Manassas, VA - New Orleans put up the biggest scores this weekend during the Men’s DII Club Championship, saving a tremendous offensive effort for the quarterfinals, when it beat Doylestown 61-17 for the team’s first trip to the Final Four.
Doylestown had advanced to the quarterfinals after eliminating the Village Lions with a closing-minute dropgoal and two-point win. “That was a fantastic game, and both sides threw everything they had each other,” New Orleans coach Jerry Malina said. “It was a very physical game, and we knew that if we came out hard and fast, that we might be able to wear them down, hoping they might be a little tired after what they expended on Saturday.”
New Orleans answered the call, hit the ground running, put up points early, and kept adding to them.
“Doylestown battled us with all they had, and it took us a while before we broke them,” Malina said, “but that was the game plan – get up early and squeeze it out.”
New Orleans was able to score from all over the field. The forwards were able to make ground in tight, taking tight punches and grinding out a few meters at a time. Flanker Rob Hoffman, lock Ben Benvenutti and Sean Malek all finished off sustained forward pressure with tries.
There were also numerous long breaks and defensive turnovers in the backs, which led to tries from wing Ross Bellaci (2), fullback Wesley Phillpottt (2), centers Pat Kennedy and Saade Bou-Mikael, flyhalf Jeff Reuther and wing replacement Dave Buckingham.
It appears that the backs had run of the field, but Malina insisted that it was enabled by the forwards. They committed defenders, ruled the scrums and disrupted ball, halted Doylestown’s pick-and-goes and mauling attempts, and got the ball moving forward to send the backs into space.
“We played well in concert,” Malina said. “We attacked in tight and wide. Our leaders on the day were captain and scrumhalf Joe Mclain and flyhalf Jeff Reuther. They controlled the ball at the base and organized the attack. They stepped up their game, set up their teammates, and were the men of the match.”
As complete as the performance was, Malina and team know that each subsequent stage produces a more difficult opponent, and tweaks still need to be made to meet those challenges ahead.
“We can always get better,” Malina said. “I was pleased with Sunday’s performance but we can always get better,” Malina said. “We need to keep working on our defensive pressure, tackling low, hard and behind the gainline.
“Fresno only beat Santa Rosa 11-8, so they must be good defensively, and we need to look at that,” Malina looked ahead to Final Fours. “We are not overconfident [despite scoring 109 points this weekend]. This is the farthest we’ve ever gone, and everyone knows that with each step, games get much harder and teams are there for a reason. The same will be true for the Final Four.”
While Malina and team are not looking past Fresno for a second, he did consider the possibility for an all-South final.
“We have a good relationship with Tampa Krewe,” Malina said. “They’re our rivals, but they were on the sideline cheering for us against Doylestown. We’re trying to raise the level of rugby in the South, and we’d both be so proud to make it through to the final.”