Report by Steve Cohen
The University of North Florida, Rugby South D3 Champion, escaped from Virginia with a thrilling 17-15 win over the Virginia RU D3 Champion, The College of William and Mary, on an overcast and damp day at Lafayette Park in Norfolk, Virginia to win the SouthEast Penn Region Championship. UNF now advances to the NSCRO National Championship at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado on April 28-29.
On Saturday, William & Mary faced Ursinus College (East Penn RU Runnerup) in the first semifinal match. The first try of the match was a penalty try awarded to W&M by referee Matt Robinette when winger Chris Delgado was stopped at the goal line by a dangerous tackle. W&M flanker Kyle Burise broke free for a 40 yard run to add another try. Fullback Justin Williams converted both tries to give W&M a 14-0 lead at halftime. In the second half with 4 minutes gone, W&M's scrumhalf Aiden O'Connor pounced on a loose ball to raise the score to 19-0. W&M's excellent ball control skills and defensive prowess kept Ursinus from scoring despite a number of goal line attacks by Ursinus. 2 more W&M tries resulted in a final score of 29-0.
The Deadbirds of the University of North Florida faced off against the Profs of Rowan University (East Penn RU D3 Champion) in what was expected to be a close match. However, 4 first half tries by Eric Schiff, Andrew Schultz, Joe Eischer and Roger Amidon gave UNF a 24 to 5 lead. Rowan's try was scored by number 8 Glenn Desmond. Rowan came out on fire in the second half but were held back by UNF's defense led by flanker Tim Heriff. About midway in the half, Rowan's Tony DeLuca drove over for a try making the score 24-12 and the Profs seemed to be back in the match. However, UNF answered with a penalty goal by flyhalf Trace Horevitz and 2 late tries by fullback Cade Pollard and scrumalf Steve Kreuger ended the score. Final score UNF 37, Rowan 12.
On Sunday, Rowan faced off against its fellow EPRU team, Ursinus. Rowan and Ursinus met twice in the Fall. Once in league play and another in the EPRU D3 final. Both times Rowan won. Ursinus came to play but Rowan scrumhalf Eric Sterling darted over with a rucked ball 14 minutes into the match for a try. Glenn Desmond continued his outstanding play during the weekend a few minutes later with a try of his own. Ursinus's backs ran hard and finally it paid off as wing Gabe Schwartz literally ran through and over a tackle attempt by Rowan's fullback to bring Ursinus with 5 points. Rowan prop Joe Risol powered over a few minutes before halftime pushing the score to 15-5. On the final play of the half, Ursinus's other wing Matt O'Brien scored making it 15-10 at the half. Matt Logan, Rowan's replacement hooker, scored 10 minutes into second half but Ursinus's center Chris Poslock scored bringing Ursinus back with 5 points. Rowan reserves came alive and powered in 3 more tries and the match ended with Rowan on top 37 to 15.
When Stuart "Boomer" Willis's whistle started the Championship match, expectations were that UNF forwards would dominate possession and use the tactical kicking of their talented flyhalf Trace Horevitz to keep the Tribe of William & Mary at bay. Wrong. William & Mary showed what coaching can do. They used strong scrum technique and solid rucking skills to dominate possession. Despite an early try from UNF wing Ben Waddington, they pressed on with their game plan. Midway through the half, hooker John Reynolds powered over from a rucked ball to score. Unfortunately a nearly 'straight on' conversion attempt hit the upright leaving the score tied at 5-5. UNF prop Taylor Youngling was sent to the sin bin by referee Willis late in the first half and W&M took advantage and center Sam Johnson powered through the Deadbirds defense to make it 10-5 at halftime. The second half story was more of 'a tale of two halves' as UNF's aggression put W&M on the heels more often than not. Tim Heriff powered in from a ruck midway through the half and with Horevitz's conversion, UNF went up 12-10. With about 6 minutes to go, UNF hooker Steve Hill scored giving the Deadbirds a 17-10 lead. W&M's strategy of pick'n'go from rucked ball led them down the field, ruck after ruck after ruck. UNF's goal line defense fought back and when the ball came loose on the goal line it was cleared by UNF into touch about 20 yards out from goal. With nearly no time left on the clock, W&M pulled in the lineout ball and drove forward catching UNF offside. A quick tap and a few rucks produced a try under the posts. Unfortunately, W&M's kicker, fullback Justin Williams, had left the match earlier due to injury. Their replacement kicker narrowly missed the conversion and the final whistle sounded leaving UNF standing as the 17-15 winner in a very exciting match.
NSCRO thanks the Norfolk Blues (www.bluesrugby.org) for hosting, Sentara Healthcare of Chesapeake, VA for providing certified athletic trainers and the Referees Society of Virginia for their support in providing referees Stuart "Boomer" Willis and Matt Robinette along with ARs Jeff Anderson and David Chapman.
For more information about the NSCRO, go to www.nscro.org.
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