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Life West against St. Louis. Austin Brewin photo

On Saturday and Sunday teams gathered in San Francisco to play the quarterfinal and semifinal matches in the men’s Division II playoffs. After two days of competition, 2014 DIII national runner-up Life West came out on top against the St. Louis Bombers and Tempe Old Devils.

The Gladiators will face off against Wisconsin in the DII National Final June 14 in Glendale, Colo., as the 2013 DII titleist bested New York Rugby Club and Atlanta Old White in the eastern half of the tournament in Charlotte.

On Saturday Life West beat the Bombers 79-12 to advance to the Sunday semis, where Tempe put up a tougher fight, though Life West was still able to come out on top, 41-32. Throughout the match, Life West and Tempe were neck and neck. The two played each other hard, with Life West trailing for the majority of the match, but the California-based team tied it up in the waning minutes of regulation and eventually got the overtime victory.

“It was back-and-forth and we were ahead 13 points,” said Sam Merrill, head coach of the Tempe old Devils. “Then they came back and went into overtime. They scored two quick tries in the first 10 minutes and then we scored one in the second but we just couldn’t pull it out.”

“They boys, they were tenacious,” said Adriaan Ferris, head coach of Life West. “They had been working hard all year but they were solid, getting more go-forward. When Tempe started to tire, we allowed ourselves opportunities given behind defensive line and we did enough to tie up the game at full time. We’re very fortunate to be getting to the final. We were 30 seconds away from not getting that opportunity.”

The run of play was a testament to tough defense by Tempe and fitness carrying Life West. The defense by the Old Devils kept Life West out of the try zone for the majority of the match, and even resulted in some offense as an errant pass was picked off and taken the length of the field to put up the initial five points for the Old Devils.

Tempe played a technically sound and disciplined game on Sunday. Their initial presence at the breakdown and set pieces made execution difficult for Life West and hindered the Gladitor offensive performance in the process.

“They are a disciplined outfit,” Ferris said. “Normally, what we’ve been doing against other teams is turning the ball over through good rucking process and then, with our backs, we’ve been able to create good opportunities; but, because they were efficient, we found that we couldn’t turn the ball over as much as we had so those opportunities were limited.”

Life West kept pounding away at the defensive line, though, and the pressure paid off. According to Ferris, his players' fitness allowed them to be a presence at the breakdown at the end of the match, which enabled them to move the ball more effectively and attack out with his backs. Scrumhalf Devereauz Ferris was instrumental in orchestrating his team’s extra-time victory as he used speed to move the attacks effectively and his communication to ensure the Gladiators were headed in the proper direction.

The match between Tempe and Life West was a tough affair, so the teams’ reinforcements played an important role in deciding the result.

“Both sides had people laying all over. It was like a battlefield,” Merrill said. “Both sides used all eight of their substitutions and they seemed to be a little bit stronger in their overall substitution package than we were.”