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On Equal Terms: California vs Florida Conferences at CRAA Finals

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On Equal Terms: California vs Florida Conferences at CRAA Finals

Sac State and their trophy.

A late try from captain and lock Miles Brown capped off a dramatic, back-and-forth CRAA DIAA final, putting Sacramento State over Florida State 28-24.

This was a clash of the champions from the California DIAA and Florida DIAA conferences. It's not the only match that is styled a National Championship, but certainly it was an entertaining and collision-heavy game between two very good college teams. Both sides were missing some key players, with FSU perhaps having to scramble a bit more to reform its backline. 

But both had plenty of talent.

Full Game on The Rugby Network>>

Both teams bashed into each other, looking to disrupt any promising attacking movement, and it was some time before anyone scored. SCSU wing Amir Frazier did have an early long run but was hauled down. But another break from the speedster got the Hornets into FSU territory, the ball was quickly picked up and taken on by George Fountain. Finally FSU was penalized and after a tap move flanker Trevion Darden picked up and took a low, hard line over for the try. 

The conversion was missed and this would be a story all day. Sac State's starting flyhalf and goalkicker, Kellen Fisch, who had been money all season, was suffering the effects of food poisoning and played until he couldn't any longer. Certainly his kicking wasn't as good as it normally is. His replacement, Malachy Coughlan, has been tinkering with his kicking approach and that, combined with the wind, meant Sac State's points were not coming from the tee on Sunday.

FSU's restart did not go 10 meters and from there Sac State attacked again. From a ruck close-in, tighthead prop Carlos Lopez popped off the back and started forward. Perhaps surprised to see Lopez in full flight the FSU defenders were slow to react and Lopez cruised in from five meters out for a 10-0 Sac State lead.

Florida State started to settle down after that and play some better rugby. Using Tanner Smith in the forwards, Jack O'Keeffe in the backs, and with freshman scrumhalf Danny Bennett linking it together, they ran the phases. Finally of a tap penalty move lock Alex Abreu bashed it over. Cole Ryan converted and it was 10-7.

Ryan added a penalty goal to tied it up, and then with halftime beckoning Sac State was on the attack when Ryan stuck his hand in the way of the pass, popped it up in the air, caught it, and was free and clear to race in to score. Ryan converted his try and it was 17-10 at the break.

Florida State had dealt Sac State a bit of a blow, and it took quite some time for the Hornets to reply. Both teams had scoring chances and Coughlan did slot a penalty goal, it wasn't until midway through the second half that any more tries were scored.

This was mostly due to tenacious defense, and mistakes based on the pressure of the situation.

Finally Sac State worked their way into the FSU 22 and the forwards finished it off fairly clinically, with prop Jonathan Stewart staying low on a pick and diving over.

It was enough and Sac State led 18-17.

The same recipe proved tasty once again. Florida State's discipline let them down as they started to give up penalty after penalty. The Hornets started running on the penalties and FSU was in desperate straights. Finally Seminole lock Ethan Schaeffer was yellow-carded for one too many offsides. Moments later Brown took it up, Stewart cleared out, and Lopez picked up, stayed low, and scored. Sac State led 23-17.

It was still a one-score game, however, and FSU took advantage of that. Center Luke Davis dummied and cut through for a run, and after a penalty O'Keeffe tapped and thundered in under the posts. Ryan slotted the extras and FSU had their lead back 24-23.

So it came down to the final minutes. Once again Sac State put FSU under pressure and the Seminoles committed penalties. In fact it was a penalty committed while FSU had the ball that gave Sac State life. Another penalty got the Hornets inside the Seminole 22, and FSU didn't retreat on that one so were definitely on the hot seat. The hits came thick and fast and as he went to the corner No. 8 Michael Niu was tackled ferociously, but legally. However, an earlier tackles wasn't so legal, so Sac State had another chance. They tapped, ran at the FSU wall.

Darden was stood up, but wriggled and fought his way to the ground. The effort in stopping Darden left a gap next to the ruck and Brown was the man to pick up and score with no time left.

It was a pretty game if you like hard tackles and players who don't give up. It was an educational game in showing how close the California and Florida conferences are. It was also a game that was a testament to player playing sick, playing hurt, playing out of position, and all just pitching up and working hard.

For Sac State, Brown, Lopez, Frazier, and Darden were all very strong. Bennett stepped into the breech for FSU and Ryan was immense, as was O'Keeffe and flanker Tanner Smith.

Bowl Game

On Saturday, South Florida played San Jose State in a bowl game. This was supposed to be USF vs Fresno State but Fresno State incurred so many injuries that they couldn't do it. SJSU was asked to fill in and found out the evening of their alumni fundraiser dinner—no better time to ask for some checks, and the alumni came through.

For South Florida, this was a tough game and they started well. SJSU did actually score first through wing Franz Benedict Magbual, but USF replied with scrumhalf Lucas Speese scampering over and center Jon Carlo Salani to make it 10-5. It remained that way until just before halftime. Despite being down a man with a yellow card SJSU they seemed to take inspiration from the challenge and sent lock Sandro Malicevec over to nudge ahead just before the break.

Early in the second half SJSU flyhalf Juan Galparsoro looked to chip over to find some way through the USF defense. One of those efforts worked beautifully. With USF lock Derrick Lei-Sam in the sin bin he had a little extra space, popped a kick over the top and chased it down to score.

Up 17-10, SJSU held on from there. USF got a penalty, but that was it.

Galparsoro was outstanding for SJSU and was named player of the game. Prop Luis Hernandez had some big runs and key plays, but overall it was a huge team effort. And again, as with the other game, it showed how close these two conferences are.