Whether they like it or not, Salisbury and Towson are tied together. They’re bitter rivals (check out the comments on this article if you want proof), and they’re from the same LAU, the Potomac Rugby Union (PRU). They met in the PRU final, the Mid-Atlantic final, and on May 18 they’ll meet in the national semifinal in Sandy, Utah.
Salisbury reaches the final four with blowout wins over Sewanee in the round of 16 (83-6) and East Carolina (41-9) in the quarterfinals.
Towson does so after squeaking past Boston Univ. (21-14) in the round of 16 and crushing Colgate 46-3 in the quarterfinals.
Salisbury’s win over ECU in Knoxville, Tenn. was well earned, as the Pirates were able to maintain a fair amount of possession and move the ball in the first half, but not quickly or effectively enough to beat the more playoff-seasoned Sharks.
“It ate up a lot of time, but they were moving down the field a meter at a time, and we just started coming up on them and hitting on them and just hitting them back into the ruck, and it looked like it just brokoe them down mentally,” said Salisbury coach Bill Creese.
“They would move down the field, and we would counter-ruck late, turn them over and kick the ball all the way back down the field, and they’d have to do it all over again.”
Using slow ball, ECU was able to win some penalties in the first half, three of which inside center Matt Hughston slotted for points to keep the Pirates down just one, 10-9, at halftime.
The second half was a different story, though, as Salisbury poured in five tries.
In Hanover, NH, Towson had a big day up front Sunday against Colgate, evidenced by a hat trick of tries from prop Aaron Goldberg.
“Our big prop, who can bench 400 pounds and is just a really big, strong, athletic kid,” said Towson coach Donald Stone, “took the ball three different times inside the 10 and just bullied his way across the goal line.”
Six of Towson’s eight tries were scored by forwards, but Stone says his team is balanced, and can play to the weakness of most opponents.
“I think the strength of our team is that we have both good forwards and good backs, but yes, we have great forwards,” said Stone.
“We have an English coach, Matt Ford, who has taken the (forwards) to the next level, but the other side of that is I think we have exceptionally good backs, and most teams are usually one or the other, and so I think it’s our balance that is why we do so well.”
When Towson and Salisbury meet in the semifinals, the game is sure to be as intense as usual, and the usual is big hits, aggression bordering on malice and a lot of intensity. Salisbury has won the two previous meetings this season.
“If we were to lose to them at Nationals, it would be pretty hard for the kids to take,” said Creese. “Both teams, we know each other so well at this point, it’s going to be a tough one, and we know that going in. For either team, it’s going to be tough to come back and play Saturday (in the final).”
“We told them when we lost to them in the PRU finals that we’d see you in the MARFU finals, and we told them in the MARFU finals we’d see them in the final four,” said Stone. “If we were to win one game that really matters, we hope it’s the next one.”