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In the tightly contested DI Midwest Conference in one week to go, first place Columbus extended its winning streak to four games with a road win over Kansas City, 64-24, and second place Metropolis out-punched Cincinnati in 59-49 slugfest. In third, the Chicago Lions beat the Barbarians in Milwaukee, 23-10, and Palmer outlasted the fourth place Chicago Griffins, 31-29.
At home in Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Rugby had the offense rolling against a tough Kansas City Blues team. Columbus used ten total tries from Roland Suniula (2) Zack Stryffeler (2), Mason Baum, Daejon Street, David Stauder, Rikert Hattingh, Pete Friedmann, and Dom Pezzutti to power the 64-24 victory.
“We came into the game with confidence from our two previous wins and tried to apply that into our gameplay from the start. We were able to score a couple of tries early which set the tone for how we wanted to play—fast and expansive,” said Columbus captain and #10 Taylor Howden.
Howden pointed to the high-pressure attack, strategic use of the boot, and sound defensive spacing as keys to the victory. Leading the way was Columbus’ Man of the Match, lock Joe Schroeder. “He’s a battler week in, week out and doesn’t make mistakes,” said Howden. “He sticks his tackles, uses good communication, carries well and produces 80 minutes he can be proud of.”
In Minneapolis, Minn., Metropolis withstood a furious Cincinnati rally to hold onto the 59-49 win. Up 20 at the half and an additional try added on to start the second, Metropolis looked to have firm control over this one.
“It kind of looked like we were going to run away with it,” said Metropolis coach Nathan Osborne. “To Cincinnati’s credit, they scored four really quick tries to make it much closer than it needed to be.”
With both offenses clicking, Jack Finigan and Melvin Desouza led the way with three tries apiece for Metropolis. Patelisio Veamatahau (2) and Simeon Tschumper picked up the rest of the tries with the boot of Jack Healy connecting on seven conversions.
“It’s a good lesson for our young guys,” Osborne said of the near-collapse. “I thought we’d turned the corner on that, but [Saturday] really showed we’ve still got a bit of work to do to go the full 80 without letting those little errors slip into our game just when we think it’s over.”
The Chicago Lions made the trip to Milwaukee and went home with a 23-10 victory. The wings found the glory and the try line, accounting for all Chicago tries with two from Dan Coci and one from Brian Rooney. It was Rooney who got the scoring started ten minutes in.
“I was happy with how we kept our structure and were patient through phases to create opportunities to score from,” said Lions coach Dave Clancy. “We had a lot of good attacking platforms but were uncharacteristically hurt by some unforced handling errors. I must give credit to the defensive effort by both sides, reflected in the scoreline.”
Props Angus MacLellan and Phil Spagnolo got the go-forward ball to create the space out wide and #9 Kevin Lyndon kept the pace moving all day. Clancy’s Man of the Match was flyhalf Robert Stortz, who put pressure on the Milwaukee defense with line breaks and strategic kicks from the boot.
In front of a packed home crowd for “Alumni Day”, Palmer notched a victory for its fans, 31-29. Chicago started out strong with try at 5’ before Palmer responded at 20’ with the conversion from wing David Jerson. The Griffins scored again a minute later, but in a missed its conversion. Jerson’s boot was good all day for the Dragons and he tied the match seven minutes later with a penalty kick.
Both teams had a man in the bin late in the first half. It was Palmer that took advantage and grabbed the 17-10 lead when center Christopher Donnelly broke though. In a confusing sight for the alumni, former Palmer coach and current Griffins’ #9 Luke Stinger crossed the try line just before the half to make it 17-15 Dragons at the break.
“Chicago was very structured early and very organized, but I think our defense stood up well to them in the first half. We were down a bit initially, but kept the fight going, kept the pressure on,” explained Palmer coach Mike Lawrenson.
Playing a man in the scrum and holding its own, Palmer coach Mike Lawrenson saw an opportunity when he got his full side back and adjusted for the second half. “We changed our style in the scrum to attack more,” said Lawrenson, pointing to set pieces as the key to his squad’s victory. “Defensively in lineouts, we really dominated them. On our lineouts, we won all of our own ball. On theirs, we were up in the air right next to them on every single play, so I think that’s a testament to [flankers] Adam Young and Osama Shayeb.”
Both teams’ defense stood up early in the second, but Palmer’s #12 Jordan Smith eventually broke through to give the Dragons a two-score lead. Chicago answered and converted ten minutes later to again make it a two-point game with 15 minutes to play. Palmer responded four minutes later to regain control and the Dragons emptied its bench.
The Griffins gave the home crowd a scare with an 80th-minute score, but the Dragons calmly fielded the kickoff and booted the ball out of bounds to end the match, 31-29. Along with Young and Shayeb in the lineouts, Lawrenson pointed to Jerson’s boot and Smith’s performance at inside center as the key performances in the Palmer victory.