers too. Ham stood over her and said “welcome to the big show” to a U-23 Eagle after she cleated her in the face!….totally uncalled for. Emotions were high.”


  6. Blondie

    Anonymous … thanks for sharing another side to the story and yes, emotions were high in those games for sure.

  7. Anonymous

    I have to first send my Congrats to the Madison Women’s Rugby Team!!! Welcome back to the Midwest Final 4!!!
    As a friend of the Amazon’s I would also like to comment on their “Dirty” play. Rugby happens to be the most aggressive sport a women can play – add emotions to that – and stuff happens. In reading the comments in this blog – people are making Ham and Pam K. out to be victims of the Amazons dirtiness. Funny considering they both played for the US in the most recent World Cup, and the US had the highest penalty count out of any team there. Along with the highest number of Sin Bins.
    Midwest Final 4 was a hard weekend of rugby for everybody. It is a weekend that determines a teams future – emotions and egos tend to run high in these situations. I’m sure Pam K. or the Zon prop didn’t take the field wanting to get into a fist fight. Players don’t just get up from a ruck and decide to punch somebody – they are typically provoked either thoughout the match or at that moment. Example: “Welcome to the Big Show.” Give me a break.
    The Amazons are not a “Dirty” team, and I can’t see any of those players purposly wanting to hurt anybody. Maybe they get under other teams skin b/c they are a bunch of No-Names that happen to bring a competitive game to whoever they are playing.

  8. Blondie

    Good comments all around … and you’re right anonymous, we play an aggressive game and sometimes emotions play further into that. I can only speak to what I saw from the sidelines during matches I watched and I’m sure some of what I saw deserves greater context. In fairness to the Zons, I have always found them to be friendly on and off the field, but they always give a great physical match.

    Good luck to all of the Midwest Teams at Sweet 16s.

  9. Anonymous

    As a fan and a player I understand the aggressiveness that rugby brings out in any rugger who takes the pitch. However, the Amazons are not just aggressive, they are dirty. I blame their coach. For example, during the North Shore / Zons game Roger ran up and down the sideline calling out North Shore’s #2. He was yelling from the sideline to “take out that player”! How ridiculous is that!? Its one thing to motivate your team in a group huddle…its another to yell it from the sideline. The fans (on both sides) were flabbergasted by his immaturity.

    I love the comment, “Pam was raining down cleats and elbows before she finally got tagged by our tighthead and they exchanged a few fists and both got sin binned.” Lets be real for a second – Pam, a 150 lbs maybe on a fat day, is hardly a player that would waste her energy on cleating and elbowing. Her forte is quickness and intelligence – not fighting. However, Pam versus the Zons tighthead was fun to watch…and it looked like Pam got the best of that fight 🙂

    Of course, I write this knowing that not ALL of the Zons are dirty – unfortunately, their coach and a couple of their players give the entire team a bad rap.

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