Virginia RFC vs. Philadelphia Whitemarsh RFC
1:00 PM, Sunday, April 29th, 2012
Unisys Corporation, Blue Bell, PA
Virginia narrowly lost 32-37 to Philadelphia Whitemarsh in the MARFU championship match. Virginia threatened to score the winning try in the final minutes but ultimately came up a few meters short. Despite the loss, Virginia advances to the national round of 16, where they will face New Orleans RFC on May 12th in Pittsburgh, PA.
Unlike in the semifinals, Virginia got started on the right foot against Philadelphia, dominating possession and keeping the ball in their opponent's half for much of the first 15 minutes. In the 14th minute, Virginia stole a lineout and fly half James Fealey
broke through deep into Philadelphia territory. Scrum half Todd Applebaum
fed crashing eight man Jason Gaviria
, who drove over a tackler for the opening try.
Philadelphia got on the board in the 17th minute with a short range penalty kick. On the ensuing kickoff, Virginia kept Philadelphia pinned in their own half and eventually pressured them into committing a penalty. Fealey slotted the kick home for an 8-3 lead. Philadelphia bounced right back, starting with a scrum at midfield and driving the ball to the Virginia goal line. After multiple attacking phases, Virginia's defense finally cracked, allowing Philadelphia to dive over in the corner for a try. The missed conversion left the score level at 8-8.
In the 26th minute, Virginia drew a penalty inside the Philadelphia half and quickly attacked through Applebaum and Fealey. Near the goal line, Fealey was tackled high, gifting Virginia a five meter scrum. The Virginia forwards calmly controlled the scrum, driving to the goal line and allowing Gaviria to pick and dive for his second try of the match. Fealey's conversion put Virginia up 15-8.
Philadelphia was temporarily reduced to 14 men in the 35th minute, when flanker Michael Bischoff
was spear tackled inside the Philadelphia 22 by an opposing center. After the yellow card, Fealey slotted the penalty to extend Virginia's lead.
Unfortunately, Virginia failed to capitalize on the momentum from the sin binning, knocking on the ensuing kickoff and gifting Philadelphia a scrum on the 22. After wheeling the first scrum, Virginia had the next scrum stolen, allowing the Philadelphia flanker to break free down the touch line. Fealey came across to make a try-saving tackle, forcing the flanker's foot into touch just before he touched down. After that close call, Virginia would have been happy to put the ball into touch to end the half, but Philadelphia managed to steal the ensuing lineout. After a series of defensive stops by Virginia near the goal line, Philadelphia broke through for a try out wide. The difficult conversion left Virginia with an 18-15 lead at the half.
Virginia got back on the right foot to start the second half. After Virginia's mistakes to end the first half, Philadelphia returned the favor by knocking on the opening kickoff 30 meters from their own goal line. The Virginia pack controlled the scrum, allowing Applebaum to set up center Evan Davis to beat multiple defenders for the try. Fealey's conversion put Virginia up by ten at 25-15.
Philadelphia kept the ball in the Virginia half for the next ten minutes. Virginia's defense held strong, stealing and clearing the ball multiple times. In the 56th minute, Philadelphia finally managed to score after getting tackled near the goal line and extending for the try. The easy conversion brought Philadelphia within three points. Philadelphia nearly took the lead shortly after when their big fly half rumbled half the length of the pitch through the Virginia defense, but Virginia was saved by a Philadelphia knock-on.
Virginia looked poised to regain the momentum in the 62nd minute after destroying a Philadelphia scrum and turning the ensuing penalty kick into a lineout 20 meters from the Philadelphia goal line. Unfortunately, Philadelphia managed to steal the throw and counterattack, eventually earning a penalty on the Virginia 22 to level the score at 25-25.
Throughout the second half, Philadelphia took advantage of their deep roster to bring on numerous fresh but experienced substitutes. After yet another long defensive stand in the 68th minute, Virginia allowed the Philadelphia fullback to run free for a try. The conversion put Virginia down 25-32 with ten minutes remaining in the match.
Virginia responded by bringing on three sets of fresh legs and attacking with renewed energy, earning a five meter scrum after chasing a loose ball deep into Philadelphia territory. After numerous phases, Davis drew in two Philadelphia forwards and looked to offload to fullback Hunter Poarch
. The ball was deflected by Philadelphia but collected by Poarch, who dove for the try. Fealey calmly slotted the conversion to level the score at 32-32.
With only five minutes to play, Philadelphia put together another long series of attacking phases to score another try. Davis managed to block the conversion, giving Virginia hope of snatching the victory with a converted try. Virginia kept attacking relentlessly, driving a well-placed kick into touch near the Philadelphia goal line. Philadelphia were penalized on the lineout, giving Virginia a chance to drive a scrum. Philadelphia managed to steal the scrum, only to be penalized again and gift Virginia a lineout. Philadelphia then stole the lineout only to be penalized yet again. Virginia took the quick tap and drove repeatedly for the line but were unable to breach the Philadelphia defense. The match ended with a Virginia penalty, allowing Philadelphia to kick for touch to seal the victory.
The match marked Virginia's third straight trip to the MARFU finals. Despite the loss, Virginia advances once again to the national round of 16, to be contested in Pittsburgh, PA on May 12th. Virginia will face the number one seed from the South region, New Orleans RFC, for a spot in the national quarterfinals.