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Syracuse defeated Stony Brook 32-29 on Long Island to claim the Empire Conference championship. The Hammerheads avenged an early season loss to the Seawolves to capture the conference title and earn a spot in USA Rugby’s DIAA nationals in the spring.
The western New York school drew first blood with a try but Stony Brook converted a try to take a 7-5 lead. The rest of the first half and the early portion of the second was all Syracuse, however, as the Hammerheads scored four consecutive tries to take a 29-7 lead.
Syracuse coach Bob Wilson indicated that the success his team had in the first stanza was due in large part to two aspects of its game. The Hammerheads dominated the scrum, an aspect of the game Stony Brook won in the first encounter, and their ability to monopolize possession and control the tempo of the game.
“Through some really strong scrumaging and pretty efficient ball control we were able to win the territorial game and use that as a platform,” said Wilson.
Midway through the second half, Stony Brook began to work its way back into the game. Syracuse went down a man with a yellow card and the Seawolves responded with tremendous pressure. In the final quarter of the game, Stony Brook stormed back with three converted tries to cut the lead to 29-28 with four minutes to play.
“Great credit to Stony Brook. They had a furious comeback. We didn’t help ourselves by getting a yellow card but it was more to do with their resilience and determination,” Wilson added.
Syracuse was able to stem the tide and the Seawolves became aggressive and slightly desperate at the breakdown. The Hammerheads kept the ball in the opponent’s territory for the final few minutes and earned a penalty. Alex Hodgkinson slotted the kick and Syracuse held on for a 32-28 victory.
Hodgkinson played a tremendous game for Syracuse scoring a try and assisting on another. The senior commands the field very well and leads the Syracuse backline.
“Most of the time he was just putting people through gaps, controlling where the ball went and making that sure we kept the pressure on won that territorial battle in the first half,” said Wilson.
Wilson praised the play of his forwards and in particular the play of his converted prop Alex Amico. The former center slotted in at prop this season and made a seamless transition.
“He has really been playing his heart out and is really undersized but technically he is pretty good,” Wilson said of Amico.
With the win, Syracuse earned its first ever Empire Conference title. The team will look to continue its momentum when it takes on Notre Dame College at the ACRC Bowl Series in a few weeks.
“This is really a step up for us this year. It is a pretty competitive conference and we are very happy to be able to grow over the season…..The opportunity to be in that competition is very exciting for us and the alumnae. We are very much looking forward to being in that competition,” Wilson said of the teams participation the ACRC Bowl Series.