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Late Try Sees Babson to Small-College Championship

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Late Try Sees Babson to Small-College Championship

Babson, in white and green, had all they could handle with Wayne State. Alex Goff photo.

A last minute try from Charlie Price pulled victory from the jaws of defeat to secure Babson the 2023 National Collegiate Rugby Small-College championship over a determined Wayne State.

A sunny and very windy day welcomed the finalists and Babson played with the wind and quite the wind it was.

In fact the breeze gave and it took away. More on that in a moment.

Babson was able piece some attacking movements together but Wayne State's defense made it all very difficult. Ultimately the pressure did result in a penalty which flyhalf Reed Santos expertly put over.

Wayne State was able to leverage their power in the scrum and their speed to turn the tables on the Beavers. All of that led to a penalty right in front of the posts that flyhalf Jayden James put over the bar for three points.

And in fact Wayne State had the run of play  after that. Babson had to make a series of crucial tackles and while the Wildcats did well to make things chaotic, the Beavers did indeed make their tackles well.

But then that wind. Santos launched a huge kick that, wind-aided, looked for the world to be a 50-22 from the end of the world.

But a gust caught the ball at just the right moment to cause it to roll through the dead ball line. So, scrum to Wayne State inside the Babson 22 and from the the Wildcats sped over. Despite the supposed wind advantage, Babson was down 10-3.

Santos did add another penalty goal, once again after a long period of phases where Wayne State's defense didn't let Babson's big men control the narrative.

But 10-6 for Wayne State at halftime seemed to be very good news for the Wildcats.

And they made it work early. A good, deep kickoff and plenty of defensive pressure forced a kick from Babson that didn’t go very far. Wayne State won the lineout and were back threatening the line moments later. Finally James sent a smart ball to hooker Banele Jiyani and he had a big hole to run through. Just like that Wayne State led 17-6.

But the door was shut after that. Part of this had to do with yellow cards. Babson had suffered one earlier in the game and Wayne State got one in the second half, both for no clear tackle-release. The message was clear, make sure you show you’ve released the tackled player. Went Wayne State was hit with another yellow, while defending in their 22, Babson had a chance.

It took a while, phase after phase met with stiff Wayne State resistance, but finally Santos scampered over—only for the play to be called back for obstruction. 

Wayne State was able to clear, but Babson stole the ensuing lineout and were back on the front foot, and with Wayne State shorthanded a simple but well-executed switch move put Jack Byszio through. He eluded the last defender and was in under the posts. Santos, who had set up the try, converted, and it was now 17-13.

James answered with a penalty, but Babson came right back. Price charged down the sideline and was almost in. Brice Muller, Byszio, and others came close. Wayne State’s desperate tackling, and a wild offload, rescued the Wildcats. But now Babson was pushing off tacklers, and with about eight minutes left Byszio sold a dummy, burned two props facing him, and cut through from 30 meters out to score under the sticks. Santos converted and it was now 20-20.

Wayne State answered once again with a penalty off a scrum in front of the posts, and James slotted the straightforward kick. But was that the right move? Babson still had time, and they made the most of it.

Santos missed a penalty attempt and James booted the ball down the field for Wayne State. The ball rolled smoothly along its long axis and went all the way into Babson’s in-goal, so no Wayne State try. But now, pinned in their own end the Beavers had to work their way down the field. 

The Babson support work over the ball was very strong and they stayed patient. Yacine Ndiaye, Stevie Garafolo, Gavin Mestler, and Lucas Cerrahoglu, all made ground. Wayne State was carded again for no tackler release and that was a key moment.

After that Byszio once again made several players miss and raced toward the line. He was caught, and as the Wayne State players were working the ruck, the ball rolled out the back on the Babson side. Price, who later said he was looking to come in to secure that ruck, saw the unattended ball and scooped it up. As he ran, a gap opened up and he just lowered his shoulder and dove through.

Try Babson with no time left; 25-23, and with the conversion a final score of 27-23.

It was a thriller of a game and one in which it was a shame someone had to lose. Wayne State showed they are a championship-caliber team, but this young Babson side showed enormous resilience.