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The American Rugby Premiership Championship came down to the last match of the season between Life and Old Blue. Old Blue trailed Life by five standing points going into the match and all Life needed for the title was a bonus point. In a competitive match in New York, Old Blue earned the 37-19 victory securing all five points and depriving the Running Eagles of a bonus try. With each team having an identical 7-1 record and tied at 34 standing points, Life and Old Blue were named Co-Champions of the ARP.
Discussing the loss, Life head coach Blake Bradford said, “It’s always a tough game for us, difficult to travel to Old Blue and play there. I thought the guys did well in the first half, but we ran out of steam in the second half. We travelled on the same day and you could tell the guys were tired. We played against a really good Old Blue side that have showed this season that they are a good team. The bounce of the ball went their way and they beat us on the day.”
Life was first out of the gate five minutes into the match when Bijan Gholami scored a try. About ten minutes later, Old Blue scored 10 points in three minutes as James Bird connected on a penalty and Michael St. Claire dotted down a try. Life responded with a Talib Clemente try and Colton Cariaga conversion to go up 12-10, but a Luke Hume try in the final minute of the half had Old Blue with the 15-12 lead.
Old Blue extended the lead to 20-12 five minutes into the second half with a David Shotton try. In the 50th minute, Life closed the gap to one point when Daemon Torres scored, 20-19.
For the remaining 30 minutes, Old Blue clamped down on defense and didn’t allow Life score its all-important fourth bonus try. Old Blue’s reserves gave it a burst of energy as Bird and Connor Wallace-Sims (2) scored the final 17 points of the match for the big 37-19 win.
Bradford stated that the deciding factor of the game was that “they identified some inexperienced guys in our back three and I thought James Bird kicked really well and put us under pressure. They played off a lot of our mistakes and we made way too many mistakes and the capitalized on that.”
In the second game in New York saw NYAC host Mystic River. With the #1 seed in the DI Atlantic North on the line, NYAC came ready to play after losing to Life two weeks ago. Mystic River, who beat Old Blue last week, required a win to leap frog Old Blue for the top seed. With nothing to lose, NYAC played inspired rugby and won 46-24. As result, Old Blue captured the Atlantic North Title and Mystic River is the #2 seed.
The game served as wake up call for Mystic going into the DI playoffs. NYAC’s Nick Wooley, James Denise, Adam Zeich, and Justin Hundley each scored in the first half for a 22-10 lead. A try by Nathan Fox and a PK by Alatasi Tupou gave Mystic its points in the period.
A Tupou try cut the lead to 22-17 early in the second, but NYAC responded with a Mike Petri try and a penalty by Rob Johnson. Mystic’s Jared Collinson scored his team’s third try to make it 32-24, but after a Mystic yellow, NYAC put the final nails in the coffin with second tries by Petri and Denise.
Even though NYAC was eliminated from playoff contention, head coach Neil McMillan believed this club’s best performance came in this last game. “Despite having nothing to play for, the guys stepped up really well. I think Mystic underestimated us after the fall performance. The guys were superb all day. Great defense and Mystic never really got going in the first half. In the second half, we stepped up the intensity. The driving mauls were good and had great games from Nick Wooley, Nate Brakeley, and Mike Petri.”
The final match of the ARP season was the Battle of Boston pitting Boston against Boston Irish. Boston led the Irish for most of the match and won the season finale 29-12. Boston’s Richie Lobb outscored the Irish all by himself nailing five penalties and two conversions. Sean Treacy and Ceri Llewelyn had tries for Boston and Thomas Walsh and Gareth Austen scored for the Irish.