Davenport cruised to a DI title game berth Friday with a 62-21 defeat of Harvard. The game was never in much doubt, as the Panthers scored in the third minute and didn’t stop until the 75th.
They were three tries, three conversions and two penalties up at halftime, leading Harvard 27-0. It wasn’t until Davenport had notched 41 points that Harvard first got on the board with a try from No. 8 Jeffrey Overall.
As impressive as Davenport was as a whole, fly half J.P. Eloff was the star of not just the match, but the day. He scored Davenport’s and the game’s first 20 points, with a pairs of tries, conversions and penalties. Eloff simply ran around the Harvard defense for his first try. For his second, he fly kicked a mishandled Harvard knock and dove on it in the try zone.
“He sees the field, and when the gap opens up he can take it and he can actually do some damage with his boot and speed,” said Harvard coach Dave Gonzales of Eloff. “Plus, he’s got the savvy and the skill to offload it, and he pinned us back with his boot. He really managed the game well.”
Also scoring multiple tries for Davenport was wing Lance Cavanaugh. Harvard did mount three tries in the second half, causing some concern for the Panthers.
“There’s a couple of things I’m worried about,” said Davenport coach Kruger Van Biljon. “My defensive structures that I thought were pretty solid, they exploited some of those things in the second half, so we’ve got to go back and look at that.”
One concern Van Biljon doesn’t have is fatigue, despite the fact that several of his key players, like Eloff and flanker Ryan Hargraves, remained in the game until late.
“We brought them out with 10-15 minutes left,” he said. “I think our fitness level is there so that we can go two games in a row. Our substitutions that came in made a good impact. They’ll be tired, but I’m sure Santa Barbara will be tired, too.”
Davenport’s strengths, scrumhalf, fly half and wing, are also UCSB’s.
“Their nine is phenomenal. He’s everywhere and does everything,” said Van Biljon. “Their 10 is a pretty solid player. He’s got a good kicking boot. I know my back three is going to do a lot of work tomorrow. As far as how we match up, I think it’ll be pretty equal. I think it’ll be a good game, at least that’s what we hope for.”