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In a wild DI final, NYAC defeated the Austin Blacks 44-39 to claim the National Title. The New York side overcame two double-digit point deficits to take home the hardware.
With lightning being a common theme in Colorado(the USA Rugby College 7s National Championship was also delayed), the game was delayed nearly an hour and a half by the inclement weather. The women’s DI final was delayed midway through the game and pushed well past the scheduled start time for the men’s final.
Even more problematic for USA Rugby, both teams were scheduled to fly out of Denver on either a red eye or first thing in the morning. As a result, the game had to be played on Saturday evening. Thankfully, USA Rugby had a contingency plan and the game was moved to one of alternative pitches in Glendale. Sadly, however, a fantastic final was not streamed on USA Rugby TV.
The Austin Blacks jumped out to a dream start against the PRP side as they dotted down three times in the first 20 minutes. Riekert Hattingh scored two sandwiched around a great chip and chase recovery from the Blacks.
“Austin came out of the gates way way quicker than us,” said NYAC assistant coach Neil McMillian. “They played with the win and kicked for a lot of territory and started with a really high tempo. They got three early tries before we kind of knew what was going on.”
NYAC settled into the game at 21-0, as it notched its first points with a penalty and a pair of tries. The teams traded penalties to make it 24-15 but a quick strike from Quentin Pradere cut the lead to 24-22. Kyle Granby found pay dirt a few phases after another line break to give NYAC its first lead of the match.
The lead did not last long, however, as Austin struck back right before halftime through Zach Mizell. At the break, Austin clung to a 29-27 lead.
The second half started much like the first as the Texas side put in two scores in the first 20 minutes. With a quarter of the game left Austin led 39-27.
“The second half was the exact same thing as the first. We were hoping that we could play with the wind at our backs but it completely dropped and they put in two early tries,” McMillan added.
Number 8 Al McFarland cut the double-digit lead several minutes later. The final segment of the game saw an Austin player receive a yellow card for foul play at the breakdown. McFarland notched his second of the game and with the successful conversion NYAC regained the lead 41-39. Justin Hundley nailed a penalty late to seal the victory.
NYAC scrumhalf Mike Petri took home the man of the match award. “He was really really solid all game,” McMillan said of Petri. “He controlled things even when we were sort of on the back foot.”
NYAC came into the game heavily favored in most people’s eyes, and it turned out to be a real nail biter.
“That was one of our toughest games. They were a really good side,” McMillan said of Austin. It was one of those games that could have gone either way. It was a really good way to finish the DI championship with a match like that.”