Virginia Beach, VA. -- The Raleigh Venom won the Emirates Airline USA Rugby Women's Club Division II National Championship this past weekend. They shut out the Pittsburgh Angels in the Division II final which took place on Sunday morning. After a healthy win over Memphis in the quarterfinals and a very close but exciting match against Sacramento in the semis Raleigh collided with Pittsburgh in the National Championship game, hoping to make their hard work worth it all in the end.
The first half saw the match get off to a slow start with both teams struggling to find a consistent groove to build their attack off of. The match remained scoreless after twenty five minutes as this game became a war of attrition as both teams held strong in defense while possession seemed to change hands every few phases.
After successive changes in possession Raleigh found themselves with the ball inside Pittsburgh's half and was determined to set up an attack on the try-line. Raleigh moved the ball wide to Ryan Carlyle as she looked to go around the defense and touch down. The wing evaded tackles and stayed on her feet, and barely in bounds, before finding herself under the Pittsburgh posts. Theresa Flethcer hit the conversion and Raleigh led 7-0. Near the end of the first half, Raleigh punched the ball in again with a swift, cut back from outside center Mari Scamp but the conversion was missed. The teams went into halftime with Raleigh ahead 12-0.
In the second half Raleigh held onto possession and found themselves camped out in Pittsburgh's half for some time. Failing to utilize their position to form a strong enough attack to get more points on the board, Pittsburgh took the ball and counter attacked with a stunning run by Lauren Rosso. She broke deep into Raleigh territory before being brought down by a high tackle from Raleigh's fullback. The referee awarded a penalty for the tackle and momentum was kept in Pittsburgh’s hands. After not being able to capitalize on the momentum or field position Raleigh cleared the ball and both teams found themselves yet again deep in Pittsburgh territory.
After a Pittsburgh attempt to clear the ball into touch was blocked by the fast Raleigh defense, the Venom gathered the loose ball and fed it through the hands of three players for a well worked, and well deserved try by flanker Laketa Sutton. The conversion was missed and the Raleigh Venom had the lead at 17-0.
The match came to a close with Pittsburgh down to fourteen players on the pitch due to one of their locks receiving a yellow card for repeated infractions. Raleigh held strong in the later part of the match as Pittsburgh attempted to mount attacks that they hoped would get them some form of points on the board. But Raleigh’s discipline was sublime as they held on to shut out Pittsburgh and win the 2011 Division II National Championship.
Tries: Carlyle, Scamp, Sutton