It took Wilmington until the 65th minute to rally back from an eight-point deficit and finally make their stake in the DII final Sunday by beating Snake River, from Boise Idaho, 31-29.
After a wind-toppled ball in the throes of Snake River’s full back Tyler Moyer’s penalty kick in the 10th minute of the game deprived the Boise team of 3 points, they bounced back in the 20th minute with a well timed interception try by winger Moe Matawi. Moyer was able to successfully convert, and Snake River were ahead, 7-0.
Wilmington responded three minutes later with a great momentum try when hooker DJ Wolf carried the ball deep into Snake River’s 22 and offloaded to lock Phillip Giordano, who went over for Wilmington’s first points. Flanker Kevin Barry had boot duty but was unable to convert the try. Snake River remained ahead 7-5
Snake River’s No. 12, Sefo Senio, was next to go over the try line after collecting the ball off a scrum inside Wilmington’s twenty two. Moyer’s kick was solid and Snake River edged further ahead, 14-5.
Barry backed up his solid boot with two tries in 10 minutes. He crossed the try line first with a well worked move off a lineout within Snake River’s half, and then followed it up with a try from a bad bounce for Snake River that landed in Barry’s path. He snatched up the loose ball and darted over the try line to touchdown for a total of 10 points in as many minutes.
Snake River was awarded a penalty try in the 33rd minute of the game after Wilmington defense was accused of pushing Snake River winger John Hackemer from behind while he was chasing down the ball in the try zone. Moyer’s conversion was successful, and at the half Snake River was ahead 21-17.
Snake River pinned Wilmington back in their own half for the first 20 minutes of the second half and this is where, according to their coach Mike Saunders, they did not capitalize on their advantage and score more points.
A try in the 45th minute by Snake River reserve Marcus Tovar helped to increase the Idaho team’s lead to 26-17, which they guarded with solid defensive play. However, Wilmington did not let up on their attack and were rewarded with a well worked series of pick-and-go’s which afforded No. 8 Kevin Wiggins the opportunity to crash over the try line in the 65th minute and bring Wilmington to within striking distance of Snake River. Barry converted and the score was 26-24.
A penalty conversion in the 68th by Moyer saw Snake River edge ahead 29-24, but the try that Wilmington had been looking for came in the 73rd minute when the ball was moved wide into space, giving reserve back Chris Moorhead the room he needed to use his speed and gallop over the try line for the five points that brought them level. Barry’s boot was true and the conversion saw Wilmington on top of the scoreboard. The full time score was 31-29 Wilmington.
“I made two tactical substitutions during the game,” said Wilmington coach, Struan Murray, “and it paid off.
“We are in good shape going into tomorrow and our team are up for the challenge,” concluded Murray.