Photo: Off to the races: Belmont High’s Val Detheux scoring her second try from across the midway line in three minutes as the Marauders’ defeated Lincoln-Sudbury, 39-26, to open the 2022 rugby season.
Playing its first competitive match in nearly three years, the Belmont High Girls’ Rugby XV squared off with its chief challenger, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High, in the 2022 season opener as the Marauders’ began its defense of its three consecutive MIAA state championships from 2017-2019.
It’s always a red letter date when long-time rivals meet, especially early on in the season as it gives a good indication where both teams are heading. And the Marauders’ offense clicked from the start, putting L-S – which the Marauders defeated in the previous two state finals – into a 22-0 half time hole leading to the 39-26 victory at Harris Field.
“There are a lot of nerves coming into this game,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Kate McCabe after the match. “It’s hard to start with Lincoln-Sudbury and, man, they do not disappoint. It was a really hard hitting game and they seemingly got better and better as the game went on.”
When Belmont processed the ball, it demonstrated the duel threat of scoring off of grinding out multi-phased drives as with its first two scores – by sophomore left wing Lucy Kabrhel and senior scrumhalf ”Jef” Endo-Ferguson – or slash the defense with standout solo runs as Belmont crossed the goal line three times from 70-plus meters out. The highlight of the long distance ventures strikes from junior “eight” Val Detheux whose second of her two tries (which came three minutes apart) saw her slip through the middle of the L-S squad and outpace the back line to the try line.
“It’s really important to step sideways because when someone is ready to tackle you, they are low to the ground so they won’t be able to reach as far., So if you step, it’s easy to pass them,” she said.
Detheux said playing the important Eight position with a full complement of 15 players – last year, the team played Rugby Sevens – was “scary” and ”it all happened very quickly.” But getting help from Endo-Ferguson and senior Flyhalf Evie Hamer ”was important that we work as a team, talking and sending the ball to the right places.”
Belmont showed how dangerous its offensive can be when receiving the ball with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first half 80 meters from the goal line. Rather than run out the clock, the Marauders’ team and individual speed, some impressive passes as well as defending the ball during the ruck paid dividends resulting in a four try half.
McCabe pointed to the play of senior fullback Cecilia de la Fuente who said the pace on her striker line runs ”were phenomenal” and a series of solo shoulder tackles by senior inside center Helen Feldhaus “were what we needed at that moment because Lincoln ever was coming was speed.”
With the exception of Detheux, the team’s eight forwards are made up of seniors whose experience will be key to a return to a finals. It was the unit responsible for repelling L-S twice inside the 10 meter line early in the match and stealing a number of rucks especially in the first half.
But it’s not all the dirty work inside the scrum or taking opponent runners so the ground for the front. Senior hook Narine Mahserejian contributed to the offense going off on several runs including a notable 30-meter dash that had the sideline screaming.
“I do like to take the ball and crash it into them. I like to run through the defense and try to get a couple of meters in,’ said Mahserejian.
The one deficiency in Belmont’s game was when L-S exploited some less than stellar tackling in the final 15 minutes of the match, a detail McCabe did not overlook.
“Honestly, we’ve been working for four weeks and they put a lot of those pieces together on the field,” said McCabe. “And it was beautiful to see and people stepped up in a big way in the attack. I know that this is just the foundation and that we have a full season to build on it.
“So it’s a great place to start but there’s some work to be done, for sure.”