MADISON, Wis. – The Life Running Eagles won their second Men’s Division I Club Championship Saturday at the 2014 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club National Championships with a 39-7 defeat of New Orleans Rugby Football Club.
Less than a month after its undergraduate program lost the D1A Rugby National Championship in Stanford, Calif., the Running Eagles’ club program wasted no time on the Breese Stevens Field pitch, scoring in under two minutes. The Life attack was too quick for NOLA, as an onrushing Jack Tracy was hit with a pass to cause a big break downfield. NOLA was penalized, and Life capitalized on the lineout with a skip pass to Zach Simkins for the opening try.
Life almost padded the lead in the 10th minute, but a try-line stand by NOLA held off the Running Eagles and resulted in a held-up try for a scrum. NOLA won the scrum and cleared.
A.J. MacGinty, the 2013 Men’s Club Division I Crispin Club Most Valuable Player, at Life’s own 22 had a big run from Life’s own 22 midway through the first half and faked a pass to Lance Cavanaugh before finally offloading it to the wing. Cavanaugh scored Life’s second try and MacGinty added the extra two points to extend the lead to 12-0.
NOLA responded with two line-breaking runs following the restart, but could not find a way past the stingy Running Eagles defense. The ball was sent wide and NOLA earned a penalty around the Life 22, but the attempted penalty goal missed wide.
Less than five minutes later, Life clinically finished off an attack started by Cavanaugh’s lung-busting run from his side’s own half. Eagle Shaun Davies received the ball and used his vision to pick out Cornelius Dirksen in space for Life’s third try.
Life did not sit on its 17-0 halftime lead, as Dirksen scored his second of the match in the 46th minute. MacGinty converted before Cavanaugh, David Gannon, and Thomas Van each added tries before the end of the match. NOLA captain Jarrett Falcon dotted down for a consolation try to bring the final score to 39-7 in favor of the Running Eagles.
NOLA reached the final four of last year’s tournament at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., losing to Seattle-OPSB in the Semifinal before defeating the Denver Barbarians in the consolation match.
Life’s Aaron McMaster was named the Men’s Club Division I Crispin Cider Most Valuable Player.
Rocky Gorge put in a full, 80-minute performance against Tempe Old Devils in the Division II Final Saturday to take home its second championship title in three years with a 29-5 win.
A ninth-minute penalty against Tempe set up Peter Ressler for a 20-meter penalty goal attempt, which he kicked successfully for an early 7-0 lead.
Tempe was close to equalizing in the 14th minute with a nice switch play forcing Rocky Gorge to scramble defensively on its own side of the pitch for the first time in the match. Rocky Gorge was penalized to give Tempe a lineout five meters from the try line, but the club from Maryland managed to clear.
Josh Brown was the beneficiary of a Rocky Gorge lineout in its offensive half. The first pass from the lineout hit Brown in stride between two defenders at the gain line for an easy score and 10-0 lead.
Six minutes later, Rocky Gorge appeared to score again with a dive over the try line, but the referee called for a knock on, giving Tempe a scrum and opportunity to clear the danger. The Old Devils did clear, but Rocky Gorge turned around and punched in its second try through Jay Benedetti, who capitalized on a misplaced pass from Austin to Alex Taefu at midfield for a lengthy run across the pitch.
Down 15-0 at the half, Tempe began the second 40 minutes strongly with a try just five minutes after the kickoff. A scrum near the Rocky Gorge try zone was won by the Old Devils and Christopher Iosefo crashed through a few defenders to get over the line.
That would be it for Tempe, however, as the Old Devils allowed two tries from Nicholas Sylor in the 56th and 62nd minutes to fall, 29-5, in the DII Final. Brown took home Men’s Club Division II Crispin Club Most Valuable Player honors.
An undefeated Life West was not enough to slow Old Blue of New York in the Division III Final Saturday as the Snorting Bulls kept the Gladiators scoreless for 72 minutes on the way to a 25-7 championship victory.
Old Blue held the ball well in the early going and Andrew Kozak nearly opened the scoring in the second minute with a break down the right wing. Before being taken into touch, a rolling pass backwards found a teammate to keep possession.
Jasper Wilson put Old Blue in the lead in the ninth minute with a penalty kick. Life could not put together a reasonable attack or get into Old Blue’s half in the first 20 minutes and fell even further behind Marcus Henderson’s try. The center knocked over two Life players on his way over the try line. Wilson added his second conversion for a 10-0 Old Blue lead.
Wilson kicked a penalty goal in the 30th minute to end the first-half scoring. Life’s attack in the final 10 minutes of the half consisted of a few runs by wings Joseph and Setefano Latu, but mostly in the Gladiators’ own half.
Despite the amount of possession, the Snorting Bulls could not add to their lead until the 60th minute. Ben Bacon and Henderson combined in the middle of the field 15 yards from the try line to find Stephen Smith on the wing for an apparent try, but Henderson’s pass traveled forward. Old Blue won the ensuing scrum, however, and one pass to Wilson was all it took to find a try. He converted the try for a 20-0 lead with 20 minutes remaining in the match.
Life’s defense had held strong and was rewarded with an attack that took the Gladiators deep into Old Blue territory. The ball was turned over and cleared into open field before being chased down by two Snorting Bulls, who lost the ball forward for a Life scrum.
Life scored its only try in the 73rd minute through flyhalf Travis Atualevao, who took a quick tap after an Old Blue penalty and sidestepped two defenders to dot down between the sticks. Even after Andrew Warhurst’s conversion, a third Old Blue try – scored by John Baer four minutes from time – sealed the 25-7 win.
Wilson was named the Men’s Club Division III Crispin Cider MVP with 18 of Old Blue’s 25 points in its second consecutive DIII Championship match. Last year at Infinity Park, the Snorting Bulls lost, in overtime, to Oceanside Chiefs.