DI Wins First Ever Mid-Atlantic Championship
By Rocky Gorge
With the 48-22 victory over Norfolk, Rocky Gorge claims the DI Mid-Atlantic Title and spot in the National Quarterfinals in Pittsburgh.
In the final match of the day on Saturday, Rocky Gorge and its undefeated record confronted the Norfolk Blues for the DI title. Using its superior speed and skill of its backline, Rocky Gorge outplayed the Blues in route to a 48-22 victory in its first year in DI.
“These games are never easy regardless the result,” Rocky Gorge head coach Nick DiMichele stated. “It was an extremely physical match and Norfolk are the type of guys who refuse to take their foot off the gas. We had a very productive first half and it's a good thing because we spent the second 40 fighting up hill, into the wind, and playing out of our own end... Winning the MAC title in our first year in DI is a huge accomplishment for us. Now, we head to Pittsburgh to see how we measure up against the best teams in the country.”
Norfolk had most of the possession in the first half playing downhill, but it was Rocky Gorge who made the most of its opportunities. The first Gorge try came off a stolen scrum where the ball was swung out to the wing where Trevor Tanifum kicked the pass and recovered the pill for the try. Flyhalf Ben Cima converted for the 7-0 lead.
Gorge added to the lead after a Nick Sylor try, but the Blues struck back with inside crash line ending with a score from wing Nick Sandoval. Flyhalf Johnny Cameron missed the points after as Gorge led 14-5. After some back and forth of possession, a Norfolk 22 drop landed in the hands of Sylor who centered it to Ben Cima. The USA U20 flyhalf unexpectedly kicked a drop goal splitting the uprights from 45 meters out.
Gorge closed the half with three more tries for a commanding 36-5 halftime advantage. First, Sylor scored his second try after Gorge began the possession from inside its own tryzone with outside center Mike Tillman sprinting most of the way. The last two scores came from prop Brady Smith outmuscling his counterparts to get over the line and fullback Nick Kuhl exploiting an overload for the try.
Coming out of the half, Norfolk looked to grab the momentum as Cameron dotted down the ball in the corner after running in support of his teammate. Gorge responded with a crash ball score from Matias Cima and Norfolk countered with a superb individual effort by eightman Fred Wintermantel to make the tally 43-17.
In the final ten minutes, Tillman broke loose again and offloaded to Matias Cima for the try. The Blues battled until the end never letting up. Norfolk’s hard work paid off as Dutch Jones scored at the buzzer, but Gorge earned the MAC DI Championship, 48-22.
“It was definitely a very physical game, we stood up to them,” Norfolk head coach Chris Porter said. “Where Gorge took advantage of things was that their skill level with their backs really shined. In their forwards, their back row of Scotty [Wheeler], Josh [Brown], and Dustin [Meehan] really covered any time we tried to step inside. When they hit us, they were driving us backwards. They put in some big hits on our forwards and our backs that were cutting back inside. That’s what tipped the game in their favor.”
Commenting on his team’s play, DiMichele said, “Our forwards had a huge day, especially defensively, our back row covered the entire field. Brady Smith was an absolute monster delivering a lot of punishing runs and swallowing players on defense. Our backs were more explosive then they've ever been. From 9 through 15, there is so much speed and these guys are really playing some amazing rugby and putting together some incredible tries.”
As for the quarterfinals in Pittsburgh next weekend, Rocky Gorge will first play the Atlantic North and ARP Co-Champion, Old Blue. “We are expecting to compete against the toughest opponent Rocky Gorge has ever played,” DiMichele remarked. “Old Blue seems to be a strong experienced team and they've been consistently playing the best teams the east coast has to offer. We have to expect a very fast pace physical match and we have to stop their playmakers in the backs or at least slow them down. The entire club is looking forward to the challenge.”
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