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Tights Games and Drama in NCR Small-College Challenge Finals

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Tights Games and Drama in NCR Small-College Challenge Finals

Siena had to dig deep. Ollie Mide photo.

It was a day of dramatic games in the NCR finals, and the Small-College Challenge bracket was no exception.

Western Oregon took third over College of Charleston in a game that was back and forth. Both teams seemed maybe a little run down early, but the action picked up as they sensed a chance for a strong end to the fall.

In the end, WOU center Aidan Kuhn was a massive influence on the game. With his side down 24-21 he slotted a clutch penalty goal, and then added another to nudge his side ahead.

Late in the game, with CofC looking to find a way back, it was Kuhn who capped off some snappy teamwork to seal the game.

“It’s a team performance; we worked really hard to get here, fundraising and training,” said Kuhn. “It’s good to be able to get those kids, but we needed to pick ourselves up as a team.”

WOU 32 College of Charleston 24

In the Challenge final, two teams that had been winning by massive margins found themselves unable to score. Wayne State and Siena College were deadlocked 3-3 later in the first half in a game that saw end-to-end attacks, but also some desperate cover defense.

“No one got down on themselves,” said Siena flyhalf Isaac Frost. “We just kept working on our game.”

Siena almost broke through with fullback Eddie Pearce slicing through but somehow the Wayne State defenders got under the ball. It was that sort of game.

Wayne State almost scored, too, but the game, despite some spectacular running rugby, remained deadlocked.

Finally Siena got through, taking a lead of 8-3. Wayne State replied after Siena was nailed for a red card early in the second half and then a yellow card soon thereafter. With Siena down two players Wayne State was able to break out with flyhalf Vuyo Mdlalose and center Brooklyn Chikaka finding space and using their considerable pace to test the Siena defense. It worked and flanker Wallace DuPlessis was over.

Now Wayne State led 10-8, but Siena went right back down the field to score. Up 15-10 Siena received the restart, and the receiving player was hit in the air. Yellow card for Wayne State and now it was 14-on-14. 


Siena exploited the extra space and Joshua Vogel scored to make it a 20-10 game.

Siena seemed in an excellent position, but Wayne State found help from an unexpected quarter.

With Siena on the attack in the Wayne State 22, lock Joe Dao intercepted a pass and took off. He surprised the Siena players so much that none could catch him. Dao seemed out of gas by the time he reached the tryline, but he reached the tryline. Conversion good and it was suddenly 20-17.

Chikaka’s next big run set up a penalty goal for Killian Burns and he was good on the attempt to tie the game 20-20. 

And that’s how it looked like it might end. Both teams desperately held off chances, but finally Siena found a way and scored as time expired to win it 25-20.

It was a wild game to be sure, and also one in which both teams can find pride.

“It hurts,” said Wayne State Head Coach Darrin Barner. “I am very happy with how we did but it’s almost easier to lose by 25 than lose this way. We had some chances and had we converted we might have won. To be fair, they were held up a few times and had they scored we might have lost by 30.”

"We knew we had to go to a dark place," said Frost. "All weekend we've been saying we'd have to dig deep ... through the whole year we're not going to bicker with anyone; we're going to stay as a team and that's what we did."