GRR on X  GRR on Facebook GRR in Instagram GRR Vimeo Library GRR on YouTube RuggaMatrix America Podcasts Support GRR on Patreon

Virginia Tech Caps Improbable Playoff Run with NCR Win

irish rugby tours

Virginia Tech Caps Improbable Playoff Run with NCR Win

Brandon Eng was MVP. Ollie Mide photo.

Virginia Tech defeated West Chester 34-22 in the NCR DIAA final, capping off an improbably run for the self-coaches Hokies.

After finishing 5th in the Chesapeake Conference, Virginia Tech went into the playoffs after the top teams in the conference were funneled into the NCR D1 postseason. The Hokies hammered Salisbury and then beat Boise State to make it to the final against MARC Conference winners West Chester.

Along the way the Hokies had figured out what was working for them. They were physical, they were direct, and they had a scrumhalf who orchestrated the attack smartly.

Right from the get-go Virginia Tech put West Chester on their heels, with lock Hunter Danesi tough to bring down and hooker Rocco Munna also a power runner. Scrumhalf Brandon Eng pulled the strings. But West Chester's defense, with big tackles from flyhalf Nick D'Angelo and flanker Cam McIlrath the Rams held on.

But finally the Hokies worked the phases well enough to create small gaps and after sending the ball wide a couple of times, prop Quinlan Byrd was on the wing unmarked and scored.

Despite a yellow card, Virginia Tech stayed on the front foot, and a penalty in the middle of the field allowed Eng to tap quickly and go virtually untouched 50 meters to score. He converted and it was 12-0. West Chester replied, with a couple of penalties allowing the Rams to put hooker Brendan Keane over. The Rams threatened when they moved the ball with confidence, but still Virginia Tech held them off.

With the score now 12-7, Tech tapped on another penalty—neither team wanted to risk the wind on kicking for touch or the lineouts—and after a big run from Munna, second row Gavin Lockwood fended off one tackler and galloped around the edge to run in like a big, lanky winger.

That made it 17-7. West Chetser had a break from prop Kyle Bennick but couldn't capitalize, and in the end the half was capped off with Rams lock Matt Laudien getting a yellow card.

That yellow card was punished in the second half when consistent pressure from the Hokies led to a penalty, another quick tap, and a smart pass from Eng to flanker Jack Murphy for the try. West Chester had trouble making good decisions getting out of their 22 and a poor kick, a poor tackle, and good forwards' work from Tech led to Murphy's second. That made it 29-7.

West Chester finally got going and after a yellow card to Munna flanker Ewan Hagen dove over from short range. Eng replied almost immediately, scampering around the edge of a ruck in beating a couple of defenders. Up 34-14 now, Virginia Tech was in control.

West Chester kept coming and they started again to move the ball wide and play a little looser with the ball. That worked for them, and while Virginia Tech's defense scrambled well, you wonder if West Chester might have been better served taking risks early.

Scrumhalf Andrew Barber sniped in and then Keane got his second, but it was all too late.

Virginia Tech flyhalf Fernando Aduaga talked about a "burn the boats" mentality. It's a reference to the military operations during the days of wooden boats running onto the beaches before an attack. You burned your boats to show your soldiers you weren't going to retreat. Player-coached, self-funded, and unafraid, the Hokies were not going to back off.

Eng was the player of the game, while Murphy and Munna were excellent. West Chester got a brave game from Barber and Keane was active, but their backs could have done more with just a little more time.

Virginia Tech 34
Tries: Byrd, Eng 2, Lockwood, Murphy 2, 
Convs: Eng, Other

West Chester 22
Tries: Keane 2, Hagen, Barber
Convs: McCann