Rocky Gorge Shuts Down Wisconsin, Advances to the Semifinals
Rocky Gorge was relentless in all phases of play to earn a trip to the Semifinals against New Haven
Enduring rainy and muddy conditions, Rocky Gorge and New Haven emerged victorious in Pittsburgh to advance to the national semifinals of Division II. In a game that featured the last two National Champions, Rocky Gorge stifled Wisconsin’s offense at every turn to win 14-7. For the match that pitted the Northeast vs the South, New Haven came from behind late to beat Atlanta, 29-24.
The highly anticipated rematch of the 2012 National Championship saw two undefeated clubs go toe to toe with each other for 80 minutes. The field was already muddy at the start of play and the forecast called for more showers. Despite the conditions, both teams kept ball in hand and played very good clean rugby. The scoring started in the 9th minute when Gorge flanker Nic DiMichele took a quick tap off a penalty and sprinted ten meters into contact. After the ruck, center Josh Cherriman squeezed through an opening to set up flyhalf Pete Ressler, who juked two Wisconsin players to dot down the try between the posts. Ressler completed the conversion to make the score 7-0. Wisconsin kept the pressure by playing most of the game in Gorge’s side of field, but Gorge weathered each onslaught. Late in the second half, Wisconsin threatened to even the score with a 50 meter run by eightman Andrew Hanske. Gorge fullback Josh Stallings tracked down Hanske within the 5 meter line and prevented Wisconsin scoring. The rain and hail turned into a down pour as time expired in the first half.
Seven minutes into the second half, Gorge flanker Dustin Meehan scored a try after 15 phases consisting mostly of forwards play. Ressler converted the try to increase the lead to 14-0. The match then settled into a hard-hitting game of field position. Physicality and fitness were put to the test for both clubs. Gorge used well placed and timely kicks to keep Wisconsin out of their end. However, Wisconsin continued to press Gorge for most of the half. At the 76th minute, Gorge flyhalf LJ Pijnenburg’s kick was blocked by Wisconsin flyhalf Miles Jobke who recovered the ball to close the gap to seven points. With four minutes left, Gorge clamped down it’s defense and outlasted Wisconsin to win the game, 14-7.
Gorge was relentless in all phases and their fitness was the deciding factor for the game. Even though Wisconsin was on offense for the majority of the game, Gorge never let up and didn’t break. The pressure applied by Gorge broke Wisconsin’s discipline to prevent them from scoring, especially in the first half. Wisconsin had five possessions within the 22 in the first half, but came away with no points.
Wisconsin head coach Adam Thimmig reflected on the game by saying that “the result was not what we wanted, but it was a pretty epic game. There was a lot of built up tension you could see in the players on each side.”
Thimmig believed that his club’s “efforts were at 100%. The contribution of all of our replacement players brought a spark into the game. I can’t fault the efforts and energy, it was merely the technical execution. We had 18 knock-ons and we can’t blame the conditions because the other squad had many fewer and they played on the same field. We tried to play our style and whatever adjustments we tried to make just didn’t work.” Thimming added that Gorge “does whatever they do very well. It’s a simpler style of game than we strive to play, which is not necessarily good or bad.….Our defensive work wasn’t enough. The 14 points they scored were off of multi-phase real hard simple phase rugby, five to ten phases or more. We didn’t stop them.“
When asked about the game, Gorge Captain Matt Carroll described the game as a war. “It was a muddy, messy, brutal, physical battle between two teams who wanted it bad. Gorge played the best defense I have ever seen us play. We figured out their game plan early. We’ve been building up to this. We played such stout defense. Ball control throughout the game. We didn’t break through their line as much as we liked, but we got the W.” To sum the game up, Carroll said it was Gorge’s defense. “We came out to do work all day. Guys stepped from every angle at different times. We played a defense that matched up well to their offense.”
Rocky Gorge 14
Tries: Ressler, Meehan
Convs: Ressler (2)