Village Lions 83, Danbury 0
Saturday, November 2, 2019
Randall’s Island, NYC

By Zoë Newman
Photos by JJ Darling

The Village Lions gathered on Randall’s Island Saturday morning to set up the pitch for the last regular game of the Fall 2019 season. Despite less than ideal weather throughout the week, it was perfect rugby weather and spirits were high. Thus far, the Lions had excelled throughout the season, with a steady habit of big wins and positive attitudes on and off the pitch. The Lions were happy to square up against Danbury WRFC, not having had a league match against them in some time. With a solid squad of season-long supporters on the bleachers, the feeling in the air was that the home side were going to end their season with a bang.

The match commenced with the Lions kicking off and quickly regaining possession. The home side sent Danbury onto their back foot, with the forwards crashing the ball up fast and hard against Danbury backs, causing the defense to scramble. Before the defense could reorganize, #4 Lock Michelle Dimitri carried the ball (and three defenders) past the tryline and touched down for the first points of the game. All in the first minute.

The backs were just as eager to make their mark, with veteran Fly-half Vicky Dushku finding the gap and raising the score to 10 just three minutes later. Full-back Stephanie Ruys de Perez proceeded to make the first of 9 conversions. It was clear early on that the Lions came with the strength to crash through the defense, and the agility to exploit any gaps. Having set the pace for the game and remaining key playmakers throughout the match, Dushku’s and Dimitri’s efforts (including a total of 4 tries for Dushku and 2 for Dimitri) would be later recognized as they were both voted Woman of the Match.

The first half of the match very much played out in a balanced pattern: try by forwards, try by backs, and repeat. The team worked together; forwards consistently gained meters with hard crashes and powerful leg drives, sucking in multiple defenders at a time, with Scrumhalf and captain Liz Berridge and Fly-half Dushku ensuring that the ball would get out quickly to the backs; wings Logan Bays and Katlin Davis were able to get in some beautiful runs, resulting in beautiful tries. Eightman Adriana Castillo also enjoyed several breaks through the defense and scored a try before the 40’ mark. Castillo was later recognized by Danbury as their opposing player of the match (something Castillo has enjoyed several times this season). The first half came to an end with the Lions ahead 54-0.

Straight Up The Middle: Eightman Adriana Castillo plants a try between the posts after a beautiful break away from the defensive line.

In the second half, Danbury caught the Lions off guard by showing up to counter-ruck with a vengeance. This forced the Leonas to refocus and was a great moment for the game: Despite being down 54, Danbury was ready to hit back – they weren’t going to go out lying down. After several phases and turnovers, Castillo set the pace again with her second try at 49’. The second half saw its fair share of set pieces as well. Scrums became more frequent, and all were hard fought. It was a ton of effort for inches, on both teams’ part. Lions veteran Sari Warren played Hooker and did a fine job securing every Lions scrum. Warren made a noteworthy effort throughout the match, with her share of powerful crashes, meters gained, and excellent rucking. Coach Cobus Gomes started rotating in the subs bench at 56’, guaranteeing that everyone got in on the action. Dushku, Dimitri, Cummings (in at 56’), and Ruys de Perez would follow up with the tries that would ultimately mount to a score of 83-0.

Despite the runaway score, there was a fair amount of possession changes and Lions defense, with Danbury eager to get their hands on the ball. Possession would turn over quickly and the Lions did well with falling into a defensive line. But Danbury was determined to break the gainline and it often took a Village to stop them (see what I did there? Ha!). Notably, the opposing #5 Lock was able to break through the Lions defense on repeat occasions, testing Full-back Ruys de Perez to effectively stop Danbury and clear the ball as needed. #6 Flanker Ela Van also excelled on defense, acting like a heat-seeking missile, and her search and destroy tackling earned her the title of Silent Force.

With a final score 83-0, the team walked off the field with their heads held high, knowing that they have worked hard all season, and the results speak for themselves.

Get The Ruck Over It: Scrumhalf Liz Berridge launches the ball from a well-defended forwards ruck.

What A View!: Stephanie ‘Colby’ Ruys de Perez pounds out one of many (9!!) conversions while Coach Cobus Gomes watches close by. #CobusHasTheTee

Tries: Vicky Dushku (4), Michelle Dimitri (2), Adriana Castillo (2), Katlin Davis (2), Logan Bays, Precious Cummings, Stephanie “Colby” Ruys de Perez

Conversions: Stephanie “Colby” Ruys de Perez (9)

First XV: Zoë Newman, Sari Warren, Jacquie Sinclair, Michelle Dimitri, Allie Cahoon (VC), Ela Van, Desiree Voudonon, Adriana Castillo, Liz Berridge (C), Vicky Dushku, Logan Bays, Chandra Labonte, Rachel Elson, Katlin Davis, Stephanie “Colby” Ruys de Perez

Reserves: Stephanie Diu (63’ Newman), Marian LaForest (56’ Sinclair), Marrit Van Veen (66’ Davis), Raquel Gutierrez, Dalisto Nkhoma (66’ Van), Rachel Cochran (75’), Jo Hayes, Precious Cummings (56’)

Woman of the Match: Vicky Dushku, Michelle Dimitri

Silent Force: Ela Van

Danbury voted Lions #8 Adriana Castillo their opposing player of the match, while the Lions chose Danbury’s #5.

No Brakes: Seasoned rugger Jacquie Sinclair draws in defenders while using her hard leg drive to claim several meters.