August 31, 2019
Randalls’ Island, NY

The Empire GU kicked off the 2019-20 women’s DII club season last weekend, and the Village Lions opened with a 44-0 win over Long Island. The outing marked the debut of new head coach Cobus Gomes, who identified plenty of positives and work-ons in the eight-try victory.

“The Lions spread the ball across the field phase after phase,” the times we stepped into our play pattern, we made big gains and used the available space well.

The attack opportunity was built on the back of a dominant scrum, which was “always going forward at a rate of knots,” per Gomes, who lent special praise on the tight five and converted front row. Tara Harten, who was all over the pitch finding work, was consistent in lineout throw-in and routinely found jumper Marian La Forest, providing another good platform for attack.

“Elizabeth Berridge had an amazing debut at 9 – her first game in this position but clearly a testament to all the extra work she put in after practices,” Gomes praised. “Liz spearheaded the attack with fast and clean ball service [95% completion rate] and a couple of quick snipes around the breakdown. She had the opposition always defending off the back foot. Defensively she caught the opposition scrumhalf five times, disrupting their backs and taking defensive pressure off our backline.”

The 10-12 pairing of Aun O’Brien and Ais Smith linked up well and the duo interchanged positions well when needed. They deployed outside backs Rachel Elson, Molly Manning and Victoria Dushku, who “manipulated the space well to create several opportunities for other players to make good ground or score,” Gomes explained.

The Lions created more opportunity with turnover ball at the breakdowns, and by game’s end Precious Cummings (2), Tara Harten, Kaitlin Davis, Vicky Dushku, Sarah Bogdan, Liz Berridge and Michelle Dimitri scored tries. Berridge also added two conversions. Nevertheless, Gomes indicated that five sure tries were left off the board.

“We need to be diligent to improve some fundamental skills,” Gomes pointed to limiters. “We need some work on simplifying the decisions in players’ heads per situation.

The defense also had its pros and cons.

“The Lions had a strong defensive stand on our own try line in the first half, holding the ball up over the line three times. We were good at matching up next to the ruck when they tried to crash it up over the line,” Gomes noted. “We made several defensive blunders that were covered by a hard-working loose forward trio and a few backs.”

The coach highlighted Elson and Dusku for several try-saving tackles, and the back row of Harten, Silent Force Ela Van (“who had a massive game tackling everything that moved and hunting the ball,”) and Adriana Castillo, who earned Woman of the Match honors.

“Adriana Castillo had a strong showing at eight in her first game for the Lions, controlling the ball off the back of the scrum, making several strong runs and offering some big hits in defense,” Gomes lauded.

In week two, the Lions were scheduled to play Uticuse in upstate New York but the match was canceled and resulted in a forfeit loss for the New Yorkers.

Tries: Precious Cummings 2, Tara Harten, Kaitlin Davis, Vicky Dushku, Sarah Bogdan, Liz Berridge, Michelle Dimitri
Cons: Berridge 2

Long Island 0

1. Steph Diu, 2. Alli Baer, 3. Michelle Dimitrii, 4. Dalitso Nkhoma, 5. Marian LaForest, 6. Tara Harten, 7. Ela Van, 8. Adriana Castillo, 9. Liz Berridge, 10. Aun O’Brien, 11. Molly Manning, 12. Ais Smith, 13. Rachel Elson, 14. Katlin Davis, 15. Victoria Dushku.

Woman of the Match: Adriana Castillo
Silent Force: Ela Van