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Wayne State vs Siena for Small-College Challenge Final

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Wayne State vs Siena for Small-College Challenge Final

Siena was rolling. Ollie Mide photo.

Siena and Wayne State will meet in the final of the NCR small-college challenge cup after both won big on Friday.

Siena came into their semifinal with College of Charleston heavily favored and took care of business in impressive fashion. Siena’s teamwork was impressive and they understood what they needed to do. Working their big forwards, led by Paul Giardella, Siena did well to draw in Cof C defenders and then sent it wide.

Fullback Eddie Pearce slotted into the backline and was through. From a penalty-and-lineout Siena built on their lead with Giardella capping off a forward surge toward the line for Siena’s second try. Then flyhalf Isaac Frost popped a kick wide that set up a try for flanker. John Capatenakis. 

And then from a scrum near midfield the Siena pack took the strike against the head and scrumhalf Frederich de Koker snapped up the ball, dummied, and beat everyone else to go 55 meters for the try.

CofC was in real trouble down 24-0, but they had made Siena work hard for those tries. And they held on through the end of the first half.

College of Charleston was playing hard, but in the second half they started to make mistakes. With numbers on the left they’d go right; with a player surrounded they’d try to offload. Siena began to punish them. Prop Nino Tonisi’s defensive pressure forced a drop, Giardella recovered the ball and shipped it quickly back to Tonisi who galloped to the goalline. He was stopped but Giardella was there to pick up and crash over.

CofC’s restart was not 10 meters and from the ensuing scrum Pearce was set free, beat a tackle and was in. That was, perhaps, the first soft try of the game. CofC continued to battle but Siena was in control. They moved quickly on turnovers and found space after phases.

Siena 62 College of Charleston 0.


Wayne State showcased some serious pace against Western Oregon. It was a tough game for WOU, which entered the missing a couple of starting front-rowers and their main goalkicker. Stressed in their depth—WOU had two players on the bench—they had their work cut out for them chasing a very quick, athletic Wayne State team.

Some excellent backline work set free center Brooklyn Chikaka for their opening try. The backs worked the ball for wing Riley Kraemer, who showed some serious pace. And then a massive kick downfield set up a pressure situation that led to No. 8 Damir Gumerov busting through for the try.

WOU came charging back and had some scoring chances, often from some penalties they forced Wayne State to commit.  Eventually they scored a well-deserved try to make it 19-5. But a penalty from Killian Burns made it 22-5 and after that a break from Chikaka and some audacious offloads led to Burns going over. Burns also scored on a long kick-and-chase and the rout was on.

Wayne State was too quick to the breakdown and when they forced turnovers they attacked quickly and with numbers. The unselfishness of the Wayne State players led to a pile of tries and, ultimately, 81-10.

So Wayne State’s pace takes on Siena’s control. They play Sunday.