PISCATAWAY _ Frankie Barr rapidly ticked off several of the elements that were lacking when the Morris Rugby U19 Girls Team was resurrected in the summer of 2012 after a four-year hiatus.
"Our rucking was bad," said Barr, a Boonton Township resident and a junior at Mountain Lakes High School. "Someone would go down and we'd look at that person. We'd just watch. Our forwards didn't understand the concept of the scrum."
Those concerns disappeared months ago as the Morris Rugby players, quick to learn, became more and more skilled and knowledgeable.
Although still in its infancy, Morris Rugby is a champion.
On Saturday, May 11, the Lady Lions defeated Elizabeth High School 29-20 on the Sport Club Field at Rutgers University to take the first New Jersey State Based Rugby Organization Girls U19 title.
"I feel like we've made name for ourselves," said Tess Feury, the fly half who had three tries and two conversions. "We're trying to grow the sport. There aren't a lot of girls teams around. The type of performance we had today will get the word out."
"We went from not knowing anything to knowing a lot," Roxbury High School senior Maura Smith said. "Some of the girls on our team are eighth graders. We've come so far."
Coach Tom Feury, of course, was proud of the girls, who were tied, 10-10, at halftime with Elizabeth, a more established team that already has qualified for the nationals.
Morris Rugby changed its strategy at the break in order to better contend with much bigger Elizabeth.
"We used a quick ball off the ruck," Tom Feury said. "We made two passes and let the girls run."
"At halftime, we talked about hitting them low and hard," Barr said. "We're so much smaller. We couldn't win the rucks and ball in contact. We wanted to get the ball into open space."
Tess Feury, a junior at Villa Walsh where she is a member of the track team, used her speed and the cutting skills acquired from flag rugby to get the ball upfield and touch it down. Feury's try and conversion early in the second half broke the 10-10 deadlock and gave Morris Rugby a 17-10 advantage.
The go-ahead try was set up by Sophia Latriano's tackle on the 22-meter line. No one was there to ruck so Feury took control of the ball and faked by Elizabeth's fullback. Feury, whose brothers Blaze and Jake are currently playing the sport in college, made the conversion to put the Lady Lions ahead to stay.
"That was important," the younger Feury said. "It made it tough for them. Even if Elizabeth scored, they'd have to make the conversion."
Barr played a large role in the match, blocking, tackling and rucking well. Also effective at blocking were flankers Sam Pretorius (Morris Hills) and Jordan Cowan (Jefferson).
Rockaway's Kelsey Svaasand stood our for her efforts as Morris Rugby's hooker. Svaasand won two scrums back, both in the opening half.
Smith, an inside center, had the first of her two tries in the opening half to pull the Lady Lions even, 10-10. Feury initiated the scoring sequence, passing the ball to Delia Hellender. Hellender then found Smith, who raced down the right sideline.
The locks, Tamlyn Cowan and Rosie Sharkey, were successful at providing power in the scrums.
Making the victory sweeter was the fact that Elizabeth had beaten Morris Rugby 30-14 on April 7.
"We scouted Elizabeth and knew they played 10-man rugby keeping the ball inside with the big girls," Tom Feury said. "The challenge was half my pack was middle school girls and they're small."
Macaela Sherrod, Timia Smith, Lenaj Graham and Lily Lorenzo had one try apiece for Elizabeth.
Rounding out the Morris Rugby team are Olivia Esker (Morris Catholic), Maggie Hagan (Roxbury), Nadiyha Marrow (Morristown), Meghan Martin (Black River Middle School), Jess Nagie (Roxbury), Demi Pretorius (Morris Hills), Kat Ramage (Roxbury), Jenny Stumpf (Morristown), Hannah Work (Sparta), Vanessa Martinez (Morris Hills) and Jenna Pagnotta.
Mike Stumpf, Erin Krupa and Pam Laura are additional members of the coaching staff.
"We started as a not-so-strong team," Barr said. "We had a lot of flag players. We're new. That's why winning the states is big for us. I'm proud. Very proud."
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