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Roger Williams beat Central Connecticut State, 40-36, in a play-in game Saturday to advance to the DII Sweet 16. The Hawks won their way into the postseason by going undefeated in claiming the Colonial Coast title. CCSU got there by winning the New England Wide championship. Both conferences are in their first year in DII after moving up from NSCRO.
"This was a great game to be a part of. The game was played intensely by by both teams. CCSU was a big, strong, and well-coached team," said Roger Williams coach Christian Palombo. "RWU's fitness may have been the difference in this match. It truly was a tale of two different halves."
The first half was dominated by Central Connecticut, which raced out to a 24-7 lead. That started with a 12-0 run, assisted by a couple of costly turnovers by the Hawks in their own end.
RWU was able to put together a few good phases and scored a converted try around the 20-minute mark. 15 of the last 20 minutes before halftime were played in the CCSU half. The Blue Devils, however, did well to repel those forays and go back on the offensive with the help of a good kick-and-chase game. They scored two counterattack tries, one converted, to end the half up 24-7.
Roger Williams got a much needed boost of morale at the onset of the second half, fielding the restart in the attacking end and scoring a converted try two phases later. Central then kicked off to the Hawks, who put together a series of phases awarded by a penalty. After a kick to touch and lineout, the Hawk forwards put together another probing possession, scoring a converted try to pull within three at 24 21. RWU scored a third-consecutive try in the first 15 minutes of the half, taking the lead for the first time, 28-24.
The Blue Devils then mounted a run of their own, scoring back-to-back tries, one converted, to take a 36-28 lead with about 15 minutes to play. But it was the Hawks who made the final kick ahead of the finish line, scoring 12 unanswered points off two tries to steal the win. The first of those was dotted down immediately following CCSU's final try, leaving the Hawks down, 36-35, with eight minutes to play. The game winner came at the death.
The bulk of the remainder of the game was played near midfeild. Roger Williams kept pressuring CCSU, and the Hawks were awarded a penalty with one minute remaining. The ball was then kicked to touch on the attacking five-meter line. The Hawk jumper was interfered with during the lineout, a penalty was called, and Roger Williams tapped quickly and scored with no time remaining to win the game.
Roger Williams will now face Salisbury, in Salisbury, Md., in the round of 16.