By Frances Wehrwein
The Berkeley All Blues took on the Glendale Raptors this past Saturday in a thrilling game that saw three lead changes and impressive technical play, with the All Blues ultimately triumphing over the Raptors 33 – 22.
Although starting the season with two disappointing outcomes, the All Blues came into the match feeling renewed and ready to take on the strong Glendale side. This was the first game in which The All Blues had a full starting side, and had two very strong practices leading into the match.
The All Blues benefited from receiving the first kickoff, and on the third phase #10 Lisa Dombroski went breaking through the line, gaining 40 meters on a sprint. The All Blues were able to capitalize on Lisa’s break for an early score by #8 Phoebe Boone in the 3rd minute. A conversion by #10 Dombroski made the score 7 – 0. The next 15 minutes of the game were incredibly physical, marked by turnovers by both teams in hotly contested rucks. #6 Joanna Kitlinkski from Glendale shone on the day with multiple strong runs. One such run resulted in the next try, with the Raptors crossing the try line on minute 15, making the score 7 – 5.
Physicality was the hallmark of the match. Both forwards packs remained busy on offense and defense, and both back lines were challenged to make difficult 1 on 1 tackles. There would not be another score until minute 33, when a long series of All Blues phases led to a diving try by #4 Allie Byrne. A converted kick by #12 Jill Whitfield led to a 14 – 5 score. Glendale never let down their level of play, and were able to close out the first half with a try in the 39th minute by #24 Erin Kennedy. The score was 14 – 10 at half.
Glendale came out roaring the opening minutes of the second half, continually sending the ball out into the mid-field to the backs and loose forwards. One missed tackle resulted in a quick try, as #2 Rachel Ryan leapt across the line for 5 points. She converted the kick as well, making the score 14 – 17, Glendale leading.
Play went back and forth for the next 10 minutes. A non-straight throw in the lineout from Glendale allowed the All Blues to have a scrum on the right side of the mid-field. Spinning the ball out wide, the All Blues back line put together a beautiful run in which #11 Emily Malkin went straight through the backline, utilizing quick legs to put together a 60 meter run all the way to the try line. #15 for Glendale, Jess Sexauer, made an incredible run, forcing a knock on in the try zone. The success for Glendale was short lived however, as the All Blues pack placed the scrum under pressure, causing a knock on at the base of the scrum. The All Blues then pulled together and pushed Glendale over the line for a push over try, in which #8 Phoebe Boone was able to put the ball down cleanly in the try zone. The score put the All Blues up again, 19 – 17.
After that, The All Blues never looked back. The All Blues pack continued to perform spectacularly, with a second push over try in the 64thminute, ultimately finished by #9 Alyssa Baccarella. A converted kick by #12 Whitfield put the All Blues up 26 – 17. One more Glendale try occurred in the 68th minute by #21 Jenna Anderson, but the 26 – 22 spread was the closest Glendale would come.
In the final 15 minutes the All Blues dominated the play. Sub Frieda Fetuu, fresh off a summer with the USA U20 team, came in and broke 3 separate tackles to score directly under the posts in the 72nd minute. Whitfield was able to easily put the ball through the posts. For the remainder of the match the All Blues retained possession, focusing on ball retention. The final whistle blew with the score 33 – 22, All Blues.