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Red River play continued Saturday with four games. There were two incredibly lopsided contests – New Orleans blanking The Woodlands 100-0 and the Dallas Reds shutting out Fort Worth 91-0. The blowouts keep NOLA and Dallas, which tied 12-12 back in November, undefeated in league play. Dallas was paced by flanker Chad Joseph’s five tries and three each from flanker Colin Yerian and center Gerad Crossway.
HARC rebounded from a lopsided loss to the Reds the week prior with a 39-17 defeat of the Austin Huns Saturday. Houston led 17-5 at halftime and outscored the Huns 22-12 in the second half. The result drops the Huns to 0-4 and improves HARC to 2-1.
In the week's most competitive contest, the Griffins and Austin Blacks played to a 17-17 tie in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs in Allen, Texas.
Austin opened the scoring after an early exchange of territory which ended in a simple penalty for a three-point lead. 20 minutes in, a goal line stand by the Griffins was holding firm until flanker Trey VonAhnen was judged to have been offside and, given the location on the pitch, was shown a yellow card. With VonAhnen off the field for 10 minutes, the Blacks took the chance and crept in at the corner for the game's first try. An impressive conversion from out wide gave the visiting team a 10-point lead.
The Griffins stood firm for the rest of the sin-bin period and came close to scoring several times. Some inspired breaks by flyhalf Marc DeCharmoy and successful forward phase play kept the momentum in the Griffins’ favor. After a penalty kick into the corner, scrumhalf Danny Carlton scored to pull the home team within five at 10-5, which is how the first half ended.
The second stanza saw several missed opportunities by both teams, with line outs not going straight or players losing the ball in contact close to the try line. Coaches from both sides were clearly frustrated by missed opportunities, but it was the Blacks who were able to string together some good phases and put themselves in a try scoring position. As the Griffins reshuffled to accommodate an injury to Kyle Harrell, the Blacks were awarded a scrum five meters out, which they efficiently turned into points. The conversion was good, and Austin took a 12 point lead.
As the clock ticked down, five minutes of sustained pressure found a crack in the Blacks' defense, allowing Chris Gale to force his way over from short range, leaving just seven points between the two teams with six minutes to play.
An Austin kick was collected by DeCharmoy, who showed his class once more with an inspired chip over the blitzing Austin defense. Inside center Ben Walker was there to collect the ball, and after breaking the final covering tackle by the Austin full back, sprinted 50 meters to close the gap to two. Carlton stepped up and calmly dissected the uprights to tie the match.
A final moment of drama unfolded in the closing minutes when the referee awarded Austin a penalty on the Griffins 10-meter line. The kick sailed wide and was gathered by Griffins winger Ben Ferrero, who countered all the way back to midfield and may have gone all the way if not for a great last ditch tackle. Austin turned the ball over and held onto it until the final whistle.
The Griffins were disappointed in not bagging the win, but pleased with keeping pace with the defending Texas champ in the club’s first year in DI.
"Director of rugby Elaine Vassie has done an immense job preparing the squad to play at this higher level," said Griffins managing director Phil Cam. "We've not changed that much from last season in terms of playing personnel, but every individual has stepped up their game. Having full time coaches is a big advantage, but it's still a credit to the lads that they are each working hard to become better players."