The Life West Gladiatrix completed a first season in the Women’s Premier League at the WPL playoffs, which took place Nov. 1-3 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado. While the squad’s streak of national championships came to an end, the Gladiatrix still earned silver medals with a second-place finish.
Life West holds off New York Rugby
A 7-1 regular season gave the Gladiatrix the WPL West Conference’s No. 1 seed in the four-team bracket. Life West’s first assignment in the Rocky Mountains was a date with New York Rugby, who earned the East Conference’s No. 2 seed after ending the regular season with three straight victories.
Life West got off to a tremendous start, scoring the first two tries of a game contested in unforgiving and cold conditions. The Gladiatrix controlled possession for most of the first half, took a 29-10 lead into the halftime break and held a 34-17 advantage midway through the second half.
However, New York Rugby was far from finished. The upset-minded squad from the Empire State scored four tries in the second stanza, and in doing so cut what was once a 19-point lead to just three points late in the game. New York Rugby even had possession of the ball in the match’s waning moments, but time ran out and Life West held on for a 34-31 triumph.
“New York is a quality side and they threw everything they had at us,” Life West’s Sara Parsons said after the nail-biter. “We had a hard time holding them back, and it’s a blessing to get through.”
Gladiatrix fall to Glendale Merlins
New York Rugby further proved its mettle with a 26-20 win over East Conference No. 1 seed Atlanta in Sunday’s third-place game. Awaiting Life West in the tournament final that night, however, was an in-conference matchup. The Gladiatrix faced off with the Glendale Merlins, who also went 7-1 during the regular season and handed Life West its lone loss to that point.
The Merlins had home-field advantage at Infinity Park and scored the first points of the game on a try mere moments after the opening kick. Life West rebounded and took a 12-10 lead late in the first half, but Glendale responded with an offensive onslaught in front of their hometown fans. What was a 12-10 deficit for the Merlins turned into a 39-19 advantage midway through the second stanza, and the game’s outcome looked certain.
At a time when some players and teams may have packed it in, though, Life West did the opposite. The Gladiatrix found their form late and scored twice in rapid succession to make it a 39-31 game. Life West had the ball on Glendale’s side of the pitch for a third time and were threatening to trim the gap even further when the clock hit all-zeroes.
“It’s tough to come up short, especially looking at the scoreboard at the end,” Life West head coach Dev Ferris said after the game. “Ten more minutes, and we probably would’ve had them, but you’ve got to be bloody proud of our ladies. The rally showed how much fight we have on this team.”
Plenty to be proud of
Life West’s first season in the WPL held an ample amount of highlights. The Gladiatrix outscored their opponents 332-138 during the regular season, which included a 43-21 win over the eventual league champions during the campaign’s opening week. In doing so, Life West displayed the form that has earned the team three consecutive national titles at lower levels before a promotion to the country’s premier women’s rugby organization.
Sunday’s game was the season finale for the Gladiatrix, and it also marked the end of Ferris’s tenure at Life West. A longtime member of the Life West men’s team, the coach recently signed a contract to play for the San Diego Legion of Major League Rugby during the league’s 2020 season, which begins in February.
“We’ve created something special at Life West,” Ferris said, reflecting on his time with both rugby programs. “These teams are some of the best in the country. This season, winning the PRP with the men and finishing second in the WPL with the women, shows how successful we’ve been in such a short amount of time.”