It was a beautiful day for rugby at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., with a clear 84 degrees gracing the pitch, when Rocky Gorge and Wisconsin battled it out for the Division II title. Rocky Gorge got to the finish line first, in this one, with a 37-26 win.
The beginning of the game was everything you expected from two squads that had been to battle the day before. Both teams came out hitting hard in a blue-collar style game that featured strategic forward movement in the trenches and quick hands through the backline to create space.
Again, penalties reared its ugly head early on in the match, mounting frustration for both clubs. Like they had done in their first game, Wisconsin pounced on an early Rocky Gorge penalty, with scrumhalf Cody Moran-Guevara scoring within the first seven minutes for a 7-0 lead.
Some 10 minutes later, Wisconsin got yet another score from a set play off a scrum. Big lock Rocco Delmedico got the ball in space and called for outside center Garett Donath to go on the inside for a switch. The execution was timely for another Wisconsin score for a 14-0 lead following Miles Jobke’s second kick.
Despite the early hole, Rocky Gorge never lost confidence and found an extra in their dedicated fan base which yelled “Rocky, Rocky” throughout the match. And at the 22nd minute, Rocky Gorge set up a lineout off a Wisconsin penalty inside the 5-meter off a chip and kick from fullback Andrew Kendall.
An accurate throw from hooker Matthew Carroll to No. 8 Sean Kelly allowed a phase play to develop in the forwards. On the half meter line, prop Bryan Perez did a pick-and-go off the ruck and scored the first of many for Rocky Gorge to cut the deficit to 14-7 with only minutes remaining in the half.
Wisconsin played to their strength of a smothering defense to create a Rocky Gorge knock-on on the Gorge 22-meter. The decision went to Jobke and his steady leg for another three points and a 17-7 lead with final time for one more possession.
Rocky Gorge took the invitation and made the most out of it. Ball movement through the backline saw wing Jonathon Biermann go into contact. Kendall played it perfectly to pick the ball and plunge into the try zone for a 17-12 score going into the break.
The second half kicked off the excitement with most of the scoring. In the 44th minute, Rocky Gorge picked up right where they left off. Taking advantage of a Wisconsin turnover deep in their half, Gorge flanker Michael Meehan got a quick ball from scrumhalf Matthew Crowder.
Meehan ran a few meters and was ambushed by two Wisconsin defenders; however, Meehan was too determined and scored to give his team a 19-17 advantage. On the next kick-off, Rocky Gorge took a step back and committed a knock-on leaving Wisconsin with another shot for points.
Jobke, again, capitalized in prime kicking territory to give his team a 20-17 lead in the 50th minute. The next possession consisted of another Wisconsin penalty that gave Rocky Gorge a chance to fire back.
Off a scrum, Gorge set up a no. 8 pick and worked the ball through their phases down deep inside Wisconsin’s half. Backup Will Miller took advantage on a patient pick-and-go to give his team the lead back at 24-20 in the 50th minute.
Rocky Gorge was awarded a scrum on their next possession which turned into a disaster. Wisconsin’s big pack dug deep and wheeled it to be awarded the possession. Jobke got the job done again with a huge kick in the 60th minute to cut the lead to 24-23.
However, Rocky Gorge found yet another counter and worked it out of their pack once again. Winger Jay Benedetti set the forwards up perfecting and the rest was up to the pack. Working some short runs off the rucks, Gorge’s Josh Brown got his team back on the scoreboard with short run for a try and a 31-23 lead.
“After that, we knew we had taken a lot of out them (Wisconsin) when we saw them walking back to their zone after the score,” Rocky Gorge head coach Chuck Moore said.
A very accurate statement considered the only points Wisconsin could manage for the rest of the game was a penalty kick from Jobke. From there, it was all Gorge with two penalty kicks tournament MVP fullback Andrew Kendall for a 37-26 final and a national championship to bring back to Maryland.
“We knew we had to stay focused after yesterday’s game against Rosa with their team and the weather,” Kendall said with a smile. “This whole moment feels so awesome and to be honored with the MVP is just icing on the cake. We’re all pretty close and stayed together and never stopped believing and kept working hard.”