Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Virginia Beach, VA – The third time is the charm they say. Well sure enough it was for Longwood University of Farmville, Virginia (Virgina RU). Having finished 3rd in the 2007 and 2009 NSCRO Championship, Longwood would not be denied this year. In the final they defeated Occidental College of Los Angeles, California (Southern California RFU) 36 to 27 to claim the 2011 NSCRO Men’s Collegiate Division 3 Championship at the Sportsplex Stadium in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Prior to the final, Salve Regina University of Newport, Rhode Island (New England RFU) held on to defeated Ithaca College of Ithaca, NY (New York State RC) 29 to 22 to finish in 3rd place.
The event was hosted by the Norfolk Blues RFC at the outstanding Virginia Beach Sportsplex Stadium. All teams were provided with locker rooms, post-match showers, concessions, and a full-size state-of-the-art turf field to showcase their rugby skills.
The 4 teams who earned their place in the Championship from the 135 D3 teams that were NSCRO eligible all showed how well “small colleges” represent collegiate rugby both on and off the field. The male undergraduate enrollment of these schools ranged from a low of approx. 500 (Salve) to a high of approx. 2800 (Ithaca). NSCRO has established a “small college” definition of 3000 undergraduate students by gender.
The weather was perfect all weekend for the 4 best and unbeaten (in both local league and NSCRO play) Division 3 teams in the country to prove themselves on the pitch. Did they? Seeing is believing and I am a believer. Each match saw these fine student-athletes give it their all. Nothing was left on the pitch at the final whistle. The Championship match, especially, showed how focused these players were and how much emotion they put into their effort. When the final whistle was sounded by referee Steve Myers…the players were spent in every way. This is what event organizers, like myself, hope to see. While one team in each match this weekend score more points than their opponent, rugby is much more than just this result. The fact that all 4 teams made it to the National Championship was an amazing accomplishment in of itself. The significant amount of time and energy they and their coaches gave to this long road to Virginia Beach and the character they built as individuals and as a team was clearly evident. Every player and coach was able to hold their head high while their families, friends and school officials should have enormous admiration and pride in them.
Salve Regina and Longwood faced off in the first semifinal on Saturday. Salve flew past all of its New England opponents in both the regular league and playoffs going 10-0, while Longwood dominated Virginia Division 3 opponents last Fall as well as winning the MARFU D3 title this Spring.
Salve wasted no time and within 3 minutes of the kickoff, no. 8 Ryan Shilalis drove into in-goal from a rucked ball to score a try to give Salve a 5-0 lead. Longwood went on attack only to find Salve’s defense tough to crack until center Ben Smith broke through and scored at the 22nd minute. The conversion made it 7-5 in Longwood’s favor. Longwood’s backs were able to break the gain line often but Salve’s secondary defense was there to slow them down. The half ended that way as both teams stood tall when challenged at their goal line. The second was a different story as offense by teams started to dominate the action. Longwood began the second half tryfest at the 8 minute mark when winger Dan Waite scooped up a fine grubber kick by Ben Smith to score. As it would turn out, every time Longwood would score a try, Salve came right back with one of their own. 10 minutes later Salve flanger Colby Sherman drove in off a penalty play making the score 12-10 to Longwood. John Kennedy put Longwood up by 5 points with a penalty kick. At the 16th minute, Longwood flanker TJ Van Petten scored one of the best individual tries ever witnessed by those in attendance. Just inside the halfway line, Van Petten broken through 4 attempted tackles and when faced with the fullback as Salve’s last line of defense, he booted the ball ahead and gathered it to score. The conversion made it 22-10 and it seemed Salve was done. But that was not the case. Coach Mike Martin’s team was not the type to give up. Salve’s scrumhalf Clive O’Mahoney scored a fine try off a penalty play to bring his team within 7 points with just over 10 minutes to go in the match. Salve pressured Longwood but this time defense ruled. Longwood drove back down the field and proper Matt Marino drove in from a rucked ball to give his side a 27-15 led with 3 minutes left. But again Salve came back and their ever-present no. 8 Ryan Shilalis scored with a minute to go. The conversion made it 27-22. Time ran out on Salve’s valiant comeback attempt and Longwood came away with the win.
In the second match of the day, the first-ever NSCRO Western Regional Champion, Occidental College, took on a born-again Ithaca College team. Ithaca, under the capable leadership of coach Annemarie Farrell, was just reformed on campus this past Fall. So what they were able to accomplish in their first season back is simply outstanding. Occidental had a very strong league season beating all 7 opponents scoring 243 points and yield only 52 points.
Both teams used their solid packs to try to gain dominance early on. There was no scoring until the 24th minute when Oxy’s captain and fullback Mitchell Grummon nailed a penalty kick. On the ensuing kick off, Oxy’s quick wing Joey “Unicorn” Maloney broke 2 tackles and ran 40 meters down the side line to score an impressive try to give his side a 8-0 lead. A few minutes last fullback Grummon took a high kick and broke through for a 35 meter run to then find Maloney in support. The pass to Maloney was right on target and Oxy’s try and conversion by Grummon gave them a 15-0 lead. Just before half-time Grummon kicked another penalty goal to make it 18-0. Ithaca regrouped in the second half and utilizing their forward’s power drove a 5 meter penalty play over for a try by no. 8 Scott Kamp. Despite their continued pressure on Oxy, Ithaca was unable to score again. The match ended in Oxy’s favor 18-5.
Sunday’s weather was even better for rugby with less sun and about 10 degrees cooler (close to 70F) than Saturday. The consolation final between Salve and Ithaca would turn out to be one heck of a match. It didn’t quite start out that way, but it sure ended with everyone proud.
Salve came out of the gate on fire in the Consolation Final for 3rd place. A penalty try was awarded by referee Rob Seiler 2 minutes into the match when center Matt Dougenik was tripped close to the goal line with ball in hand and an apparent try in front of him. The conversion made it 7-0. About 10 minutes later Dougenik broke 2 tackles and scored on a 35 meter run. The conversion made it 14-0 to Salve. At the 15th minute Salve flanker Colby Sherman picked up a loose ball and ran 20 meters in for another try. A few minutes later Salve scrumhalf Clive O’Maloney scored on a 15 meter run and it was all Salve at 24-0 after just about 30 minutes of action. Ithaca was able to drive into Salve’s 22 meter area many teams but foolish penalties kept them from scoring. While many teams would simply lie down and fold, the Ithaca Bombers would not do so. Their powerful runner no. 8 Scott Kamp used his power well and scored with 5 minutes left in the half. Ithaca was awarded a penalty try due to professional foul preventing a quick tap penalty from being taken 5 meters from the goal line. The conversion made it 24-12 at halftime. Ithaca was back in it. Ithaca kept its momentum going in the second half as prop Jamie Facenda score on a short run to bring his side with 7 points at 24-17. Ithaca kept good control of the ball and used their forwards wisely to set up Scott Kamp for another try to shrink Salve’s lead to 2 points at 24-22. Both teams kept on pressing and when a ball came loose out an Ithaca ruck, Salve’s alert center Quinn Turner picked it up and ran 30 meters for a try to give Salve a 29-22 lead with just over 10 minutes left. Ithaca did its best but were unable to score again. Salve emerged as the 3rd place finisher.
If the Consolation Final wasn’t exciting enough for the fans, all they had to do was watch the Championship final. Longwood pulled a “Salve” on Oxy as they came out firing on all cylinders and scored 3 tries in the first 20 minutes to take a 19-0 lead. Tries were scored by flyhalf Preston Leep, winger Dan Waite and center Ben Smith. Waite and Smith’s tries were opportunistic ones both coming from a loose ball that was in Oxy’s possession. But Oxy was well-coach and settled down to play Oxy rugby. It worked as flanker Zack Hundley scored on a goal line pick’n’go to make it 19-5. A few minutes later prop Johnny Ni scored from a few meters out and with the conversion, we had a game at 19-12. But Longwood was not lying down and Ben Smith again showed his alertness on a loose ball and ran it in 15 meters to make it 26-12 with the conversion just before halftime. Oxy came out aggressively with the 2nd half whistle and scrumhalf Leon Siegel scored from a 5 meter scrum and with Grummon’s conversion…they were back within 7 points at 26-19. Unfortunately for Oxy, at the 29th minutes, referee Steve Myers whistled winger Joey Maloney for a dangerous play and yellow carded the player. Longwood took quick advantage of this and scored a minute later when second row Alex Randall took a rucked ball at the goal line and powered over for a try to make it 31-19. A few minutes later Longwood blocked an Oxy clearance kick attempt by the goal line and prop Jeremiah Shepherd fell on it to push Longwood ahead 36-19. At the midway point of the half, Grummon kicked a penalty goal. Replacement wing Alberto Adame scored a fine try with about 11 minutes left to bring Oxy within 9 points at 36-27. The final 10 minutes was scoreless and after two attempts at winning a National title, Longwood came through with its first D3 title.
NSCRO President Steve Cohen awarded team trophies as well as Gold (Champion) and Silver (Runnerup) player medals to Longwood and Occidental. The Championship event MVP trophy, as selected by the Norfolk Blues RFC selection committee, was presented to Longwood center Ben Smith. The traditional NSCRO “Heart and Soul” match ball was awarded to Occidental’s Johnny Ni.
Professional Video Coverage
NSCRO’s partner BC Productions ( www.bcproductionsdc.com) provided outstanding video coverage which included match commentary from USA Women’s Eagle Phaidra Knight and Matt Robinette an experienced player, coach, administrator and rugby referee. Jacqueline Baires provides sideline reporting including interviews with coaches, players and fans. Coped of the match DVDs can be ordered from NSCRO. Contact Steve Cohen at email@example.com for more information.
It was thrilling to see how many families and friends travelled far and wide to Virginia Beach to support their team. Each team had more than 50 supporters in the stands. In talking with many parents, I was repeatedly told how great the rugby experience has been for their son and to finish off their season at a National Championship in this great facility is beyond anything they ever expected.
NSCRO would like to acknowledge and thank those who made this Championship one of the finest collegiate rugby events ever held. It is much appreciated by NSCRO and all of the participants on and off the pitch.
Matt Robinette and the City of Virginia Beach
Dave Spivey and the Norfolk Blues RFC
Stuart “Boomer” Willis of the Virginia Rugby Referees Society
Match Referees – Terry Haas (East Penn), Steve Myers (Virginia) and Rob Seiler (Virginia)
Assistant Referees – David Chapman and Jim Carroll
Certified Athletic Trainer – Mitch Callas
BC Productions – President Roberto Albarracin, Videographers Bill Burch and Jonathan Morataya and annoucer Jacqueline Baires
Match Commentators – Phaidra Knight and Matt Robinette
Chris “Chilly” Kirkwood of Love Rugby Company ( www.loverugbycompany.com) provided the event t-shirts and rugby merchandise.
and all of the Norfolk ball boys!
NSCRO is proud of its partnerships and thanks its partners for their support but more importantly recognizing the importance of providing such support to deserved student-athletes.
BC Productions at www.bcproductionsdc.com
Media Ad Partners
City of Glendale/Infinity Park at http://www.infinityparkatglendale.com/
City of Virginia Beach at http://www.visitvirginiabeach.com/visitors/
Rugby Magazine at http://www.rugbymag.com
USA Sevens LLC at http://www.usasevenscrc.com/
World Rugby Shop at http://www.worldrugbyshop.com
USA Sevens CRCs in Philly
As a reminder, every rugger should start their summer off right at the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) in Philadelphia on June 4 and 5. Come watch 16 of the top collegiate men’s and 8 of the top collegiate women’s rugby teams in the country battling in a two-day tournament for the USA Sevens CRC Cup. The CRC will also include a two-day Philly-style Block Party, featuring rugby clinics, Rugby Legends, food, a beer garden and a battle of the bands that will be headlined by the band Dropkick Murphys! For more information, go to www.USASevensCRC.com or call 1-888-RUGBY-7S.
A 30-second NSCRO Commercial prepared by BC Productions a few days prior to the event has over 1000 views to date. If you’ve not seen it, watch it now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHEh3F6u7ok.
NSCRO thanks to the support of its Media Partners was able to afford to stream all 4 matches live via the interest.
The viewership count for the web streaming can only show how many “computers” are logged on and not the actual count of viewers watching. They were many large gatherings around the country watching. For example, in Wayne, Nebraska…42 players from Wayne State College Men and Women’s Rugby Club watched together on Saturday. Then on Sunday they had 71 watching according to Coach Darrin Barner.
Saturday “views” were nearly 500 for both matches
Sunday “views were 92 for the consolation match and 442 for championship match.
I am very pleased but still amazed by how many people were interested….it only shows how import “small college” rugby is and what NSCRO has been able to accomplish in a few short years.
About the NSCRO
The National Small College Rugby Organization LLC (NSCRO) was co-founded in 2007 by Steve Cohen and Chip Auscavitch. It was a continuation of the East Coast Division 3 Championships started by Steve Cohen in 2002.
The 2010-11 NSCRO Men’s Division 3 Playoff system had 135 eligible teams representing Unions from the east to west coast. NSCRO plans to continue growing and hopes it will be given the opportunity to work with both USA Rugby’s Men and Women’s Collegiate Committees as collegiate restructuring plans address Division 3.
For more information about NSCRO, please visit www.nscro.org including both Team and Player Eligibility Policies.