On April 28 and 29, Infinity Park opened its doors to the 2012 NSCRO National Division III Men’s Collegiate Championship, with Salve Regina finally claiming the national title in their third visit to the championship weekend.
Salve Regina, a small Catholic college in Newport, RI on the bands of Easton Bay, defeated Cal Maritime Academy, on the banks of the Pacific's San Pablo Bay, 22-15 in the final.
The finalists showcased outstanding rugby skills demonstrating to the stadium crowd and thousands of web stream viewers that small college rugby does not mean lower standards of play. Salve Regina, has a full-time male undergraduate enrollment of 605 students, while the California Maritime Academy, from Vallejo, California, has a full-time male undergraduate enrollment of 715 students. The final four was rounded out by Franciscan University from Steubenville, Ohio (723 male students) and the University of North Florida from Jacksonville, Florida (4,500 male students).
Franciscan University Barons v Salve Regina University Seahawks
Franciscan and Salve did battle in the first National Small College Rugby semifinal match at Infinity Park Rugby Stadium Saturday in ideal conditions. A vocal crowd of nearly 1,000 supporters enjoyed the action as the intense, workmanlike schemes of the Barons of Steubenville, Ohio faced the wide-open play of the high-flying Seahawks.
Franciscan, looking sharp, got on board first after a Salve player entered the ruck from the side. Fullback Tommy Allen’s penalty strike from 35 out in front of the posts was true and Franciscan had a 3-0 advantage in the fourth minute.
The Barons increased their lead to eight after they won a lineout and send the ball through the back. inside center Michael Brasie popped through a gap and fed his midfield mate Isaac Archibeque, who connected with wing Tim Knob for the try.
Salve Regina got one back as a slick offload by flyhalf Grant Theim enabled outside center Quinn Turner to race thirty meters before being brought to ground. No. 8 Ryan Shilalis was there to pick up and lunge over. 8-5 after 17 minutes.
Salve captured the lead just past midpoint in the half as Shilalis got his brace, touching down from a pick-and-go close in. With the try unconverted, the Seahawks were up by two at 10-8.
Franciscan’s patient, tight-channel schemes were countered by the exciting, all-out efforts of Salve Regina in the loose. Barons were pinged for not rolling away at tackle in Salve’s end, and a long clearance by Theim had their lineout throw at Franciscans 10 meter line. Good lineout ball allowed Turner to crash up and he kept going to make it 17-8 with the conversion from Shilalis.
Both Shilalis and Turner proved to be dangerous men with ball in hand.
Franciscan banged away with forward smashes. Salve defended doggedly, working for the turnover that could launch their attack. The score, however, stayed at 17-8 until halftime.
Salve extended the lead a minute into the second half when good hands from the restart set free wing Robert Tougas. Tougas was able to run the corner to make the conversion easier, and Shilalis slotted it to make the score 24-8.
The Seahawks got another five points as loosehead prop Steve McEnery burst through the defense to ground Salve’s final score and make it 29-8.
Six minutes gone in the second half, and it was all Salve Regina. But Franciscan had enough time for a comeback.
Referee Tim Luscombe sent a Salve player away for ten minutes with a yellow card. With the man advantage, Franciscan replued with a try from inside center Michael Brasie.
Another yellow card later one and Franciscan took advantage again. Conahan snatched the ball from the breakdown and dove over. Now it was 29-20.
But though each side battled consummately in the final 20, there was to be no further scoring, as Salve salvaged the victory.
Try: Knob, Brasie, Conahan
Try: Shilalis (2), Turner, Tougas, McEnery
Convs: Shilalis (2)
Match Officials: Tim Luscombe (referee), Craig Tarr, Joe Davis
California Maritime Academy Keelhaulers v University of North Florida Deadbirds
NSCRO’s second semifinal of the day at Glendale’s Infinity Park saw Cal Maritime run out 26-10 victors.
Sure-handed work in tight by the Keelhaulers forwards was countered by some nifty offloading from the Deadbirds. Cal Maritime's defense held a little stronger.
Maritime’s capture of the Florida scrumhalf in possession 10 meters from the Deadbird goaline resulted in turnover ball and the Keelhauler forwards linked up. Hooker Phil Maksim scored the opening try to make it 5-0.
Florida responded in the 12th minute from ball well-served at breakdown five meters from the Maritime’s tryline by scrumhalf Steven Kreuger. Openside flanker Tim Herrf crashed over for the grounding, and with standoff Trace Horevitz’ additional sticksplitter, UNF claimed the lead, 7-5.
Soon it was 12-5. After relieving some pressure, UNF used their forwards to push Cal Maritime back and loosehead prop Taylor Youngling burrowed across to touch down.
UNF were back six minutes on as, with Cal Maritime threatening, North Florida outside center Roger Amidon intercepted a pass and went 70 meters. 19-5 UNF after 28 minutes.
Down 14 points Cal Maritime clawed back. Just at halftime halfback Jason Herring ran weak and fed forward Alex Osciadacz for a key score. 19-10 at halftime, North Florida led, but Maritime had a little momentum.
Not for long. UNF were first to score in the second half. A splendid 50 meter counter by fullback Cade Pollard set up North Florida in the Cal Maritime 22. The ball was spun to inside center Taylor Alley who did enough to touch down. 26-10 UNF.
Maritime kept the ball in the forwards, reasoning that turnovers were killing them. A lineout and maul inside the UNF 22 set up No. 8 Lonnie Shankling for the try. Fullback Will Fitzpatrick converted and Maritime had drawn to within nine.
Four minutes later, Cal Maritime was even closer. Hooker Larez Pinder crossed over after picking up from a ruck. The conversion made it 26-24, UNF, now in a ballgame, led by two.
For 15 minutes the teams tried to find a weakness, often resorting to the kicking game. Finally, with 12 minutes left in the match, Shankling scored for Cal Maritime, slipping from a crowd of players and racing in. Fitzpatrick hit the conversion and Cal Maritime led for the first time in 56 minutes 31-26.
Stung, North Florida tried to regain the lead, but Maritime's defense held. The Californian team moved on to the final.
Cal Maritime 31
Tries: Maksim, Osciadacz, Shankling (2), Pinder;
Convs: Fitzpatrick (3)
North Florida 26
Tries: Herff, Youngling, Amidon, Alley;
Convs: Horevitz (3)
Match Officials: Marc Nelson (referee), Larry Johnson, Jim Bramley
3rd Place Match
Franciscan University v University of North Florida
Franciscan and North Florida tangled midday Sunday in the curtain-raiser for the NSCRO championship match. It was a match that featured the power of the Barons pack against the speed and opportunism of the Deadbirds.
North Florida led early through a try from lock David Murphy. The banged-up Deadbird pack, with only four of Saturday’s eight starters on the pitch, was unable to cope with a Franciscan wheel at a scrum 30 meters out, halfback Matt Conahan set free wing Tony Gayed for the try. Fullback Tommy Allen's conversion put Franciscan up 7-5.
Barons lock Dave Cup was sin-binned for killing the ball, but his team kept attacking - flyhalf Mike Brasie touched down two minutes later in the corner, and with Allen slotting the tough conversion, Franciscan led 14-5.
Franciscan wing Tim Knob was also yellow-carded by referee Derek Summers, but up two men, UNF could not score before the first half ended.
Scrappy, though injury-depleted, the Deadbirds showcased exceptional offloading, but couldn't break the Baron defense.
A pick-and-drive by No. 8 Andrew Kay put Franciscan up 21-5 after Allen converted. The fullback added another three with a penalty at the 65th minute, and then blindside flanker Dan Kramer finished it off. Having put it all out there on Saturday, Sunday was not UNF's day.
Tries: Gayed, Brasie, Kay, Kramer;
Convs: Allen (3)
North Florida 5
Match Officials: Derek Summers (referee), Craig Tarr, Joe Davis
NSCRO Championship Final
California Maritime Academy v Salve Regina University
The final of the National Small College Rugby Organization was a spirited battle featuring the well-regimented and powerful Keelhaulers of Cal Maritime against the free-flowing Salve Regina side.
In the end, Salve took the title.
Salve pressured early inside Maritime’s 22, but a pair of penalties for not releasing the ballcarrier at the tackle allowed Keelhauler flyhalf Kevin Raff to clear the pressure.
Maritime were on the front foot in the tenth minute inclose to Salve’s tryline, crossing twice. But they were unable to ground.
Salve got the first points in the 16th minute when wing Albert Tougas found space and ran in from 30 meters out. 5-0 Salve Regina.
Cal Maritime tied it up when fullback Will Fitzpatrick shot through a gap and sped to Salve’s 22 before offloading to inside center Paul Stetson. But Salve replied after a series of runs at the line, when No. 8 Ryan Shilalis ran over. He converted to make it 12-5 after 30 minutes.
Neither team scored in the remainder of the half despite plenty of hard work. Cal Maritime scurmhalf Jason Herring was a sparkplug while Seahawks fullback Glen Miles countered effectively. Forwards Lonnie Shankling (Cal Maritime) and Jesse DiTullio (Salve Regina) were also solid.
Maritime flanker Dane Devogelaere saw yellow for a late and dangerous hit on Miles at minute 52 and Salve got three points from Turner soon after. Devogelaere, big in Cal Maritime's lineouts, returned to set up center Paul Stetson for a try ten minutes later. That made the score 15-10 Salve.
The Seahawks extended their lead at minute 75 when Tougas scored in the corner. Shilalis slotted the conversion from the sideline to make it 22-10.
Up against it, Cal Maritime had too much to do and not enough time. Wing and captain Kevin Hawke knifed through the defense for a try to make it 22-15, but Salve Regina held on to win their first NSCRO title.
Salve Regina 22
Tries: Tougas (2), Shilalis
Convs: Shilalis (2)
Cal Maritime 15
Tries: Stetson (2), Hawke
Match Officials: Tim Luscombe (referee), Larry Johnson, Craig Tarr
For the first time in history, small college rugby will be seen on national television. The semifinal matches will premier on FOX Soccer Plus
Wednesday May 2 - 9am ET: Salve Regina University vs. Franciscan University
Thursday May 3 - 9am ET: University of North Florida vs. California Maritime Academy
NSCRO would like to thank the City of Glendale and USA Rugby for making the television coverage possible along with Patrick Guthrie, Matt Brown and commentators Brian Vizard, Dallen Stanford and Dave Sitton. In addition, we thank both Patrick and Dallen for Sunday’s live streaming coverage.
NSCRO Awards Ceremony
The MVP, as selected by a group of Eastern Rockies RFU college coaches in attendance, was presented to Salve center Quinn Turner.
The traditional NSCRO "Heart and Soul" match ball was awarded a member of each team as selected by their coaching staff. The recipients were Cade Pollard (UNF), Michael Brasie (Franciscan), Jason Herring (CMA) and Jesse DiTullio (Salve).