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Comebacks Mark Small-College Cohen Cup Semis

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Comebacks Mark Small-College Cohen Cup Semis

New Mexico Tech in blue, and St. John's in hoops. Ollie Mide photo.

It was a wild night in Houston for the NCR small-college semis with both winners having to battle their way through.

For Christendom it was all about the comeback. With a stiff breeze blowing straight down the field. Holy Cross started the game with the wind at their backs and they used it smartly. Christendom, for their part, didn't.

"That was entirely my fault," said Christendom lock and captain Owen Kennedy. "All season we've kicked to start the game and I thought it would be a tactical advantage to be kicking with the wind and so I chose to defense this side instead of kick off. To be fair their took advantage of that."

Holy Cross scored within a minute and were impressive throughout, using their kicking and good defense to put Christendom under pressure and then running with confidence. Meanwhile, twice Christendom lofted high restarts that were blown back behind the 10-meter line, giving Holy Cross an excellent attacking platform.

The result? Holy Cross 29 Christendom 0 after 20 minutes.

But Christendom stuck to their game plan. Running their big forwards, especially Kennedy and his younger brother, John, started to pay off. Holy Cross made their tackles but it too more and more players to get it done. The holes started to open. Center Matt Westin cut through one and was gone from long range. That seemed to fire up the Christendom team. A nice break from flanker John Ascough allowed him to set up wing Hugh Wingate.

Slowly they gan to claw back, and when they changed ends with the score 29-15, Christendom knew they had the wind at their backs. Midway through the second half they finally caught Holy Cross. A turnover in the Holy Cross 22 allowed Christendom to gain a foothold, and then an ill-advised Holy Cross pop kick gave the Crusaders a chance, and they sent it wide to Wingate for his second. Christendom had the lead, and would not relinquish it.

"We've played as a team all year," said Kennedy. "We got the guys together and said we know what we have to do, we've played our game all year. We're not very complicated we do simple stuff really well."

Christendom 44 Holy Cross 34.

In the other semifinal St. John's looked in control early, missed a prime scoring chance and then did score. After that, a fast, intense New Mexico Tech team seemed to be in the ascendency but couldn't quite put St. John's away. Tech came right back to pin St. John's back and then finally lock Jason Dwonzyka stretched over. A few minutes after a distinctly unpromising attack, flyhalf Wlilliam van Wyk put center Alejandro Lopez through with a nice flat pass and NMT was up 14-7. 

New Mexico Tech continued to build on that lead, and while St. John's scored late on an excellent run from Michael Murphy, they couldn't close the gap. New Mexico Tech 28 St. John's 21.

St. John's, said Coach Dan Franklin, had been plagued by periods of flat play throughout the season, and in this game once again found themselves not quite playing the way they wanted in a key matchup.

NMT Head Coach Gearoid Dunbar was also unhappy with his side's effort, saying they made far, far too many errors close to the St. John's tryline, and made the game much, much too hard on themselves. Oh well, they're in the final of the Cohen Cup for the Small-College National Champinoship, and will have to show what they've learned in an imposing clash with Christendom with it all to play for.