With just two weeks remaining in the season, Griffins Rugby still holds on to first place after a 102-5 defeat of the Oklahoma City Crusaders Saturday. Relying on a few key players like flyhalf John White, OKC was able to compete well with most teams, but traveling with a weaker team as they did on Saturday meant that they asked too much of their few veterans.
"We knew the goal had to be a win with the bonus point," said Griffins captain Kevin Harrell. "Everyone hit practice hard all week and it showed in the game."
It took only four minutes for the Griffins to open the scoring as new recruit Danny Carlton carved up the defense and touched down for his debut try in Griffins colors, adding the conversion himself from in front of the posts. The following kick off was a typical high, looping kick that helped OKC win some possession for a short time, but after some solid defending, they were forced to kick it away and gave the Griffins the opportunity to counter-attack. On the 11th minute, Carlton once again crossed the line and took the home team up to 14-0 with his second try in a personal haul of 25 points.
"The biggest difference this week was that we came out and ran the game how we wanted to from the 1st minute," boasted Griffins flyhalf Russ Sanders, "We didn't spot the other team 20 minutes like we sometimes have."
It took only 20 minutes for the Griffins to secure the bonus point they sought in order to keep their league destiny in their own hands. With Shreveport still snapping at the heels, any points dropped could open the door for a last minute shock, but the Crusaders simply weren’t able to compete sufficiently to put Saturday’s result in doubt. Perhaps the Griffins could be accused of sitting back a little once the bonus point was in hand, as in the 24th minute, Oklahoma took advantage of a great penalty kick to touch, won the line out and from the ensuing maul found a rare gap in a snoozing defense. This however was the last point that the visitors were to score.
The Griffins scored three more tries before the half and holding a 45-5 lead after 40 minutes gave them the confidence necessary to really open up the game in the second half.
Oklahoma started the 2nd half looking to claw their way back into the contest but it was clear that the men in black had other ideas. The Griffins put nine nails in an already well sealed Oklahoma coffin, attacking a crumbling OKC defense from every angle. Backs and forwards alike were crashing through with a combination of pace, power and some creative running lines that left their opposition grasping at air and with Russell Sanders hitting six of seven conversions after Carlton was substituted, there was no let up at all from the Griffins. There was no lack of heart in the Crusaders team, but on this occasion they were outclassed at every turn. As the game wore on, even the formidable OKC front row, which had srummaged admirably in the first half, started to go backwards and fold up under the relentless pressure.
"We played a very capable club that just wasn't able to match our pace." Scrum Half, Angelo DelVecchio added, "We were able to recycle quickly before their defense could reset and we were clicking throughout all aspects of the game."
The Griffins have just one game left in regular season; away to Dallas Athletic on April 6th. Given the local rivalry that exists between the two clubs, this will no doubt be a fierce and entertaining contest. But with Dallas at the bottom of the table with only one win all season, it would take a dramatic upset for them to prevent the Griffins from capturing the championship.
Tries: Carlton (3), Cavazos (2), Kevin Harrell, Ferrero, Kiefer (2), Ruiz, Magana, James, Walker (2), Sanders, Whitaker
Conversions: Carlton (5), Sanders (6)
Man-of-the-Match: Cole Kiefer
Referee: John Shafto