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The second week of the DI Red River season featured a severe blowout and big scare to the National Finalist. The Dallas Reds picked up their first win of 2017 with the 92-8 destruction of the Houston Athletic Rugby Club (HARC) and the Austin Blacks capitalized on a late yellow card to score two tries to defeat the Dallas Harlequins, 35-27.
Houston Athletic at Dallas Reds
It was a true team effort for the Dallas Reds as ten players scored a total of 14 tries in 92-8 victory over HARC. Chris Hopkins (2), Peter Santos (2), Spencer Cameron, Zack Klump, Sweeper Bulai, Jeremy Neilson (3), Tyler Miller, Jonny Heron, J.P. Rodriguez, and Vince Chase each scored in the win and flyhalf Blake Boulton was 11 for 14 on conversions.
Speaking on the win, Dallas club president David Dodge said, “the key to our victory was the way the boys supported each other in loose play. We had several tries of long runs where the ball passed through the hands of several support runners on the way to the score. The solid support play also allowed us to maintain possession through multiple phases of play.”
Dodge noted Blake Boulton “was on fire with his conversion kicking, nailed several from both sidelines, even though there was a 10-15 mph cross-wind. His performance was really impressive, and if he can keep that up, will win us some close matches down the stretch... Late in the match, Jeremy Neilson and Tyler Miller had incredible matches off the bench, and helped maintain the intensity. Jeremy (#8) is the most underrated player on our team. He always does the dirty work, and is so difficult to tackle that he is always a scoring threat with ball in hand.”
Dodge and the Reds faithful are expecting lofty goals this season. “This is the same core group of players that narrowly lost to the Austin Blacks in the Quarterfinals last year, so they have a good cohesiveness, even though it’s early in the season. The guys are really playing for the guy next to them when they are out there, which is great to see and shows in their performance.”
Dallas will have its biggest test of the early season this Saturday when it travels to the newly reorganized Austin Huns. Stay tuned for the fireworks next weekend.
Dallas Harlequins at Austin Blacks
After an embarrassing loss to the Austin Huns last weekend, the Dallas Harlequins gave the Austin Blacks all it could handle on Saturday. With ten lead changes, it was back and forth for the entirety of the match. With little game preparation before their first game Saturday, the Blacks stumbled out of the gates against the Quins and it took time to find their footing. With Dallas leading in the final ten minutes at 27-23, Austin expertly used the man advantage after a yellow card to pounce on the lead and pull out a 35-17 victory in the last five minutes.
“[The Quins] had a physical forward pack and they came ready to play,” Austin head coach Tane Jericevich said regarding his opponent. “In contact, we are not there yet in terms of controlling the contact well enough and getting quick enough ball for ourselves. We are still in the process of putting it all together.”
“They made it difficult for us because they are physical at the breakdown and they stopped us from playing our game in the first half,” Jericevich continued. “In the second half, we managed to put some phases together and create opportunities for our backs to score out wide.”
The scoring began 15 minutes into the contest when the Quins’ David Keane scored. The Blacks responded with a converted try by Antonio Win, but Dallas answered with a Daron Liebenberg try. The Black’s Stephen Jones tied to match at 10-10 with a penalty, but Charles Davidson gave the Quins the lead with a drop goal. Finally, just before the half, Jones tied it up again at 13 all with his penalty.
Coming out of the half, Liebenberg scored his second try in the 47th minute and Jeff Dull added a conversion for the 20-13 advantage. The Blacks gained a bit of momentum scoring back-to-back tries by Patrick Sullivan and Adam Armstrong in seven minutes to take a three-point lead at 23-20. It was the Quins’ turn at the lead as Gerrit Engelbrecht dotted down his team’s final try and Dull made the conversion to make the score 27-23 with 11 minutes left.
With precious minutes to go and every possession counting, Dallas unfortunately gave its opponent the opportunity to win game. A late yellow card opened the door for the Blacks’ Levi Kereti and Armstrong to score in the 76th and 78th minutes for the 35-27 win.
On the outcome of match, Quins coach John Dale said, “The teams were evenly matched... Defense was tight on both sides with the first score coming at the 15 minute period after sustained pressure inside the Blacks 22... The lead switched six times in the first half with the half time score tied at 13.”
“The Quins struck early in the second half with a great effort by the team to put scrum half Daron Liebenberg over for the go ahead try,” Dale added. “The lead changed a further three times as each team fought for the two score lead. A late yellow brought the Quins down to 14 men, which Austin capitalized on scoring two tries in the last five minutes to seal the win.”
With a date with the Austin Huns in two weeks, the Blacks will look to shore up its roster as well as sharpen up their play. The cross-town rivals have a 42-year history together where the Huns are still searching for their first victory in the series. The Blacks have to look past the names on the new look Huns and focus on themselves.
“We have to get better at the things that made us successful in the past,” Jericevich said. “We’ve played the Huns over the last 42 years. It’s a rivalry so we know what their mentality is going into the game and we are looking forward to it.”
Will the Huns be able to finally beat the Blacks for the first time in 42 years or will the Blacks keep the streak alive?