PW WINS MARFU Championship 37 - 32 over Virginia
Philadelphia Whitemarsh RFC (11-0) continued their magical undefeated season Sunday afternoon with a 37-32 victory over Virginia RFC (8-1) in the MARFU Division 3 Championship game. After a hard fought, back-and-forth game that saw a total of nine tries between the two sides, it was PW’s defense that staged a goal line stand in the final minute to clinch the victory. PW earned the #1 seed from MARFU and advances to the USA Round of 16 to face the #2 seed from USA Rugby South, Gainesville RFC (FL) in Pittsburgh on May 12th.
The match began on a bright, sunny day in Blue Bell, PA with the two sides feeling each other out and neither sides scoring until 15 minutes into the first half. Virginia was able to make a break and feed the ball to their 8 man off of a ruck 5 meters out and score giving the #1 seed out of Virginia Rugby Union a 5-0 lead. PW won possession shortly after the ensuing kickoff and was awarded a penalty. Jim Rosato put it through the uprights to get PW on the board. Virginia came right back and knocked through a penalty of their own after some sloppy play from PW, pushing the lead to 8-5.
As they were forced to do all day long, PW answered. Flanker, Tim Foley made a break and after some solid offloading, right wing Mike ‘Stewie’ Stewart drove the last few meters and touched down in the corner to tie the game at 8. PW turned the ball over shortly after receiving the ensuing kickoff and Virginia drove deep into PW’s zone. They were eventually awarded a penalty on a high tackle resulting in a 5 meter scrum for Virginia. Their 8 man was able to pick off the back of the scrum and break through to once again give Virginia the lead, 15-8 after the conversion.
Shortly before the half, outside center, Brian ‘OT’ Oteri was given a yellow card for a spear tackle and PW was forced to play a man down. Virginia kicked another penalty to give them their biggest lead of the day at 18-8. With just a few minutes remaining in the half, it appeared as though flanker Kevin Denehy had picked the ball off a stolen scrum and scored in the corner, however he was ruled to have stepped on the touch line. PW stole the ensuing line out and was then awarded a penalty 10 meters out. They were able to execute a designed play to perfection resulting in fullback Luis Tulio touching down in the try zone. Rosato converted to end the half and Virginia led 18-15 going into the second stanza.
The scoring continued at its blistering pace to begin the second half. PW, still playing a man down, turned the ball over on the kickoff and Virginia wasted no time in breaking though the defense and scored under the posts. The conversion pushed their lead back to 10. PW returned to full strength and made some key substitutions that propelled them right back down the field. The fresh legs of Conway Maraki powered the ball down near the Virginia goal line and he offloaded to Rosato who dove over the line and converted his own try which cut the lead to 25-22 15 minutes into the second half. Both sides saw chances go by the wayside over the next 5 minutes. PW was unable to turn another long run from Maraki into points, eventually knocking the ball on. Virginia then was unable to get anything from a lineout deep in PW’s zone. Instead, PW stole the lineout and quickly moved the ball back down the field. They were eventually awarded a penalty in front of the posts and elected to trust the foot of Rosato, who knocked it though easily to tie the game at 25-25 with 15 minutes remaining.
PW finally took their first lead of the game just minutes later off of a break from Tulio from 25 meters out. Rosato again converted and the score read 32-25 with 10 minutes to go. Virginia would respond quickly, driving the ball down and eventually scoring off of a 5 meter scrum after being held up in the try zone, again tying the score. Virginia received the ensuing kickoff and tried to chip the ball behind the PW defense. Instead, Oteri was there to scoop the ball, dodge two Virginia would be tacklers and secure possession for PW 15 meter away from the Virginia try line. After a few quick rucks, Rosato dove across the line to give PW the 37-32 lead much to the delight of the many PW fans in attendance. The errant conversion however, left Virginia a chance.
With just a few minutes remaining in the match, Virginia was able to win possession and then get a lineout 5 meters from PW’s try line. PW captain Bob Haller stole the lineout but was penalized in the process. Virginia dove time after time for the PW’s goal line but was thwarted on each effort by stout and impassioned defense. PW was again penalized and Virginia elected for a 5 meter scrum. The referee let both sides know that would be the last play of the game. PW’s forwards put together their best scrum of the day and won the ball. A Virginia penalty on the next ruck sealed the win and the MARFU crown for Philly Whitemarsh.
Denehy and Oteri were named the forwad and back of the weekend respectively for PW. The club now has a well earned weekend off before facing the Gainesville Hogs in the USA Round of 16.