It was a game for the ages that literally came down to the very last drive. Like the game before, there were too many momentum shifts to count and emotions ran high for fans on the sideline. In the DII matchup of Wisconsin v. Old Aztecs, Wisconsin pulled off a 25-21 heart-pounder.
In what seemed to be a nervous pattern, both teams came out with a fast pace and it cost them early. Knock-ons and counter rucking were a big part of neither team being able to get a grip on their game plan to plant their foot in the positive direction.
In a penalty plagued start to the half, Wisconsin was the first to put points on the board with back-to-back boots from flyhalf Miles Jobke for an early 6-0 lead. Momentum to Wisconsin. After that though, defense tightened and didn’t allow much of anything until well past 20 minutes in the half.
Off a penalty, Aztecs kicked the ball out near 5-meter line, setting up a perfect scenario to use a maul off the lineout. The throw was perfect and the maul stayed strong for hooker Daylon Teel to plunge into the try-zone to give his a spark at 6-5. Momentum in favor of San Diego.
On Wisconsin’s next possession, a mental error by an Aztec forward caused an off-sides penalty, letting Wisconsin have a free chance at points. Jobke answered the call again with a perfect strike from almost 40 meters out for an 8-6 lead. Momentum back to Wisconsin.
Then just before the break, things got very interesting. The Aztecs were the first to have possession off a stolen lineout near the midfield mark. Through some fancy work through the backline, winger Micah Kropp made a breakaway run that lasted to about the opposing 22-meter line.
He then off-loaded to no. 8 Travis Ward who carried to back to the outside to find blindside flanker Aaron Montoya for the score and a 13-6 lead. Momentum San Diego. On the next kickoff and with just minutes remaining, Wisconsin found a weakness.
Scrumhalf Cody Moran-Guevara guided his forward down to the half-meter line. With an overload to the strong side, Moran-Guevara took matters into his own hands and took a step and pretended to off-load, leaving a small kink in the defense and just enough for him to plunge in to tie the score at 13 all going into the half. Momentum Wisconsin.
The second half was much like the first, more penalties to be passed out like free-giveaways. Nothing was going right for either team, leaving both the ref and touch judges to have a busy first 10 minutes.
However, like the half had never interrupted their play, San Diego put the first points on the board. Working the ball through phases and slowly loosening up the Wisconsin defense, scrumhalf Jacobus Breytenbach passed the ball to awaiting prop Sean Lindersmith.
Instead of going into contact and slowing down his team’s pace, Lindersmith noticed Kropp all by himself on the outside and flung the ball to the striding Kropp for a score and a 18-13 score after a Jarrod Faul kick. Momentum Old Aztecs.
This is truly where things started to heat up. Wisconsin called on their forward pack yet again in the phase game to gain a slight advantage at 20-18 after a Jobke kick. Not more than five minutes passed that the Aztecs had worked their way back into Wisconsin territory with less than two minutes left.
Then, as though it were drawn up to perfection, Breytenbach flipped the ball to Faul off a ruck who positioned perfectly in the middle of the field for a drop goal attempt. When the ball sailed through the uprights with less than a minute left and a 21-20 Aztec lead it came down to one possession.
Wisconsin was awarded a penalty off a scrum and slowly worked their way down the right side of the pitch with their forwards. With every possession crucial and the clock on full-time, Wisconsin managed to secure every ruck with full counters from San Diego.
New scrumhalf Paul Stroede and Wisconsin worked the ball down to the 5-meter line to such the Aztecs defense in. Determined at every point-of-contact, the Aztecs overplayed one possession leaving a small gap to work through on the weak side.
Wisconsin’s Jeffrey Mortensen screamed for the ball off the ruck and sucked it the only defense leaving lock James Delmedico wide open for the try and a 25-21 win. Final momentum swing to Wisconsin for a berth in the DII national championship.
“We stuck to our game plan and let the rest work itself out, very simple,” Wisconsin coach Joe Lippert said. “We kept composure there at the end and took value to every possession and that’s what gave us a chance for the win. Hats off to the Aztecs for a great performance and giving a great match, they are one helluva team.”
Wisconsin battles Rocky Gorge for the Men’s Club Division II National Championship.