Kutztown and Davenport Universities, traveled to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and met at Founders Field, home of the Pittsburgh Harlequins RFC, Saturday for a friendly.
This was the last scheduled regular season match for both teams. Kutztown had scheduled the match several months ago in hopes of playing in the post-season and wanted to keep the competitive level of their matches at the highest possible level.
That is indeed the case for KU, and they welcomed the opportunity to take on JP Eloff and the Panthers.
The match started with a flurry of offensive thrusts by both sides and a few goal line stands on both ends of the pitch. The action was intense with both back lines attacking at full pace and each forward pack bringing their A game into the trenches. Then at 16 minutes, Davenport found a gap on the outside that broke the drought. The Panther flyhalf, J.P. Eloff, slipped through a gap and cut back to score under the posts. The conversion was good and Davenport jumped out in front 7-0. A few minutes later, Kutztown drove down to the Davenport goal line, where Kutztown Lock Mike Lawrenson forced his way across. The conversion was wide left to leave the score 7-5 Davenport leading.
At the 26-minute mark, Davenport's scrumhalf, Knute O'Donnell, streaked ten yards into in-goal Eloff converted for the second time and Davenport increased their lead to 14-5.
Kutztown's Tim Acker missed a penalty kick attempt, but a few minutes later, Kutztown center Robert Stortz ran 30 meters down the sideline and then curved in under the posts. Niku Kruger converted and Kutztown closed the gap to 14-12. On the last play of the first half, Kruger slotted a penalty for KU to put his side up 15-14 ... or so it seemed. The touch judge raised his flag to indicate the kick was good, but the call was overruled by the referee, and the first half ended with Davenport leading 14-12.
The second half opened with a Davenport try on a pick-and-go from Angus MacLellan, 19-12 Davenport.
Acker missed another penalty attempt for Kutztown, but made up for it by scoring a try one minute later. The conversion wasn't good and the Panthers held on by two points, 19-17.
Then with five minutes left in the game, JP Eloff slotted a penalty kick to give Davenport the lead by five. The game wasn't done, though, and the Golden Bears displayed the same tenacity and determination that brought them through in their last two matches with Schuylkil River and Penn State. They strung together several phases, but, due to a penalty on the Davenport tryline, turned the ball over. With the clock reading one minute and thirty seconds, Kutztown scrumhalf Niku Kruger pressured his opposite number at the back of a scrum, resulting in a loose ball. Kruger pounced on the ball and drove his way over the line to tie the score 22-22.
The ball was brought back for the conversion and placed right in front of the sideline. Kutztown called on sophomore Devon Somma, who had recently entered the game as a sub at flyhalf, and he struck the ball perfectly into a strong wind and curved it through the uprights. It was a magnificent kick by any standard and the Golden Bears went home with the victory 24-22.
The Kutztown forwards once again displayed their grit and love of hard, physical play on both sides of the ball. The Golden Bear backline attacked from depth and was calculated within their attacking pattern. The player of the match had to be Kutztown's Tim Acker, as he scored a try and had four crucial, game-saving tackles at fullback.