Gaels Beat Life in Wild Finish
Gaels Beat Life in Wild Finish
In a thrilling and wild game at Kennesaw State University, the St. Mary’s Gaels defeated Life University 30-24 in the Men’s DIA College final Saturday.
The game was back and forth all day, and ended with Life right on the St. Mary’s tryline, but the Gaels managed to escape and win it.
The game started out with plenty of mistakes on both sides, as the defenses tried to set the tone and that led to knock-ons, and some set piece errors, as well. In a clash of two effective forward packs, it wasn’t until the fourth scrum that a clean ball came out the end - the first three ending in a penalty or free kick.
Similarly, efficiency at the lineout was a big part of Life’s game, and they didn’t fire too well, combining a series of overthrows and not straights.
Still, Life took an early lead on a Blane McIlroy penalty. St. Mary’s replied, akin the lineout after a penalty for a high tackle, and running several phases with the forwards before sending it out. In the backs, flyhalf Kingsley McGowan’s little juke attracted the attention of three defenders, and the flyhalf then slid a pass to center Dylan Audsley, who was in under the posts. Audsley added the conversion and St. Mary’s led 7-3.
A nifty break from fullback Cooper Maloney put St. Mary’s back on the front foot and led to an Audsley penalty goal to extend their lead. But Life looked better after that, working continuity and slowly pushing St. Mary’s back. Eventually the ball got to center Mark Gribben, who slid out of the grasp of two defenders and then just got over the line as Holden Yungert tried to stop him. McIlroy was good with the conversion, and the teams were deadlocked 10-10 after 30 minutes.
Life put themselves under pressure after that. Scrumhalf Marcus Walsh was guilty of not rolling away, and referee Phil Ackroyd had already warned Life for professional infractions, so Walsh got a ten-minute break.
From that penalty, Audsley slotted a goal, and then Life’s restart went out on the full, setting up a scrum center. St. Mary’s got a penalty from that scrum and looked set to twist the knife a little bit more. Life held them out, although not before captain Jake Anderson was yellow-carded for pulling back an opponent on a quick tap, and the first half ended with St. Mary’s up 13-10.
Down by two players at the beginning of the second half, Life was in trouble, and when a Running Eagle put in a late, no-wrap hit on Audsley after the center had made a break and kicked ahead, they were lucky not to be down to 12. St. Mary’s took a scrum where the ball was played, drove close to the line, and No. 8 Kevin O’Connor did well to control the ball and dive over. Audsley’s conversion made it 20-10, but as they went back to 14 men Life got some energy back. Tyrus Baytops set up a nice movement but the last pass to Gribben didn’t go to hand. Still, the run had put Life into the St. Mary’s 22, and after a lineout and maul, Glen Maricelli was the man under the pile. McIlroy hit the conversion and it was 20-17.
In the 90-degree heat with high humidity, St. Mary’s appeared to be flagging a bit, but after a long period of defense, they got a boost. A Life kick deep bounced around and the Gaels gathered. Out it went to Audsley, who broke through, was dragged down, and popped to McGowan for the flyhalf to race in untouched. St. Mary’s now led by ten once more 27-17.
At tis point, the game had settled down. Both defenses were hitting hard, but staying, for the most part, on referee Ackroyd’s good side. The Life lineouts started functioning better, while St. Mary’s had the better of the scrums, for the most part.
Life narrowed the lead after a St. Mary’s penalty. They kicked for the lineout and then went wide. Wing Zander Van Schalkwyk lofted a high kick near the St. Mary’s line. No one was able to control it, and racing in from nowhere prop Xander Daniels gathered and touched down in the corner. Corner or in front of the posts - the kick was no problem for McIlroy, and once again it was a three-point game at 27-24.
A difficult-angle kick for Audsley was similarly handled, and that penalty made it 30-24.
And so we went to the final few minutes. Most of that time was spent in the St. Mary’s 22 and Life bashed against the St. Mary’s wall. A long series of phases produced the odd penalty or knock-on, but the Gaels held firm. Walsh appeared to be in - or close to it - but he had used the referee as a shield, so that came back. Finally, St. Mary’s won their own scrum only to be forced to touch down in-goal. So one more shot for Life on a scrum. The Gaels held off the Running Eagles through a series of pick-and-jams, and then the ball was turnover over. It was passed out to Audsley standing at the back of in-goal, and he kicked to touch.
But it wasn’t over … yet. Referee Ackroyd called for a video review of the final play, looking to see if Audsley knocked the ball on before he picked up the low pass. The video was inconclusive, and Ackroyd blew to end the game.
(At the time of asking for the replay, Referee Ackroyd had not confirmed that time was up on the clock. He had asked for the review because Life players were saying there was a knock-on, and he also wanted to ensure that no penalty had been committed on what could have been the last play of the game. Once he confirmed that Audsley’s pickup could not be seen on camera, and that there had been no obstruction or similar penalty by St. Mary’s, he saw that time was up, and ended the game.)
In the end it was a well-played game where both teams wanted to exert strength in a specific set piece, and neither could early on. The interior defense of both teams was impressive, with Maricelli producing a heroic effort and McIlroy’s kicking keeping his team close. Audsley was the game MVP, rightly so, but the front row as well as O’Connor were enormous for the Gaels, while McGowan made several huge plays.
St. Mary’s 30
Tries: Audsley, O’Connor, McGowan
Convs: Audsley 3
Pens: Audsley 3
Tries: Gribben, Maricelli, Daniels
Convs: McIlroy 3
(Note: USA Rugby reports that the first try was Jake McFadden)
1 - Florez, Estevan 2 - Maughan, Alex 3 - Daniels, Xander 4 - Islava, Mike 5 - Anderson, Jake (c)
6 - Malu, Fotukava 7 - Warren, Zachary 8 - Maricelli, Glen 9 - Walsh, Marcus 10 - McIlroy, Blane 11 - Baytops, Tyrus 12 - Mcfadden, Jacob 13 - Gribben, Mark 14 - Van schalkwyk, Zander 15 - Wilson, Mitchell
16 - Smith, Colin 17 - Creighton, Castle 18 - Banos, Sebastien 19 - Anderson, Joshua 20 - Plattor, Kyle 21 - Lynch, Kevin 22 - Van Schalkwyk, Duncan 23 - Mooneyham, Conner
1 - Pratt, Ryan 2 - O'Neill, Michael (c) 3 - Waldren, Dino 4 - Tillson, Michael 5 - Hall, Henry (FR) 6 - Helu, Viliami 7 - Barton, Alec 8 - O'Conner, Kevin 9 - Yungert, Holden 10 - McGowen, Kingsley 14 - Colombo, Mason 12 - Audsley, Dylan 13 - McCarthy, Micheal 11 - Charlie, Louden 15 - Maloney, Cooper
16 - Reilly, Casey 17 - Roscoe, Kraig 18 - Middleton, Austen 19 - Viscardi, Marcus 20 - De La Nuez, Anthony 21 - Rapadas, Danilo 22 - Carso, Jack 23 - McDonnell, Christopher