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The Austin Blacks traveled to Chicago this weekend to fill an idle Saturday with a game against the Chicago Griffins.
Coming off an impressive defeat of the Chicago Lions last week, the Griffins were looking to build on their solid spring buildup toward the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Blacks have been conscious all season of the fact that their Texas league doesn't always prepare them for the rigors of playoff rugby, and were looking for a stiff test.
Both likely got what they wanted in a game that came down to the wire. The
Blacks defeated Chicago 28-23 on a last-minute try from lock forward Brad
It was fitting that Houlihan scored the winner as he was a key points machine for the Blacks all day. The second row scored two tries, kicked two conversions, and kicked three penalties for 23 of Austin's 28 points.
Leading the way also for Austin was their halfback combination of Zach Triplett (Man of the Match) and Tomasi Ramanumanu at flyhalf. Ramanumanu was up against USA center Andrew Suniula, who slotted in at flyhalf for the Griffins, and more than held his own.
The teams were deadlocked 13-13 at halftime and battled to a 23-23 tie with time almost up. Chicago had an attacking lineout, but their throw was not straight. Austin chose the scrum (despite the fact that, without most of their starting tight five, they struggled in the scrum all day) and a ran a weakside play.
After two rucks the Blacks broke through, and the movement was capped off with Houlihan diving over.
"It was a great game and I thought a very good hit-out for us," said Austin Head Coach Lachlan Ferguson. "With have a week to rest up and then finish with the Dallas Reds, Dallas Harlequins, and Austin Huns. I told the guys they needed to think about seizing the big moment, and they did."