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Washington Snags NCRC Title

College Men

Washington Snags NCRC Title

UW players all smiles after Saturday's victory.

The University of Washington unseated Western Washington 18-13 Saturday in front of a large crowd in Bellingham to win the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference championship and book a spot in the DIAA national playoffs.

The Huskies avenged a regular-season loss to the Vikings and also a loss in the NCRC final last season. On a windy day at WWU's home field in the northern part of the Evergreen State, it was UW that prevailed in a tough, physical, tactical match.

"Defense wins championships," said UW Head Coach Mike Alfstad, who also had many kind words for his opposition. "Western Washington is a fine program and the players are really well-coached. This was a great, physical rugby game. As a rugby fan I just found myself sitting back and marveling at how well this game was being played - good students putting everything they had into it."

Alfstad said his team expected WWU to use the boot to get over the defense, and to use the wind. So UW countered with defensive pressure, and relied on fullback Derek Pleasance to handle the kicks and counter effectively. Pleasance did superbly, earning Man of the Match honors for his ability to return kicks with interest. The Huskies relied on a more vertical attack that usual, determined not to get caught in a ping-pong-style kicking game. With Nick Gadbaw laying out hit after hit in the midfield, the Huskies slowly began to grab hold of the tenor of the game.

Prop forward Nate Lungstrom powered over for two tries, and No. 8 Cory Fuavai scored one, while Pleasance added a penalty goal. No conversions, and had Pleasance been able to slot those, the game might have been a little more comfortable. 

As it was, UW emerged victorious and will host Utah State in the DIAA playoffs next week.