Mount Saint Mary's Wins NSCRO
Mount Saint Mary's Wins NSCRO
The National Small College Rugby Organization championship trophy is in the hands of Mount Saint Mary’s, but it could have so easily been somewhere else.
Going into the final four in Glendale, Colo. at the end of May, MSM knew they had a lot of work to do, and were facing teams they didn’t know well. The weather leading into the weekend was pleasant, but the weekend itself was cold, icy, and snowy. It made for a difficult series of games for everyone.
In the semifinal against Southern Indiana, the Mount took a 17-0 lead and seemed to be in control, but tries from center Ryan Potendyk and lock Ashton Forzley nudged USI closer at 17-12. And then fullback Tyler Duke went in to tie the game.
“SIU is phenomenal,” said MSM Coach Jay Myles. “They are very strong, big bodies, and they kept us on our toes. I kind of think it took us 70 minutes to get our composure.”
Tito Miranda’s try put MSM up 22-17, but No. 8 Jon Stinnett scored for the Screaming Eagles, and, with flyhalf Garrett Wordell’s conversion, SIU now led 24-22.
It all seemed like it might slip away for the Mount.
“In those last eight minutes or so we started to pass the ball better and worked our pods,” said Myles. “We then just were stronger in tight and went through the phases.”
That patience led to pressure on SIU, and MSM worked from 30 meters out to within five meters. Then they just pounded the line, and finally got a penalty right in front of the posts, and Miranda put the ball over for the win.
“That was a crazy game,” said Myles. “SIU is a great bunch of kids.”
Travis Bewley was a powerhouse for MSM, but the key, said Myles, was ball placement. Once the players started placing the ball correctly in the breakdown, they could run the phases, and control possession.
In the other semi, Eastern Connecticut State University faced Claremont Colleges. It was a defensive battle, with several goal line stands. Claremont took a 3-0 lead with a penalty from scrumhalf Robert Chui, but ECSU replied with a try from Cody Murphy. Alexander Taddeo converted to make it 7-3. But Claremont Colleges kept pressuring, and that produced penalties, which Chui converted twice for a 9-7 lead.
It remained that way until ten minutes led in the game, when finally Claremont broke through - fullback Spencer Swensrud racing in for his team’s only try of the game. That sealed it at 14-7.
So on to the final, and that one was as tight and tense as the semis.
Claremont scored early with a try from Gator Adams, but Mount Saint Mary’s replied with a penalty from Miranda and a try from Luis Turbeyfield, who was very dangerous all day.
That made it 10-7 MSM and Miranda added another penalty before Bewley powered over for a crucial try and a lead of 18-7.
Claremont rebounded, with Brian Rauzi racing in for a try and, with Chui’s conversion it was 18-14. Miranda’s third penalty made it 21-14, and Adams blew through the line to make it 21-19 with just a few minutes left.
“They were giving us problems and that center of their’s [Adams] was really effective with ball-in-hand,” said Myles. “We needed some fresh legs, we needed a spark, so we subbed on some players in the forwards and they gave us some energy, a shot in the arm.”
Turbeyfield tested Claremont with some runs from fullback, and lock Kevin Mitchell gave the team some big minutes off the bench.
“We told him exactly what we needed from him and he exceeded our expectations,” said Myles.
And scrumhalf Sean Hartig kept the team moving.
So with eight minutes to go, MSM led 21-19.
“We knew it could go either way,” said Myles.
With almost no time left Jack Spera raced in to score in the corner to make it 26-19, and that sealed it.
It was a huge win for Mount Saint Mary’s, and something that was noticed on campus. The University recognized the win, and in fact the team received awards from the Governor of Maryland and the state legislature.
“It was a big day for us,” said Myles, who will be taking MSM to DIAA in the new Capital Conference next season.
“We’ve got seven players going to spend the summer with Pro Performance, and we’re providing a positive environment for the students in the program.”
SIU defeated ECSU to take 3rd. MSM No. 8 Bewley was named tournament MVP.