Duke University won the NSCRO South Cup Qualifier with a hard-fought 24-5 win over the University of North Florida (UNF) Sunday. In the 3rd place match, two late tries by West Florida gave them a 31-30 win over Sewanee University.
On Saturday in the first semifinal, Duke faced West Florida. 13 minutes into the match, a long pass from fullback Dan Turtel to outside center Scott Cara resulted in a try giving Duke the early 5-0 lead. UWF answered right back two minutes later when center Michael Parlato stole a ball won by the Duke scrum and offloaded to scrumhalf William Nield, who scored. Nate Swartz's conversion gave UWF the 7-5 lead.
Midway through the half Duke started to gain more possession, and led by two tries by flyhalf Tom Cort, took a 19-5 halftime lead. Duke kept the defensive pressure on the UWF backs and Scott Cara picked up an errant UWF pass to score two minutes into the half. On a broken play a few minutes later, Duke scrumhalf Max Coar scored. Both tries were converted and UWF was down 33 to 5. Winger Ben Cardoza scored for UWF, but Duke replied with three forward tries. A late UWF try ended the match 55-19 in Duke's favor.
In the second semifinal, UNF came out of the gate on fire against Sewanee. Led by prop David Murphy's 2 tries, they took a 14-0 lead midway through the opening half. In the final 10 minutes before intermission, tries by Tim Herff, John Hamilton and Joe Eichner gave the Deadbirds a commanding 29-0 halftime lead over the Purple Haze. The second half was much more balanced as Sewanee kept their composure and scored two fine tries by Ryan Murphy and Sam Edoung-Biyo. Final score was UNF 41 - Sewanee 12.
The Sunday final between the Blue Devils and Deadbirds was expected to be a good one, and the match lived up to expectations. Playing with the wind in the first half, Deadbirds' flanker Dennis Yarizadeh plowed over from a ruck just seven minutes into the match to make it 5-0. Most of the first half saw UNF on attack, but a stalwart defense and uncommon handling errors kept them from scoring for the rest of the half.
Not surprisingly, Duke was able to mount a strong attack with the wind in the second half. When Duke was awarded a five-meter scrum, scrumhalf Max Coar used his quickness to score a try to tie the match at 5-5. Less than two minutes later Duke flyhalf Tom Cole broke the gainline and fed winger Uki Deane for a try, and with Coar's conversion, Duke was up 12-5. The rest of the half found Duke pressuring UNF often, and Coar's precision goal kicking resulted in four penalties. With continued strong defense, Duke kept North Florida from scoring whenever they attacked at the goal line, resulting in a final score of 24-5.