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The Championship match of the American Rugby Premiership comes down to next Saturday’s match between Old Blue and Life. Before next weekend, both clubs were in action yesterday with different results. Life cracked the Boston Irish Wolfhounds with seven tries to win 41-17 and Mystic River’s forwards won the game for the team beating Old Blue, 32-17.
In the ARP, Life is 7-0 with 34 standing points and Old Blue is right behind at 6-1 and 29 points. If Old Blue can beat Life on Saturday and earn the bonus point, both clubs would be knotted up and the championship would be decided based on tiebreakers.
With the win over Old Blue, Mystic River (6-1, 30 points) secured a spot in Nationals and can be the Atlantic North’s #1 seed if it is victorious over NYAC on Saturday. If Mystic loses, Old Blue (7-1, 33 points) takes the top seed.
Old Blue at Mystic River
The forwards of Mystic River powered the men of Malden, Mass. to a 32-17 win over Old Blue. The win was payback for the 24-20 close loss in New York back in October. Mystic led 15-0 at halftime and never looked back. Old Blue was able to cut the lead to eight points in the second half, but a late try by outside center Alatasi Tupou sealed the victory. Flyhalf Rob Malneek was amazing in the match and had a hand in each of his team’s tries.
“Our tight five really answered the call today, we knew they could a lot of problems in the drive and our boys really held their own in there,” Mystic River head coach Josh Smith said. “Our forwards really put their hand up and responded to challenge. Old Blue has a great set piece and really can punish teams off it. Our guys did a great job disrupting.”
The game started with a Tupou penalty and Luke Schlotman and Jared Collinson followed it up with tries for the 15-0 Mystic halftime lead. Mystic extended the lead to 20-0 with a Steve Dazzo try coming from a great play on the cross kick by Malneek.
Old Blue would finally get on the board with a James Bird penalty then a try by Trevor Cassidy to trail 20-10. Mystic’s Nate Fox added to the advantage with a try and ten minutes later, Old Blue’s Rick Kirkland got the game to within eight points at 25-17. With five minutes remaining, Mystic put the final nail in the coffin with Tupou’s try.
Mystic’s last game is at NYAC next weekend and will decide the #1 seed for the Atlantic North. “Nobody wants to go to Travers Island just to qualify for playoffs versus the National Champion NYAC. We never want to play down at home in front of our friends and family either. Today was very a huge day for our club and the direction we are trending.”
“It was disappointing,” Old Blue assistant coach Ash Moeke stated. “We didn’t turn up. Don’t take any credit away from Mystic, they hurt us. We attacked for ten minutes straight in their half. We dominated the scrum time, but couldn’t convert it into points. The execution of some of our basic skills was lacking. A drop ball or penalty would get them out of trouble. It was disappointing as they fed upon our mistakes.”
With Life on Saturday, Coach Moeke said, “They are at the top of the division and we watched a couple of their games. They are very well structured and everyone knows what they are doing across the park. We have to combat that at home on our Old Blue Alumni Night. We will have a crowd with Old Boys there, so we have to train and prepare well this week and then all guns blazing on Saturday.”
Boston Irish at Life
In the penultimate match of the season, the Boston Irish Wolfhounds flew south to Georgia to put a good showing together against the league leading Life Running Eagles. Life controlled the game from the start with hooker Dylan Fawsitt scoring a hat trick in the first half and eventually won, 41-17. Next week’s match against Old Blue will determine if Life can repeat as ARP Champions.
“We were happy to get the bonus point win and I think we played good rugby in parts,” Life head coach Blake Bradford said. “There were a few changes from the team that played NYAC and we struggled a bit with continuity in parts of the game. When we stuck to our pattern we were able to control possession and convert pressure to points.”
Life built a 24-0 lead at the half with Fawsitt’s three tries and one more by Dawud Mohamed. Colton Cariaga was one for four on conversions in the half. In the second half, the Boston Irish would score three of the first four tries of the period to cut the lead to 31-17, but tries by Donovan Norphlet, Joseph Cowley, and Bijan Gholami shut the door on any type of comeback.
With the end of the season next week , Coach Bradford commented on the game against Old Blue and the prospects of a second ARP title. “One of our goals this season was to win the ARP championship and it will mean a lot to our program. We also focus a lot on player development and continuous improvement. This week, there is another chance for us to look at our film of the game, make our corrections and grow as a team. We will be up for the challenge that waits for us in New York this weekend and we know they have some new players since we played them last. Old Blue has been impressive all season and our preparation this week will be key.”