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Last-Second PK Wns MAC For Bowling Green

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Last-Second PK Wns MAC For Bowling Green

roger Mazzarella photo.

Bowling Green defeated Western Michigan 23-20 to win the Mid-American Conference championship about 11 months after winning the entire USA Rugby fall DIAA championship.

The Falcons were certainly in danger of not even winning their conference, as they had lost two games in the regular season, to Western Michigan and Louisville.

Bowling Green had the opportunity to reverse those results in the playoffs at the Brimlowe Fields run by the Cincinnati Wolfhounds men's club. And they did so, beating Louisville 41-12 on Saturday. Western Michigan defeated IUPUI 52-14 to set up Sunday's final.

Western Michigan, Bowling Green To MAC Final

But playing two games in one weekend, as much as it might be a rehearsal for the fall quarterfinals/semifinals weekend, can be brutal on the lineup. Both teams had to make changes. For Bowling Green, by the end of the game the Falcons had six freshmen on the field.

Veteran Adam Kubicki opened the scored 15 minutes in. After getting a penalty, Bowling Green took a lineout at midfield and mauled it 30 meters. From there,the Falcons got a scrum, drove that about 15 meters, whereupon WMU collapsed it, and Bowling Green got a penalty. Kubicki tapped quickly and dove in.

WMU's inspirational hooker Manny Bravo then got a yellow card for not wrapping in the tackle. p a man, Bowling Green took advantage, with Kubicki cutting through the defense from 30 meters out. Western Michigan got one back in the corner through flanker Sean Akins, but the Falcons led 12-5 at halftime.

Freshman scrumhalf Ryan Niemiller slotted a penalty goal for Bowling Green early in the second half to make it 15-5. But Western Michigan stormed back, scoring a try on a breakaway, punched in by prop Mark Green, which flanker Daniel Howard converted, and then a penalty from Howard to tie the game 15-15. Then slowly the Mustangs worked their way into BGSU territory again, and put wing Griffin Leslie over in the corner to lead 20-15.

With five left on the clock, Bowling Green Joe Johnson found a way down the sidelines and scored to tie the game.

Bowling Green pressured as time ran out. Western Michigan held firm, but another no-wrap tackle, this time 40 meters out but in front of the posts, set up the final kick. Niemiller, who shanked a kick in the North Carolina HS Championships this past spring, put it over.

Niemiller's dad, Jason, actually played rugby for Bowling Green with current Head Coach Tony Mazzarella. The coach then was Tony's dad, Roger.

"All I could think of was that if I made the kick I could go home." said Niemiller, who is from Clayton, NC, about an hour from where the the National playoffs will be in Greenville, NC.

That was a classic Bowling Green-Western Michigan clash. WMU Head Coach Mark Allen came in with a strong game plan, and both teams have a lot of respect for each other—at the ACRC Challenge in 2014 the teams even shared a bus to the event.

"Mark Allen is very good," said Roger Mazzarella. "He is Good for game, a highly respected dentist going from the rugby field on Sunday to surgery on Monday. The WMU players are stand-up guys and play the game the right way."

This is fourth time in five years that Bowling Green and Western Michigan have met in the MAC Championship. While Bowling Green has won the MAC every year since 1982, it hasn't been easy. In 2015 BGSU won on a last-second try. The Falcons won in 2017 fairly easily, while in 2018 the game was called on account of snow and Bowling Green and Western Michigan shared the title. Then this year, with the game once again down to the wire.

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