THE BOWDOIN COLLEGE women’s rugby team hosted Middlebury on Saturday. From the top, Maddie Baird (4, left) tackles a Middlebury player, assisted by Anissa Tanksley on the right; Flanker Lynn Freedman gives a good, low tackle on the Middlebury ball carrier, while wing Laurel Mast goes in too high; and fullback Kerry Townsend (on right) has just passed the ball to Laurel Mast, who’s trying to catch the ball. Rachel Henderson, center, is running hard to support, while in deep suppor t are Randi London, Baird, Freedman and Emily Murray.

THE BOWDOIN COLLEGE women’s rugby team hosted Middlebury on Saturday. From the top, Maddie Baird (4, left) tackles a Middlebury player, assisted by Anissa Tanksley on the right; Flanker Lynn Freedman gives a good, low tackle on the Middlebury ball carrier, while wing Laurel Mast goes in too high; and fullback Kerry Townsend (on right) has just passed the ball to Laurel Mast, who’s trying to catch the ball. Rachel Henderson, center, is running hard to support, while in deep suppor t are Randi London, Baird, Freedman and Emily Murray.

BRUNSWICK — The Bowdoin College women’s rugby team won the inaugural New England Small College Rugby Conference Championship with a 15- 10 win over Middlebury on Saturday afternoon at Pickard Field.

 

 

The Polar Bears finished their fall slate unblemished with a 10-0 record and earned a bid to the National Division II Championships that will be held next spring.

 

 

Middlebury came out looking to avenge their 26- 0 regular-season loss to the Polar Bears.

The first 35 minutes of rugby saw two wellmatched teams battle for field position. Unable to run through the Panther backline, flyhalf Emily Athanas-Linden resorted to an effective kick strategy to find space for her teammates downfield, while the chasers did well to pin Middlebury down.

Several long runs by Kerry Townsend were unsupported and the defensive efforts of both teams kept the game scoreless until five minutes before halftime.

Bowdoin’s forwards and halfbacks controlled a series of rucks and steadily advanced the ball past midfield, when it was sprung down the backline to wing Charlotte Kleiman, who broke through the defense and ran the ball hard 30 meters toward the goal.

The Panthers’ cover defense made the tackle just meters from the line, but heads-up play to keep her feet by Kleiman and the quick support of Dani McAvoy kept the ball in play until support arrived. Off the quick ruck that McAvoy set, cocaptain Uche Esonu picked up the ball and dove over the tryline. Missing the conversion, Bowdoin led at intermission 5-0.

Lynn Freedman controlled most of the lineouts, and halfbacks Kam Sanchez and Athanas-Linden once again went to work passing the ball and running it out the backline.

On a third-phase ball, Bowdoin finally caught the Middlebury defense out of alignment and Kleiman caught the pass at pace and turned on her speed to the outside.

Tackled at the fivemeter line, Kleiman kept the ball in play by passing to the support runner, fullback and co-captain Townsend, who dove over the line for the try. With a near miss on the conversion kick, Bowdoin’s lead increased to 10-0.

As the Panthers tried to kick the ball into touch to relieve pressure, McAvoy blocked the kick and fell on the ball in the endzone, giving Bowdoin a 15-0 lead.

Middlebury rebounded and forced Bowdoin to stretch their defense across the field. Maintaining possession for several phases, the visitors passed it out wide, and used the overlap to score two successive tries.

Standout play came from McAvoy, Esonu, Maddie Baird, Freedman, Kleiman and Townsend.