BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Two national champions were crowned at the 2013 Emirates Airlines USA Rugby DI-AA and DII National Championships at Cochrane Stadium this past weekend.
Eight teams, four from each division, saw two days of very physical and competitive play, with three out of four matches ending with less than a 17 point differential. Saturday’s matches began with Division II powerhouses Salisbury and Towson. Salisbury came away with the win, but it didn’t come easy as Towson’s defense kept them to 23 points. University of Minnesota-Duluth and Indiana University PA went head to head for the second semifinal game, but it was quickly clear that Duluth’s power and speed were not to be matched and they came away with the 59-15 win.
Dartmouth and Central Florida provided an exciting match for the fans at Cochrane Stadium with a match-up that saw huge hits and a lot of back and forth scoring. Central Florida eeked out the win, but only by one try. Dartmouth was up at the half before Central Florida took the lead in the 47th minute. With two minutes left on the clock, Dartmouth’s Erik Warnquist scored, leaving the team only a few possessions to put down another try and tie up the match. They continued to attack and create turnovers near their try-line, but didn’t convert and Central Florida would go on to the finals winning 45-38.
Lindenwood and Western Washington would prove to be another close match-up, with Lindewood taking the win but only by nine points. Morgan Findlay helped his team to victory with three tries in the match. His long, damaging runs could have put Western Washington on its heels, but instead they continued to answer back, scoring with eight minutes left.
The Men’s DII saw University of Minnesota-Duluth take on Salisbury. Duluth played their characteristic forward dominant game using their powerful runs around the breakdown to draw defenders, then capitalize on their outside speed. Salisbury’s defense was quick to stop them however, and they scored the first try. Duluth got one try in the first half, but Salisbury would also put in two more to make the score 17-5 before the break.
Defense was the key again in the second half for Salisbury. They held Duluth to 12 points with many of their big stops coming from number eight Jake Fields, who was later named MVP of the match. Though Duluth continued to look competitive throughout the remainder of the half, Salisbury’s aggressive play on both sides of the ball gave them the National Title with a 34-17 victory.
Fitting for a national championship, the DI-AA final match between Central Florida and Lindenwood was exciting and intense until the final whistle blew. Central Florida drew first blood by blocking a kick and eventually sending forward Max Roehm over the line. Lindenwood used one of their best weapons, Findlay, to put a total of ten points on the board after his penalty kick and try minutes later. He made a second penalty kick with 17 minutes still remaining in the half.
Lindenwood could not keep Central Florida away, however, as the Knights managed to keep Findlay from doing any more extensive damage and added a try to bring the score to 11-10 before Lindenwood’s Matty Harris added to the 18-10 hafltime score.
The two finalists traded tries in the second half and Lindenwood had a 25-22 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the match. With the ball at their own 22, the Knights kicked the ball downfield and chased after it to force a lineout. After gaining possession from the lineout, James Boozer caught a pass and stretched into the try zone to give the Knights an exhilarating, last-second championship victory.
See photos from the tournament: http://www.klcfotos.com/2013menscollegechampionships