We got into Wayne about 9:00pm and after checking in, the lads and I went for a little jog (yes I did jog, not very fast though) to stretch our legs and talk about Saturday’s match. It was nice to see how loose the lads were, and I thought that would be just what they needed to play well.
Saturday morning, we tried to have a team breakfast, but the restaurant I chose was shorthanded and the manager was doing everything himself, taking orders, preparing the food and bringing it to each person, because of this some of the players chose to go leave and go to another place, which was fine. When everyone returned to the motel, we gathered in the lobby and walked to the field to prepare for our first national playoff match.
We got to the field, we went through the player check in and then prepared to play host Wayne St. The match kicked off on time and we were ready. The lads played fantastic, they tackled, they ran very well and they defended the goal line like crazy. Two aspects of the game at least in the forward pack that really showed off their skills, was the way they were able to maintain if not beat Wayne St in the scrums and line outs.
Our backs showed tremendous skills against Wayne St as well, there were numerous times we worked to get into the Wayne St. half of the field. The UTD backs and forwards all worked their behinds off playing the more experienced side (which I found out later that night, almost every one of the Wayne St. players, were seniors).
Back to the game, Wayne St. was a good side and they took advantage of the smallest mistakes we made and at the end of the first half, the score Wayne St. – 34, UTD – 0. About this time the heavens opened up, lightning and thunder rolled all through Nebraska, so they took that moment to bring everyone in until the storms went by.
The teams went to 2 separate locations to discuss adjustment for the second half, Wayne St. went into their club house, and we went into the press box. It was tight and cramped, but as the visiting side we had no choice. We had a very good talk and they were ready to resume the match, but had to wait until the storms went by, an hour and a half later we were able to start the second half.
This was a better half for UTD, every one of the UTD players picked up where the 1st half ended, which shocked the Wayne St. players they weren’t ready for the intense play. Our forwards got possession of the ball from Wayne and the backs showed some great moves and then Dominic Prestia broke through the Wayne defense and covered about 25 – 30 yards for our first Try of the game. Vince Dutton converted and the score now Wayne 34, UTD 7. We’ve scored 44 points in a half before and we were confident that we could do it again, but Wayne being as well coached and in that position before regrouped and put together a drive themselves with another score. They scored one more time in the second half and the game ended Wayne St. 44, UTD 7.
Roster for Wayne St. Match
1. Sean Harris, 2. Anthony Paradowski, 3. Erbold Uran, 4. John Bradshaw, 5. Weston Hearne, 6. Ben Bales, 7. Zach Ussery, 8. Steven Hale, 9. Cameron Broussard, 10. Vince Dutton, 11. Marc Hudak, 12. Dominic Prestia, 13. Nathan Sohadaseni, 14. Alejandro Chinchilla, 15. Steven Shaffer.
Replacements: Jonathan Holmes in for an injured Sean Harris in the first half and Ross Chan for Steven Shaffer in the second half.
Saturday evening, everyone was invited to a champion’s dinner, where we heard speech’s from the Wayne St. coach and the President of NSCRO. The dinner was nice and we were surprised by the gratitude from all the Wayne St. players and coaches. Seems after the match all the Wayne St. players ran through the tunnel we make on the side lines for the UTD players and were greeted by friendly faces who congratulated them on their win. The evening ended with the lads bonding together in a motel room and making a plethora of visits to McDonald’s for chicken nuggets.
The match for Third Place was against the University of Puget Sound (UPS), a match that looked to be a very good one because both clubs looked to match up evenly with one another. The match began and like our matches with UTSA. UPS came out and capitalized on mistakes to score the first 2 Trys of the match. Another hole to dig out of, but the UTD lads were up to the challenge and responded quite well. UPS was penalized for diving over and Vince Dutton nailed the penalty kick to cut the margin to 10 – 3 UPS. Later in the half, Winger Luke Lewis powered over the UPS wing to score his very first Try in the corner. Vince was unable to convert the Try and the half ended UPS 10, UTD 8.
The second half began, and the lads went at UPS like rabid dogs, they mounted a continuous attack and was awarded a penalty in which Vince Dutton nailed. UTD now had the lead for the first time, UTD 11, UPS 10. And with continuous moves and good defense things were going our way. It was then that I realized that I had players that had dressed to play and hadn’t seen any game time, so as the second half continued I made several substitutions to make sure that everyone got some playing time.
While making multiple changes in personnel, UPS maintained their line up and was able to put 20 unanswered points on us in the second half. The final score UTD 11, UPS 30.
Roster for UPS Match
1. Erbold Uran, 2. Anthony Paradowski, 3. Jonathan Holmes, 4. John Bradshaw, 5. Weston Hearne, 6. Ben Bales, 7. Zach Ussery, 8. Steven Hale, 9. Luke Taran, 10. Vince Dutton, 11. Luke Lewis, 12. Dominic Prestia, 13. Nathan Sohadaseni, 14. Marc Hudak, 15. Ross Chan
Reserves making it into the match: Alex Chi replaced Jonathan, Jimmy Chi replaced Weston, Richard Clubine replaced Ben, Cameron Broussard replaced Luke T., Chad McDonald replaced Dominic, Justin Didier replaced Erbold, Scott Fahle replaced Anthony, Steven Shaffer replaced Ross.
After playing two very tough matches against two good sides, I was surprised, not only did UPS take time to talk with all of our players and tell them how well they played together and how they never gave up. I was approached by not only the Wayne St. coach, but the UPS coach and the coaches and players of California Maritime Academy who we didn’t even play, but they watched both of our matches and they all congratulated us on the success we’ve had and that they thought we’d be back, especially now that we have a year of rugby behind us. Also all three of those clubs knew of our story and the success we had playing rugby in Texas.
Then it was back to the motel for some quick showers and then back on the bus for a long ride home. Due to the very high winds we had to make it through Nebraska a lot slower than when first arrived. This as well as a couple of stops for food, made our journey back to Dallas a 14 hour bus ride. While on this journey, I listened to some of the players singing skills. They were singing everything from Billy Joel to Queen and Journey as well as musicals from various Disney movies – quite impressive. We watched DVD’s while doing nothing but watching the miles go by.
Again want to take this time to thank all the players, parents and fans that traveled to Nebraska to watch us play. Everyone who listened to the radio broadcast of the game, we know you were with us in spirit.
I'd like to thank all the parents who bought water, Gatorade, sandwiches, granola bars anyything they needed to keep going.
The lads played 2 great games and I told them they had nothing to be ashamed of and that they should continue to hold their heads high. I’m so proud of what each and every one of these young men accomplished both on and off the field and much of who they are can be contributed to how they were brought up.
All my thanks and the success we had should go out to you, the parents. The lads are great young men and it’s all because of you, that made my job of teaching them the game of rugby, that much easier.
It’s been a total pleasure coaching the lads this past season and I’m already looking forward to next year (but only after a small break in which to get my competitive juices recharged).