In extremely windy conditions, Salisbury overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Towson 29-7 in Baltimore, Md. The top-ranked Sharks ultimately proved too much for No. 6 Towson to handle in a very physical, sloppy contest.
The home team got off to a torrid start, monopolizing possession in Salisbury's end. With the wind at their back, Towson maintained the edge in field position for much of the first half. In the early minutes of the game, a Salisbury player committed a tip tackle penalty just outside his own 22. The tackle was a clear infringement, forcing the referee to send the Salisbury player off with a yellow card.
The game remained scoreless until about halfway through the first half, when Towson used a clever overlap and a crash ball to send the fullback streaking down the left sideline. With tremendous pace, he outflanked the Salisbury defense giving the home team a 5-0 advantage. Despite the gusting wind, the Towson kicker slotted a tough conversion making the contest 7-0.
After the score, Salisbury shifted the momentum of the game with some strong running from the back line. The Sharks eventually made their way towards the Towson goal line only to be pushed back repeatedly. Towson displayed valiant defending as the Sharks proceeded to pick from the back of rucks. The ball was held up twice in goal as Salisbury relentlessly pursued a game-tying try.
During this spell of the game, and most of the contest, the Salisbury scrum drove Towson's pack backwards. Nevertheless, the Tigers were able to force a knock-on five meters outside their own try line. Despite being pushed back they were able to swing the ball to their backs. Instead of kicking with the wind, Towson elected to move the ball through the hands and eventually knocked it on. After the resulting scrum, Salisbury finally broke the Towson defense, making the game 7-5.
The beginning of the second half started much like the first with Towson retaining the majority of possession. However, several knock-ons and ill-advised passes gave possession back to the defending National Champs. With the wind now at their backs, Salisbury elected to test the Towson back three with numerous kicks. Towson struggled under the high ball throughout the second half, yielding chunks of possession to a potent Salisbury offense.
Finally, Salisbury outside center Ethan Reese broke several tackles to give the Sharks a 10-7 advantage. Keeping their foot on the pedal, they added another try from forward Max Callahan making the score 15-7. Things began to unravel for Towson as a couple of poorly executed kicks allowed Salisbury to add two more tries. Flyhalf and captain Nick Kuhl beat several Tiger defenders to go in untouched under the post. Additionally, a penalty that failed to reach touch resulted in the final score of the game.
With 29 unanswered points, the Sharks continued their winning streak over rival Towson. Despite being down at halftime, Kuhl had faith in his squad.
"We train for the second half. We train to out condition the other team. We knew we had the wind at our backs and just tried to remain calm and collected," the captain said.
Every time these two meet, they know it is going to be a tough game.
Towson Coach Don Stone iterated that this was a typical scrappy encounter between these two sides. Kuhl added that, "it is always a battle when we play Towson, and I expect to see them again next Sunday."
The Potomac Rugby Championships will be held next weekend at Mount St. Mary's College. Salisbury will take on Johns Hopkins, while Towson will look to avenge their early season loss to Georgetown. The two sides are likely to meet up for the Potomac Championship on Sunday. The winner of that game will be guaranteed a spot in the National Tournament. The loser will have to rely on receiving an at-large bid.