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St. Mary's beat Life 21-6 en route to a first-ever National Championship Saturday night at Steuber Rugby Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif. The Gaels overturned the 2013 D1A final to beat the Running Eagles, with the contest not decided until the final whistle.
Life was the more aggressive team in the first half. The Running Eagles led
3-0 much of the way, but the Gaels leveled the table just before half, and
Life regained the lead, 6-3, before intermission.
Life spent most of the first half on the offensive. The Running Eagles had several scoring chances in the opening half hour and came out of it with only three points to show.
Directly after the opening kickoff, Life All American fullback Joe Cowley missed a makeable penalty for Life's first uncapitalized shot at a lead. Shortly thereafter, the Running Eagles were awarded a scrum deep in the attacking end, but a free kick was given to the Gaels, relieving pressure.
Moments later Life went through several phases in the attacking end, but lost some patience and was turned over. In total, the Running Eagles let at left at least four prime scoring chances on the table, and a late second penalty from SMC saw the Gaels go up at halftime.
St. Mary's scored the game's first try just a few minutes into the second half when Cooper Maloney dotted down. He started the scoring drive with a nice counterattack off a Life kick, passed off, and scooped up an ill-advised pass that hit grass in front of him, only to scoot in for the try. The electric interchange saw St. Mary's get a bit lucky and take an 8-6 lead after the conversion was missed.
Maloney seemed to be close to putting another try on the board after a nifty pass from Dylan Audsley, but the fullback was cut down short by Life halfback Blane McIlroy, and Life turned the ball over and cleared its lines.
Life's openside flanker was sent off just four minutes in to the second half for repeated infringements at the breakdown, and Life openside Fotukava Malu was sent to the bin. St. Mary's slowed the ball down with some calculated phase play, and the Running Eagles committed a penalty. Audsley then hit a big kick, giving the Gaels a two-score lead, 14-6, with about four minutes to play.
With time almost up Garrett Brewer put some emphasis on the result by
booting a loose ball into the Life 22. Brewer looked set to recover and
score but was bumped into. The ball rolled loose and somehow the Gaels
gathered it, set a ruck, and then saw Joey Reavey over for the try. Audsley
converted, and moments later the celebrations began.
St. Mary's won the game by being dogged in defense and simply not backing
down against a hard-working and physical Life team. In open play, the Gaels
were the better team in an intense and well-played match, and deserved DIA
St. Mary's 21
Tries: Maloney, Reavey
Pens: Audsley 3
Pens: Cowley 2