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Thrillers And Upsets In NIRA Semifinals

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Thrillers And Upsets In NIRA Semifinals

We've got our sx finalists for the three tiers in the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA), after some dramatic semifinals on Saturday.

Tier III

Most dramatic may well have been the Tier III semis. Going into this weekend, Colby-Sawyer looked nicely set to advance to the final. But no one checked with University of New England. UNE came into the game with a 1-3 record, but also nothing to lose. 

UNE scored in the first minute of the match through Katie Berger, and Mariah Chase converted for a 7-0 lead for the Nor'easters. Colby-Sawyer answered with a try from Sydney Jackson. Julia Anhalt and it was 7-7 just four minutes in.

But UNE wouldn't go away. Colby Williams scored to nudge her side ahead 12-7. Colby-Sawyer replied, with Anhalt going over and converting for a 14-12 lead. Just before halftime Chase added a penalty to make it 15-14 as the teams entered the break.

Back came the league-leaders, with Jackson scoring her second for a 19-15 lead. Chase added a penalty to put UNE within a point, but Colby-Sawyer stayed ahead. This time Erin Wholey scored with 13 minutes to go for a 24-18 lead.

But moments later UNE's Madison DeRosa broke through to score. That made it 24-23, and Chase hit the conversion to put her side up 25-24. The Nor'easters held on after that to complete the upset.

They will play Bowdoin, which beat Norwich 12-7 in the other semi. Bowdoin opened the scoring in the first two minutes off a penalty play—Safiya Osei charging in from ten meters out. Sage Kashner converted for a 7-0 lead. Norwich replied with a steal and run from flanker Emily Ngo. Emma Paradis converted and the game was tied.

That was it for the first half.

The second half was very back-and-forth, and finally Bowdoin scored off a lineout and maul. From there scrumhalf Sara Nelson broke around the weakside to five in at the corner. 

That was it. Bowdoin camped out in Norwich territory for the final 25 minutes but couldn't break through. Still, it was enough.

Tier II

Brown defeated Queens University Charlotte 23-15 to advance to the final next week. 

"This was quite a battle," said Brown Head Coach Kathy Flores. "We didn't have the majority of possession but when we did have it we were able to convert it into points – thanks to some hard working forwards and hard running backs."

Lexi Nelson, Abby O'Keefe, Mahdia Parker, and Kate Molloy all scored tries. None was converted, but Olivia Duba added a penalty goal. Queens came back from a 13-5 deficit to lead 15-13 at halftime. And the Royals pressured in the second half and looked to extend their lead. But an interception from Duba turned the tide and Brown scored soon thereafter, and held the momentum from then on.

Brown will play West Chester. The Rams defeated Mount St. Mary's 32-19. The Mount led 12-0 after tries from Shandree McNatt and Julie Crochet. But West Chester scored tries from Autumn Czaplicki and Faith Morley to make it 12-10 at halftime.

West Chester's Heather Spangler opened the second half with a try, converted by Kylie Corless to put the Rams up 17-12. The Mount replied with a try from Jalan Carcia, converted by Maya Grassi, and MSM led 19-17. But West Chester finished the stronger. Haley Andreasen put her side ahead, and then the Spangler sisters, Heather and Haley finished it off for the 32-19 victory.

Tier I

In another thriller, Harvard defeated Dartmouth 23-22. 

The Crimson struck first with a penalty goal from Milan Roberts. Idia Ihensekhien took the momentum back for Dartmouth with two tries for a 12-3 lead going into the break. Just before halftime, Harvard senior Emily Prentice punched in a try to keep the Crimson close 12-8.

Harvard kept going with that momentum and Sofie Fella touched down to make it 13-12. But Dartmouth replied. Ariana Ramsey ran in two tries and suddenly Dartmouth led 22-13. Delia Hellander answered for Harvard with a try, and with Roberts hitting the conversion it was 22-20.

So it ame down to the final moments. With less than two minutes to go, Harvard got a penalty just inside the 22 and right in front of the posts. Roberts had no problem with the kick, and Harvard held on.

The Crimson will take on a very impressive Army team which took down Quinnipiac 54-10. 

On senior night at the Anderson Rugby Complex, the firstie class continued to shine. After an early Bayleigh Gable penalty, Alex DiMarco set up Kaitlyn Schwarting for a try, and then Sam Sullivan raced in for two quick scores and an 18-0 lead.

Kax Lewis made it 23-0 and then Sullivan was in for two more quick ones for a 33-0 lead. Damaria Morton added her team-leading 14th try, and Bayleigh Gable scored one herself. Freshman Julia Riekena finished it off.

It was an impressive showing for the Black Knights.

Now all six teams travel to Cambridge, Mass. for the NIRA Finals on Sunday, November 17. The games will be LIVE on ESPN+.