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The Austin Blacks picked up where they left off last year and logged their first victory of the season in Week Two in the Red River Conference. The Dallas Reds and Austin Huns each recorded their second wins of the year with convincing tallies to rise to the top of the standings. Shaking the rust off of the fall, the Blacks defeated the Griffins 34-22, while the Reds knocked off New Orleans 42-11 and the Huns sacked the Dallas Harlequins 36-12. With the holidays approaching, the Red River will take a three-week hiatus and resumes play on January 9th.
Austin Blacks at Griffins Rugby
After narrowly missing out on their first National Championship last season, the Austin Blacks are back to prove they are not one-year wonders. The Blacks began the season beating the Kansas City Blues and Metropolis in the Gold Cup and this weekend, opened up the Red River Conference schedule with a 34-22 win over Griffins Rugby in Allen, Texas.
With the match being the first conference game of the season, Blacks Head Coach Tane Jericevich indicated there is a lot to improve upon in the coming weeks. “It was our first game of the season. We didn't play as a whole, but all in all, happy with the win. [The Griffins] scrum put us under pressure, but we took our chances and they didn't. They came back late on with a couple of tries and credit to them for not giving up.”
The Blacks torched the Griffins for three tries in the first half to lead 22-3 at halftime. Matt Radzavich (2) and Dave Comerford scored in the opening frame and Pat Sullivan contributed with two conversions and a penalty kick. The Griffins’ lone points of the half came off the boot of Toby Quarendon.
The Griffins pulled closer in the second half with a penalty try in the scrum and two tries by Detwan Robinson, but the Blacks were too strong in the end. Tyler Terrazone scored two big tries for Austin to put his team in front for good earning their first conference win, 34-22.
“The Austin Blacks are very strong and very efficient,” Griffins head coach Darren Morris said. “They moved the ball very well and they took their chances. The game was very cleanly fought in most areas... It was another progression from the Reds game. We dominated the scrum and our scrum had a penalty try in the second half.”
“You have to tip your hat off to the Austin Blacks for being very clinical and efficient, especially behind the scrum,” Morris added. “I thought their #12 (Pat Sullivan) had a really good influential game as he played really well. Their #8 (Ngwako Ralepelle) is a very good player as well. They just capitalized on our mistakes.”
After their title run last year, the Blacks emphasized depth as a key to repeating their success this season. “We have a lot of depth this year and with a few guys missing today, we still managed to get the win.” Jericevich said. “It is very encouraging with injuries sure to be a big factor as they have in seasons past.”
New Orleans at the Dallas Reds
The Dallas Reds resumed their quest to venture further from their National Semifinalist result of last season with a decisive win over New Orleans, 42-11, in Dallas, Texas. Wing Zack Klump had a banner day for Dallas with a total of 22 points, which included a 70 meter try down the sideline, three penalty kicks, and four conversions. This victory sends the Reds to the top of the leaderboard with 10 standing points.
“It was very back and forth and when Klump scored that long try, that was really the momentum shift,” Reds associate coach Filip Keuppens said. “That really got us on the front foot and put the nail in the coffin. After that, we settled down and started playing Dallas Reds rugby and were able to meet the standard that we hold ourselves to.”
Dallas began the game with back-to-back PKs by Klump and NOLA responded with a try by Billy Stewart. The Reds’ Kelly Kolberg extended Dallas’ lead to 13-5 and Klump added to the tally with another PK late for the 16-5 halftime advantage.
In the second half, NOLA’s Ross Bellaci inched his squad closer with two PKs to cut the score to 16-11. The Reds defense shut down any further incursions by their opponent for the remainder of the game while piling on four straight tries. Dale Russ, Klump and Blake Boulton (2) crossed the line for Dallas ultimately achieving the 42-11 victory.
“We were in the game for a good portion of it, but we had a lot of sloppy play and missed opportunities,” NOLA head coach Saade Bou-Mikael stated. “I thought we were aggressive in the second half, we had some good phases, but we couldn’t execute or let them strip the ball from us. Our sloppy play gave them some easy tries. They are pretty physical in the breakdown and they did poach ball in critical moments in the second half.”
This weekend’s match tested the Reds’ depth, but the Keuppens said the next man stepped up admirably. “We were missing a few key players and the positive takeaway is that it shows how valuable depth is. Missing key guys like PJ Eteaki, Rob McDermott, and a couple others, the other guys were able to step in. Spencer Cameron, who usually plays wing, he moved to #13 and played really well, very physical on defense and on attack. At this level, it’s really nice to have depth and have 25-30 guys that are capable of playing at the Division I level.”
With the competition level in the Red River increasing across the board, the main rival to the crown is still the Austin Blacks. “The Red River Conference is really tight,” Keuppens said. “We need the play really well to beat the Blacks. They beat us last year and they got better... The Blacks have weapons 1 through 15 and it’s going to be a great match and we are really looking forward to it. We are going to give our all, but between now and then, we can’t look past our other opponents. We have to look at every game week by week, but I’d be lying if we didn’t have the Blacks circled on our calendar.”
Austin Huns at Dallas Harlequins
The Austin Huns looked to remain undefeated early in the season as they traveled to Dallas, Texas to take on the Harlequins. After a difficult first half, Huns turned it on in the second half to win 36-12. At halftime, Huns head coach Kirk Tate said, “We talked about having better support and working to keep our feet in the tackle longer until support could get there to neutralize their poaching game. We were able to get back in front and apply the pressure. We wore them down a little bit because the gates opened in the last 20 minutes and we were able to score three tries in that time.”
The game began with the Quins inside center Darragh Lynch succumbing to injury and the Huns taking advantage with flyhalf Andrew Heller scoring his first DI try between the posts. Austin followed that up with a try by Alexander Liles for the 12-0 lead. The Quins regrouped, and aided by their strong poaching game and defensive play, were to score a try at the end of the half.
A yellow card by the Huns’ Shawn Cox led to the score to be tied at 12-12 after a Quins’ try. Once back at full strength, Cox redeemed himself with a try to give his team the 17-12 lead. The Huns picked up the pressure and stepped on the gas to score three tries in the final 20 minutes. Two tries by Giovanni Bonilla and one by Rui Branco extended the lead to the final result of 36-12.
The deciding factor of the game for the Huns was adjusting their style to their opponent and the referee. “The key was we were very dominant in the lineouts,” Tate said. “We had a great deal of possession and Harlequins were really thriving off the turnovers in the poaching game. Once we were able to adjust to how the game was being called, how they were playing the game, and retained possession, the tries came.”