The Chicago Griffins defeated the Chicago Lions 34-26 Sunday in the 3rd/4th playoff of the Midwest DI club championships.
The game was a huge one, as the winner secured a home Round of 32 match against the New Orleans rugby club, while the loser would have to play on the road at South champs Life University.
Thus the game not only set up an easier playoff game, but was worth several thousand dollars in travel expenses.
The Lions led early, but the Griffins came back, thanks, said player-coach Andrew Suniula, to a sterling forward effort and smart exploitation of space.
“They came at us, but our boys muscled up and did really well up front,” said Suniula, who praised the entire front row for their performance Sunday.
“We knew coming in that this would be a two-day effort,” Suniula said. “We knew that regardless of how the game went on Saturday we had to play well and win on Sunday because we wanted that home playoff game.”
With the Griffins forward pack starting to garner some possession, Suniula, playing flyhalf as well as coaching, was a logical attacking weapon. However, the Griffins found space wider out.
“We saw space on the wings and that’s what we were able to exploit,” said Suniula, who had praise also for wing Corey Quaglia. “Corey played really well and in fact has been great for us all season and all this weekend.”
It’s been a tough transition for the Griffins as they saw coach Wez Parkes move on to concentrate on his personal training business. Suniula has taken the coaching reins.
A friendly match loss to the Austin Blacks was a bit of a wakeup call, but Suniula said the team is progressing.
“We are working on a simple game plan, and we are getting better,” he said. “The key is to keep improving all the time.”
The Griffins host New Orleans in the Round of 32 on April 27.