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It’s a whole new ballgame in the DI Red River Conference as the new look Austin Huns are challenging for the top spot in the league. After dispatching OMBAC last weekend, the Huns took another major step knocking off the defending conference champions, the Dallas Reds, 24-18 on Saturday. In the Houston Athletic versus the Dallas Harlequins match, the Quins beat HARC, 36-19.

Dallas Reds at the Austin Huns

Billed as the Texas I-35 Showdown, the Dallas Reds took the 200-mile trek south to Huns Field in Austin, Texas to battle the undefeated Austin Huns. The Huns still have plenty to prove and the Reds looked to assert themselves in the conference. What came next was a brutal, tough match that tested the physicality and stamina of each club. In a game that featured five yellow cards, Austin capitalized on its opportunities for the 24-18 victory.

“[The Reds] didn’t give us a lot to score, so we used our opportunities well,” Austin head coach Eugene Eloff said. “It was a tough, physical game. You can see that they are a team that has been playing together for a long time. They are well oiled. After our two quick tries, I think we took our foot off the pedal. The game was physical with hard tackles, big tackles. Neither team gave each other an opportunity.”

As the game began, both defenses were dialed up ready to bring the hits. The first points came three minutes into the match when a hard run by Hanco Germishuys caused a penalty. After the kick to touch, the lineout off the top went directly to a streaking HP Moore who beat three defenders to score. Using that momentum, the Huns scored their second try a mere six minutes later. Building off another long dash by Germishuys, fullback Andrew Heller dotted the ball down after a skip ball following a five-meter scrum. Center Martin Knoetze converted both tries for the 14-0 lead.

The Reds finally got on the board in the 13th minute as flyhalf Blake Boulton connected on a penalty after a goal line diving over infraction. The defenses stepped up their game in the middle of half, but ill discipline made the referee pull out multiple yellow cards on both teams.

First, the Hun’s captain Lomani Tongotongo was sent to the sin bin in the 28th minute followed almost immediately by lock Brian Welborn for not rolling away. The misfortune continued for Austin as scrumhalf Michael Reid hurt his shoulder minutes later.

However for the Reds, they were unable score any points with the two-man advantage. To compound the issue, Dallas was dinged with back-to-back cards to Chris Hopkins and Vincent Chase at the end of half. On the subsequent play after the last card and with a man back from the bin, Germishuys powered through three defenders to dive for the try. The score gave Austin the 19-3 halftime lead.

“Not getting points when the Huns had two men in the sin bin hurt us,” Dallas club president David Dodge said,” particularly because when the shoe was on the other foot about 10 minutes later, and we had two guys in the bin, they were able to come away with five points. That’s at least an eight-point swing, and we only lost by five. It was the right move to press for the try, but the Huns defense was stout; we just didn’t get it done.”

Dallas refocused during halftime and started digging into Austin’s lead soon after the second half whistle. Boulton added his second penalty a minute into the half and after both teams exchanged kicks for field position, the Reds found themselves inside the 22. Back to full strength, the Reds’ scrum pushed over the Huns’ pack at their own five meters where Chad Joseph scored the forwards try. Boulton converted to cut the lead to 19-13.

The Huns struck back battling inside Dallas’ half, but the defense would not break. Austin missed on its next scoring opportunity as a Knoetze’s penalty kick sailed wide. Shortly after, a Reds cross kick turned into a breakaway for Austin’s Pierce Reed. Unluckily for Dallas, Sweeper Bulai’s high tackle sent him to the sin bin.

“The yellow card on our #13, Sweeper Bulai, probably did the most damage to our chances of winning the match,” Dodge stated. “We had some offensive momentum at that point, and were within a converted try of taking the lead.  With the yellow card, we had to shift our focus to defending 14-on-15.”

The Dallas defense held on for almost ten minutes before Austin could capitalize on the man advantage. From a lineout, Knoetze broke the line and carved through traffic to offload to David LeMasters for the try. With precious time left, the Reds never quit and Joseph scored his second try on the final play of the game.

Coach Eloff praised his team’s effort, especially the forwards. “[The Reds] are a strong scrumming side. We got penalized few times, but we scrummed very well. Our front row of Mason Pederson, David LeMasters, and Tim Fitzgerald, played well.”

The Red River is off next weekend with big matchups slated for February 18th. Rivalry week comes to the conference in two weeks as the Huns and Blacks battle for Austin and the Reds and Harlequins clash for Dallas.

Dallas Harlequins at HARC

With both teams searching for their first victory, the Dallas Harlequins ventured to Houston, Texas to match up against the Houston Athletic Rugby Club on Saturday.  Powered by a strong set piece and suffocating defense, the Quins scored three tries off of driving mauls and another three from consistent pressure to win 36-19.

“The defensive pressure was the key to our win which kept HARC scrambling to create any offensive momentum,” Quins coach John Dale said. “We struggled to find our rhythm in the first 15 minutes as a good HARC defense kept us off key snubbing out several chances. Once we settled into the game adjustments we made to stabilize the pack, it gave us an attacking platform.”

David Keane, Daron Liebenberg, Jimmy Jewison (2), John May, and Vance Young each dotted down tries for the Quins with Jeff Dull and Charles Davidson connecting on three of the conversions. Coach Dale named David Keane and Gerrit Engelbrecht the players of the game and praised the play of front rowers Jeremy Eirich and Dan Curl in shoring up scrum.