Life University doesn’t have a lot of time to bask in any glory this spring. Their men’s team has been busy playing in both DI and Elite Cup games – the Elite Cup Final is this coming weekend – while their college team now looks ahead to the CRC, but they do have a moment or two to savor Saturday’s DIA championship.
The Running Eagles knew they would be up against it playing the St. Mary’s Gaels. They had to make sure they wouldn’t turn the ball over, and they paid for it when they did, falling behind 14-3 in the first half in Greensboro.
“You can’t make mistakes against St. Mary’s,” said Life Director of Rugby Dan Payne. “A couple of missed tackles and they’ve got a couple of tries. It was just that quick. We had a lot of possession, but we ended up with only three points. I think our guys decided to go for the tries too much – we had a few more penalty opportunities where we probably should have kicked for points. Was that nerves? Maybe.”
“In the first half we got a little frantic,” said Life captain Colton Cariaga. “We felt like we had to make something happen. We had plenty of time but we didn’t play like it. We got a penalty in front of the posts which could have made it 14-6. But I took a quick-tap. They weren’t back ten. Now we’re even closer, and it’s a guaranteed three. We swung it wide and ended up turning it over.”
It did seem as if the Running Eagles, desperate to regain control of the game, wanted to do so in one or two massive plays, rather than chip away at things.
So at halftime, they collected themselves.
“We said we needed to execute better,” said Payne. “We needed to settle down and be more patient.”
Payne credited several of his players, including Cariaga, with turning the attitude of the team around.
“We’ve been in that position before,” said Cariaga. “With some of the 15s games, and even 7s, we’ve been down and we’ve come back. In the first half we weren’t playing terrible rugby, but we made a few bad decisions or bad plays. We knew we didn’t have to change anything. It was more of an attitude adjustment – start over, it’s a new game.”
The new approach was evident early. Their first penalty, four minutes into the second half and right in front of the sticks, Joe Cowley was given the kicking tee.
“It went over, it was 14-6, and now we had some momentum,” said the captain.
Cowley then made the mad dash to the corner, where he was adjudged to have just touched down before being pulled into touch by Tim Maupin. Fortunate call for Life? Could be, but it was five points for Life, and eight minutes into the second half, the lead belonged to St. Mary’s, but the momentum was Life’s.
With the rain coming, Life just pounded it in, and then held on.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Cariaga of the Life victory. “It gives me some confidence in knowing the goals you set for yourself, if you commit to them, you can really achieve whatever you set your sights on. It really opened my eyes.”