In a battle for the top spot in Collegiate Rugby, Saint Mary's College and Life University met at Stanford University's Steuber Rugby Stadium in the D1 Rugby Final on May 10th, 2014.
D1A Rugby Top 10 - End of the Season Rankings (See Top 20 here)
1) Saint Mary's (1)
2) Life (2)
3) Arkansas State (3)
4) Lindenwood (4)
5) Davenport (5)
6) Cal Poly (6)
7) Colorado (7)
8) Santa Clara (8)
9) West Point (11)
10) Penn State (10)
It was the nightcap to a great day of Rugby, preceded by the Penn State vs Stanford match as Penn State took the Women's National Championship.
Here are some photos from the night...
Saint Mary's huddling up. Led by a stellar cast of seniors, they were focused and supported by what seemed like a happy mob that had a loud pre-game tailgate on the other side of the fence.
The Life University squad came out in their traditional uniforms but, as per usual, added a just a little bit of flare to accentuate the positive.
It wouldn't be a Life Rugby game without their flock of dedicated Eagles.
The match began and both teams were out firing. Life coach Dan Payne put together a game plan that kept SMC Rugby in check for a majority of the first half. Starving them of the ball and smothering them on defense when SMC did manage to gain possession. It was working brilliantly.
The Saint Mary's boys kept their heads in the game and their eye on the prize. Their potent offense only needed a moments notice to appear. Their strong defense at the rucks and set pieces kept them in the game even despite a lack of ball possession.
The scrums looked great from both sides of the ball. Each team put in their work throughout the season.
Sorry, we can't help but notice how nice their jerseys looked! Simple, understated, but made for the trenches of the toughest match of the season.
It was truly a "standing room only" crowd at Sanford's Steuber Stadium.
All-American Garrett Brewer was smothered throughout the first half by a swarming Eagles defense. We expect to see him get some action with the US Eagles soon enough at #10. And btw, who put all the highlighter markers on the field?
The crowd brought the stadium to maximum capacity as everyone piled onto the sideline fences following the action intensely. The match was a deadlock throughout the first half. Equal parts defense from each team.
At halftime, the score was too close to remember because there was no advantage. Might as well been 0-0. Commissioner Kevin Battle brought out the "Caps" to recognize some of our amazing past ambassadors of the sport. Former US Eagles were flying all over the place.
Saint Mary's College Head Coach Tom O'brien providing his team with some halftime words.
Garrett Brewer and Kingsley McGowan of Saint Mary's College chat it up showcasing their vintage 1995 haircuts. Kid 'n Play would be so proud if they showed up to House Party 3 after the match.
Meanwhile, Fullback Cooper Maloney hid his locks in favor of a little head protection.
Superleg Inside Center Dylan Audsley opted to hide his Lion's locks but that didn't keep the tampons out of his bloody nose at the half. He couldn't resist a glimpse at the camera.
Some fans opted to stand on the benches outside and peak over the fence because there was no free space in the stadium.
There is no time like now and never a time like forever. Saint Mary's is in the midst of a "Forever Season". They have battled and battled over the years to become of the best college rugby programs in the country.
It was indeed a brutal match. Good thing it was only torn jerseys and not torn body parts. These boys were out there giving it everything they had in this battle.
Two things every rugby mom must tell their child... "Don't give a moose a muffin and don't give a Maloney a slice of bologna." Because that's all Cooper Maloney needed was an inch to slice through the defense like Wonder Bread.
Like we said, that Cooper Maloney is no bologna. That boy good.
Life was full of life, keeping it close in all aspects of the game.
The crowd, coaches, and sirs were glued to the match. However, you notice the Touch Judge was doing his job and not watching the ball, but rather watching that SMC was 10 meters off the ball in the line out!
The Saint Mary's Rugby fans had their eyes glued to the match. Quietly waiting for what was to come.
The Life fans traveled across the country and were not about to sit quietly. "GIVE US DEATH or GIVE US LIFE," the Running Eagle screamed.
"Life" the posse responded.
"GIVE US DEATH or GIVE US LIFE!"
The Life University kicking game was neutralized in the second half by a fast attacking SMC backline with Cooper finding the inch he needed.
Cooper's run deep within SMC territory after a Life kick was amazing. Slicing through the defense, breaking into Life territory, offloading to a teammate, only to receive the pass again as he sprinted past the retreating defenders and onto the game's first try. Life did everything they could, including shredding a jersey in the process.
Dylan adds a penalty kick with his Audsley boot. It runs in the family. His brother Barnaby is an All-American Honorable Mention at Occidental College.
With a couple minutes remaining, it was 14-6 and you could cut the tension in the stadium with a butter knife.
However, with time winding down, Kingsley makes a run or two pushing the defense deeper and further from the finish line.
And Garrett seals the deal pulling out some old soccer tricks advancing the ball as it fell to the deck with a little toe poke and chase.
Trytime! At this point, with only seconds left, did each team stop to realize what had happened.
Time was up and Garrett back onto his feet.
And Dylan sealed their fate with a conversion kick that came with a lifetime guarantee the second it left his feet. He picked up his kicking tee before the booming kick even crossed the uprights.
Only now can you celebrate. The Slippery Eel has sung.
Nice jobs boys!
Cooper was awarded the MVP. He took some time to pose with his brother Joey, another great college rugby player.
And in true Maloney fashion, he chose to cover up his MVP trophy with his Championship tshirt. If there was a podium and a speech we can imagine it would go something like this...
"I don't deserve this. My team deserves this honor. And we would all like to thank Life University for an amazing game that tested us on all levels. You made us work for everything we earned."
Cooper Maloney and Dylan Audsley.
And in honor of Mother's Day, Garrett said "Grandma, this would not be possible without you." (or something very close to that affect.
Last year our team traveled to Greensboro, NC for the D1A National Championship game between two teams that sum up rugby in the United States quite well. Each team is a testament to the game we love - one full of tradition and another comprised of accessibility and intrigue both underdogs fighting for their sport.
One team, Saint Mary's College, has a storied history of battling the big boys of rugby for respect, was founded in the 1960's and once coached by former All-Black captain and Canterbury, NZ native Pat Vincent.
The other school, Life University, came from the proverbial ether in recent years to become a powerhouse on the Collegiate and Club levels while proving to be a true development program for the US Eagles under Coach and Director of Rugby Dan Payne.
The 2013 Championship match was one for the books as Life walked away from the blood and water drenched pitch with a National Title beating Saint Mary's by the slimmest of margins, 16-14.
Come join us tomorrow at for the 2014 D1A National Championship rematch between these two great rugby programs. Kick off will be tomorrow (May 10) at 7:00 P.M at Stanford's beautiful Steuber Field. The match will be streamed live and air on USA Rugby TV.
Here are some snapshots from our lens last year in Greensboro...
The day started out a little wet, but perfect rugby weather on a mildly humid Southern evening. Despite a little rain, Rugby and Armed Forces night brought out a decorated WW2 veteran. He hadn't seen a rugby game since he was stationed in England during the war.
The Life Running Eagles were only a hop, skip, and a jump from their home pitch in Marietta, Georgia, while the Saint Mary's Gaels traveled from Moraga, California.
The Gael supporters blew in droves all the way from Northern California.
Lined up, and ready for the action to begin.
Teams had to take a time out because there were some Armed Forces shenanigans over yonder.
The ESPN U video crew had their eye on the prize too.
The prize of the moment was a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, sung with such a strong voice she probably didn't need the microphone.
After an emotional song of freedom, it's time to take care of rugby business.
The scrums were tight and the Eagles were flying amongst Gael force winds.
The second half was its own beast. The clouds returned and the game was too close to call. Strong defense and a slippery ball kept it close as the rain battered these collegiate battering rams.
The rain gear was out to protect the camera crew running the lines and catching good angles. Meanwhile, the ruggers fought the raindrops and plotted their next lineout.
In the end, the whistle blew and it was a bunch of Running Eagles flying high on Life over the Gaels of Saint Mary's.