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Thrilling DII Climax Shows It's Tight At The Top

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Thrilling DII Climax Shows It's Tight At The Top

Photo USA Rugby

The lesson from the Men’s DII college final and semifinals is that the division is getting tighter.

Wisconsin-Whitewater which will end the fall is it began, ranked #1 in the nation by Goff Rugby Report, was the best team in the country, but it was a close-run thing. VMI almost had the game, and it was only a little piece of backline magic from Garrett Shibilski and Alec Treuthardt that produced a second-straight championship for the Warhawks.

VMI, meanwhile, was unflinching, and hurt UWW with physical strength - not by bulling over tacklers, but by being strong enough in the tackle to stand firm and make good offloads. Whitewater, used, perhaps, to being able to thump players to the ground, had to work hard on defense. And remember, VMI had played double overtime the day before and still played hard the entire game.

VMI did themselves proud, and so did Whitewater. There was no panic, no overtly risky behavior. The Warhawks used a large size advantage up front to keep the interior defense honest, got a superb try from No. 8 Jeremiah O’Brien, and saw Robbie Sindic using the attention her garnered to set others free.

But still, VMI led 27-17 thanks to prop Stevie Cooke’s surge-and-stretch. 

Whitewater had all the second half to come back, and played aggressive, yet patient, rugby. Wing Zack Pryes’ cutback run got them close, Tim Grams kicked them to a tie, and then Treuthardt capped off his remarkable time at Whitewater with the championship-winning run.

But it all could have been very different. VMI certainly could have won that game, and Norwich, which lost to VMI in double OT, could easily have been in that final, and had the tools to win, too.

The Cadets beat North Dakota State for 3rd 40-24. Austin Manhey scored three tries in that game, but it would be a mistake to think that NDSU was overmatched. Any of these four teams could have won on a random weekend. If you played this final four 10 teams, Whitewater would probably win six or seven, but the others would have a shot, too.

And that’s the lesson. At the top, Men’s DII College rugby is very tight.