STANFORD, Calif. – The University of Central Florida will defend its Men’s Division I-AA College National Championship crown Sunday thanks to a 43-5 win against University of San Diego in the Semifinal Saturday at Steuber Rugby Stadium. The University of Arizona also won its Semifinal against Bowling Green to advance to the Final, which kicks off Sunday at 3:30 P.M. PT.
The first 20 minutes of the match did not favor the Knights as much as the final score suggests, and the Tereros had multiple chances in the first 20 minutes to open the scoring. Big runs from winger Lucas Morales and center Teryl Reed pushed San Diego into the attacking half, but the Tereros could not find a way to cross the try line.
Central Florida’s Kyle McCormick made a bruising run of his own, pushing aside five defenders before finally being brought down by a sixth. The Knights dotted down later in the possession in the 18th minute after a lengthy try-line stand by San Diego. Sean Nelson put the ball down in the in-goal and Gunnar Johnson converted for the 7-0 lead.
Another 20 minutes of evenly-matched play resulted in the Knights’ second try of the half through Scott Watters with no time remaining, though it came from more crash-ball play on the try line. The Knights took the 12-0 lead into halftime.
The match opened up for Central Florida in the second half, as Daniel Irion and Nelson each scored a try in the first eight minutes of the final frame, while both were converted by Johnson to extend the Knights’ lead to 26-0. Wing James Boozer was the beneficiary of a neat pass from Gerhard Veit to get into the try zone untouched and give Central Florida a 33-0 lead.
Bryce Baker scored San Diego’s only try of the match in the 60th minute after the eight-man took the ball straight from the scrum into the try zone. Any chance of a comeback was halted after Boozer and Irion each added their second try of the match to bring the final score to 43-5.
Wearing longtime head coach Dave Sitton’s initials on their arms, the Wildcats from Arizona were on a mission in the first half of their Semifinal against Bowling Green. Sam Peri opened the scoring in the sixth minute and James Callaghan added a brace before the 15th minute of the match, and Arizona held a 28-0 lead after just 24 minutes.
Kyle Rogers, who had successfully kicked all four conversions, was sent to the sin bin in the 29th minute, giving Bowling Green the man-advantage. In the 10 minutes the Wildcats were down to 14 players, Bryan Kean and Mike Brown scored tries for Bowling Green to cut the halftime deficit to 28-12.
Arizona picked up where it left off, which was bad news for Bowling Green, who had been growing into the match on either side of the break. Jack Arnold and Ian Hause extended the Wildcats’ lead to 40-12 with 50th- and 55th-minute tries, respectively.
Adam Garnaut tried to get his side back in contention for a place in the Final with a try in the 64th minute, but Bowling Green could only muster one more try before Cameron Hudson sealed the match for Arizona in the 78th minute.
Central Florida will defend its title Sunday, May 11, at 3:30 P.M. PT at Steuber Rubgy Stadium on the Stanford University campus. Watch the match live on USA Rugby TV and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with the #NCS2014 hashtag.