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NDC Pack Powers Falcons to Bowl Win

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NDC Pack Powers Falcons to Bowl Win

In a game that had a little bit of everything, Notre Dame College held off a determined Syracuse team 33-28 Friday night at the ACRC Bowl Series in Charlotte, NC.

NDC, ranked playing an independent DIAA schedule this fall and ranked #41 by Goff Rugby Report, came in expected to unleash their speedy backs, and they did to a certain extent, but it was the Falcons’ tight five that won the game for them.

Syracuse, for their part, wanted to punt the ball to the corners, play pressure defense, and force turnovers that led to points. All of that seemed to come about just as they planned early on, when flyhalf Alex Hodgkinson’s prodigious kicking put the game in the Notre Dame College 22. Then the Syracuse flyhalf scooped up a dropped ball and was in for a try just like that - 7-0 Syracuse.

But NDC started to show power in the scrums and while they didn’t break off any long-range try, their backs made enough territory to get close. The forwards took over and the backs joined in, picking-and-driving, and eventually wing Roneil Reynolds got the ball close to the line, stepped out of a tackle and was in over the line.

After that, the Falcons unleashed Reynolds for a long, winding run that, with prop Alec Janotka’s conversion, put the Ohio team ahead 14-7.

Syracuse spent large portions of the rest of the half in the Notre Dame College end, but couldn’t finish. Hodgkinson missed two long-range penalties, before finally slotting a kick to make it 14-10.

In the second half, though, Syracuse now had to chase the game. And while flanker Jake Smith and No. 8 Angus Bishop continued to get involved and make big tackles, the kicking game didn’t quite come to fruition.

The Hammerheads made some unfortunate rushed choices on penalties, and while they inched closer to the Falcons, a long run from Marcus Tupuola kept NDC ahead by more than a try. 

Down 15 at 33-18, Syracuse had about six minutes to make something happen, and they did, scoring twice, but the Falcons held on 33-28.

But it was the work of the guys up front who made it happen. The Notre Dame scrum was very strong and put Syracuse under pressure, and their phase play forced Syracuse to commit penalties and defend for long periods.

“It’s all down to the leadership we have, and our captain Spencer Duncan,” said Janotka. “He binds us together and sets the tone. When Syracuse started surging back, he’s the one who said, ‘we’ve worked hard all season let’s finish this off.’”

The unity of the NDC pack, with Duncan and Jon McDonald in the second row, and with hooker John Santiago, Janotka, and prop Khalid Williams working hard, remained throughout a game that at times featured weird turnovers and mistakes.

“We’re just a team from northeast Ohio that not a lot of people have heard of, and we’re just trying to play some rugby and earn the right to play good teams like Syracuse.”

For scrumhalf John Daly, who had a good game for Syracuse under difficult circumstances, the difference was that his team changed their timing and calls in the scrum, but it was a bit too late.

“We changed some things up and got the ball out quicker,” he said. “We made some little mistakes - I made a bad box kick at one point. In the end it was little things.”

“Notre Dame came out firing,” added Syracuse’s Bishop. “We should have shut them down earlier, but credit to them, they did a great job getting in our face. A disappointing end to the fall, but it was a good game.”