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Aided by a red card, Old Blue maintained third place in the American Rugby Premiership standings with a 31-13 victory at Boston Saturday. The loss effectively ends Boston’s bid for the postseason, while Old Blue remains in striking distance for second place and the automatic bid to the DI playoffs. With both clubs battling a strong wind, the game was close in first half, but Old Blue ran away in the second half with three tries.
“We stepped it up and had a better second half performance into the wind, ironically enough,” Old Blue coach Stephen Lewis said. “It was a pretty chippy game. It’s a good rivalry we have with them, and it was a physical encounter. First one out of the gates for the both of us in the spring, so it’s an important game.”
When asked what the difference was between the two clubs, Lewis said, “I think we had more penetration, I think we offered more behind the scrum. We were more threatening. To my mind, they were somewhat predictable and were able to contain them. They didn’t really make any line breaks until close to the end. They compete and keep coming at you, credit to them.”
Boston began the first half with the wind and was the first to score with a penalty kick by flyhalf Richie Lobb. The Boston scrum was solid and set piece was successful early. Old Blue responded with back-to-back tries by wing Mike St. Claire. A chip ahead by flyhalf James Bird set up the first try and the second was result of good hands and ball movement for the score. Bird converted the first try and Old Blue got out to the 12-3 lead.
With about eight minutes left in the half, Boston was red carded for a contact with a boot to the head in a ruck. The referee immediately sent the player from the pitch. The Boston defense held for the rest of the half and Lobb connected on his second penalty kick just before half time to cut the advantage to a try at 12-6 Old Blue.
Playing at a severe disadvantage, Boston attempted to stay in the game, but the floodgates seemed to open for Old Blue in the second half. Captain and scrumhalf Nate Augspurger took control and scored the next two tries. The captain’s first try was off a heads-up play from a quick-tap penalty from 30 meters out. The second started from a 70-meter break by the forwards from a lineout, and Augspurger finished with the try in the corner. Bird converted the first try, and Old Blue extended their lead to 24-6.
Old Blue’s onslaught continued as lock Sam Scroggins rampaged up the middle for a 40-meter try to give Old Blue the 31-6 advantage. Boston was able to tack on a try with about six minutes left by wing Duran Vota from first phase attack off a lineout movement. The earlier red card snuffed out any chance of a victory for Boston as the referee sounded the whistle for the 31-13 Old Blue win.
“It’s very difficult to overcome a red card and play a man down,” said Boston head coach Mike Diamantopoulos. “I thought 13-6 at the half was a really good result based on how strong the wind was. Second half, it was a combination of not using the win to our advantage, we didn’t really play field position. The rucks all day were a problem issue for the referee, the platform was not very good around the tackle contest. The ball we had I don’t think we used effectively and we played a man down for 47 minutes.”
Lewis praised his team on the win and was encouraged with the play on the field. “Augspurger had a terrific job at scrumhalf and captain. He’s just coming back from the 7s with the Eagles. It was a pretty good all around performance from our guys. As coaches, we were pretty pleased with the effort.”
For the last three games of the season, Old Blue plays Boston Irish, Life, and will close at NYAC on May 9th. The last game against NYAC may decide second place in the league. “It’s between us and NYAC for that second spot that goes through to DI,” Lewis commented. “We are four points behind them, so essentially we need to beat them in the return game and pick up a bonus point.”