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After being soundly beaten by Charlotte twice this season, Atlanta Old White defeated its rival 35-32 on a last second penalty goal. The following day Old White punched its ticket to Pittsburgh with a 20-10 victory over Chattanooga.
Old White knew they needed to make some tactical changes against Charlotte having lost by nearly thirty points in both prior matchups. Old White, however, used this to their advantage noting that they would most likely see the same Charlotte side.
"The biggest thing was that the games were blowouts," Atlanta Old White President Min Cho told Rugbymag. "We had to make all the adjustments and Charlotte pretty much left things alone."
Old White focused heavily on a couple of areas of play including the lineout, maintaining possession and finishing plays.
"“This was our primary focus going into the match," Cho added. "In our previous matchups we controlled a lot of the possession but didn’t finish many of our scoring opportunities."
Atlanta put a large emphasis on the lineout due in large part to the size of the Charlotte forwards. Tall Charlotte forwards continuously stole Atlanta ball in the first two encounters.
A sharp Atlanta side combined with keen tactical changes made this a tight contest. The Old White led 32-27 with less than 3 minutes to play but Charlotte was able to break through for an unconverted try making the game 32 all with less than a minute to play.
Atlanta restarted the game and committed a penalty with no time on the clock. There was a stoppage of play because the referee initially ended the match despite it being a penalty.
After play resumed Charlotte elected to tap and go rather than try for points. A key poach at the breakdown by Adam Vranhos gave possession back to the Old White. The referee awarded a side entry penalty about 45 Meters away from the posts.
A pure strike by David Winiaczyk cleared the posts giving Atlanta Old White the victory and a matchup with Chattanooga on Sunday.
Chattanooga defeated Miami 35-30 on Saturday. Jumping out to a comfortable lead, Chattanooga gave up a couple of late tries making the game close.
With less than a day turnaround for the NCR2 final, both teams were extremely tired and beat up.
"“It was an ugly game. Both teams were very tired and had very little rest," said Cho.
Possession was equal in the first half but only Atlanta was able to turn possession into points. A penalty and a converted try game Old White a 10-0 lead at the break.
Atlanta started the second half with a penalty but the momentum started to turn after an Atlanta player was sent off with a yellow card. Chattanooga got their tails up scoring two unconverted tries making the game 13-10.
With six minutes remaining, Old White sealed the victory with a converted try. The game ended 20-10.
Atlanta Old White will play New Haven in the quarterfinal on May 17th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.