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Close Games in Washington Semis

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Close Games in Washington Semis

The Rainier Highlanders and Liberty Patriots will face off for the Rugby Washington DI final after both somehow survived tense semifinals this weekend.

It could hardly have been any closer for these teams. Liberty and Chuckanut reacquainted themselves with their rivalry, and battled through a thriller. Liberty had control early and scored three tries to take an 18-3 lead. Wing Nick Farmer and props David Ainuu and Tony Vea went over, with scrumhalf Noah Wright adding a penalty goal. In answer, Chuckanut got only the one penalty goal from Calum Reid.

But Liberty got hit with a yellow card in the second half, and during that time Chuckanut took advantage, with Jack Wendling and Ben Broselle scoring, with Reid adding one conversion to make it 18-15 for Liberty.

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“We did a good job of keeping the ball and going through the phases,” said Liberty Head Coach Jeff Candler. “Pretty simple stuff but it worked. We were defending well and not making mistakes. Our forwards, led by David, were very good. Then we got the yellow card and starting to make some errors. And Chuckanut is just a class act, a classy team and they just kept playing.”

Late in the game Chuckanut moved into Liberty territory, got a penalty, and Reid hit the kick to tie the game 18-18.

However, the rules had been set forth by referee Denny Russell before the game - the tiebreaker on  a tie game would be tries scored. As always, with time limits on under-19 rugby in effect, it is difficult to manage playoff ties, but this was the tiebreaker, and when Russell blew for full-time, Liberty had scored three tries, and Chuckanut two. Liberty, therefore, won.

Meanwhile, it was pretty close with Rainier against Eastside, also. Will Dodd slotted two early penalties for the Lions, but Rainier recovered, and Lia Faletogo-Monis and EJ Brown powered over for tries, with Jacob Nist making two tough conversions to put the Highlanders up 14-6.

Eastside replied, shoving the ball over for a try to make it 14-13.

“When we were up by eight, I felt OK because they needed to score twice to catch us,” said Rainier Head Coach Jeff Sprouse. “But then they scored. We had a lot of trouble getting through their defense in the first half, but we made fewer mistakes in the second half and played more of our game.”

Rainier held on to win 14-13.

So the final is set for this coming Saturday, Liberty, now 6-1 in league and playoff play, and Rainier 7-0-1. The only team to beat Liberty was Rainier in a 20-13 decision in March. 

“We know we’ll have to have a long look at our approach against Rainier,” said Candler.

This remains a hugely competitive league. Liberty’s results against Chuckanut were 36-33 and 18-18, while Rainier’s games against Eastside were 12-12 and 14-13. Of the 23 league and playoff games played in Washington’s DI this year, 11, or almost half, were decided by a try or less.