Old Blue New York held off Belmont Shore to win Saturday’s first DIII semifinal 26-21 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. Old Blue went on the offensive from the start, but left a couple of prime scoring opportunities on the field.
New York found touch on a kick to gain ground and stole the lineout. Old Blue’s left wing made a nice run to Belmont’s 22-meter line, and Belmont infringed at the breakdown. Old Blue took a shot at goal but missed.
The subsequent 22-drop didn’t clear Belmont’s lines, and Old Blue earned another shot at goal with some hard running. This one was much closer to the center of the pitch, but sailed wide right nonetheless.
Belmont got its first shot at goal when Old Blue kicked the ball out on the full just in front of its 22. New York was pinged for about 30 meters in from touch off the lineout, and fullback Apelu Sooalo nailed the kick to put Belmont Shore up 3-0.
Old Blue settled the score shortly thereafter. Fullback Adam Barnard returned the impending kickoff deep into Belmont territory and Old Blue was rewarded with a penalty directly in front of the posts. This time Willie Nelson slotted the kick – 3-3.
Belmont Shore leveled the table with another Sooalo penalty several minutes later after putting sustained pressure on Old Blue in the attacking end. The first half ended with a 6-6 tie.
Belmont opened the second half on the front foot and knocking on Old Blue’s door. Belmont missed a penalty shot early, but found some patience with their forwards and crashed over for the game’s first try. Converted, Belmont led 13-6.
Old Blue responded a few minutes later off of a set piece play. New York was awarded a point blank penalty and opted for a scrum. They went wide off on first phase and center Taye Daniel-Ayibiowu found space to dot down. The conversion was hit, knotting the game at 13-13.
Old Blue then took the lead when Barnard scooped up a Belmont knock-on, stiff-armed a would-be tackler and raced in for a try. Nelson converted, putting Old Blue out 20-13.
Belmont made some forays into New York’s end with some fancy backline play, but three possessions ended in errant passes.
Old Blue was then able to secure a two-score lead when Belmont was called for a penalty at a scrum just outside its own 22. Nelson slotted the kick to make it 23-10.
Belmont crawled back to within one converted score with another Sooalo penalty, and a massive run from hooker Jason Palaita ended in a try just to the right of the posts. The conversion was easily makeable, but the kick was missed, leaving Old Blue up 23-21 with two minutes to play.
Belmont turned the ball over off the kickoff, and Old Blue extended the lead to 26-21.Shore got one more possession, but a desperate cross kick wound up in touch, ending the game.