With clear skies and a cool 61 degrees, New Orleans took the pitch against the Tucson Magpies in the opening game of the USA Men’s Club DIII National Tournament in Glendale, Color. The result, a phenomenal start to the tournament with a 36-8 victory for NOLA.
The game started fast with nervous energy flowing through all 30 members of both teams. Knock-ons played an early role in stopping either team from getting on the scoreboard. However, around the 35 minute-mark, NOLA got called for a holding penalty inside the 22-meter line.
Instead of trying to meet the mark and go, Magpie flyhalf Nick Whitrow confidently kicked the first points of the tournament through the posts for a 3-0 Tucson lead. NOLA showed no signs of frustration and continued as though there was no score.
Play resumed and NOLA continued to be patient at the rucks with their phase plays and get the ball out wide to soften the Tucson defense. Then, as though on cue, NOLA found the pace out wide in the legs of wing Andrew Barlow, who scored three times on the day, for the first try and a 10-3 lead with an Andrew Quackenbos kick.
From that point on, NOLA played like they belonged and never looked back. On the next kickoff, NOLA kept doing what they did best; patience and exceptional defense.
“Defense is really the part of the game we feel we have the most control over and we wanted that to be our backbone,” NOLA coach Trip McCormack said.
That certainly emerged itself early on for NOLA and never let down knowing what Tucson could do with the weapons in their arsenal.
Again, NOLA’s forwards kept the ball away from Tucson with physical runs and timely rucking. At the midfield mark, scrumhalf Casey Mackintosh got the ball off a line-out to work it into the backline and, like click-work; the ball fell into the steady hands and quick feet of Barlow who touched down for his second score of the half and 15-3 lead.
That was the score going into the break and NOLA knew they still had a ways to go. Still, the guys stayed confident in their game plan and couldn’t wait to get back out and execute.
“I just told them to stay calm and play the territory game to keep the pressure off as much as possible,” McCormack said. “If they wanted to try to get their momentum back, we wanted them to do it in their own half.”
In the second half, NOLA continued their tough defense and phases. Forwards stayed physical in their runs off the ruck and backs, while the knock-ons were still present, stayed patient and just took what the defense gave them.
Barlow once again found his way for another score out wide to give his team a 22-3 with a kick from fullback Quackenbos. The next possession was owned by NOLA. Off a kick from Magpie Paul Ageh, NOLA won their lineout and worked the ball up to inside the five-meter.
Off a ruck, hooker Tony Breaux got the pass from a perfect pass from Mackintosh and made a physical run through two Magpie defenders for another score and a 29-3 lead. NOLA’s last score came from a stolen ball out of a ruck that was passed out wide to outside center Jeff Ahlemeyer who was untouched for a 36-3 lead and a kick Quackenbos kick.
Tucson scored the last try of the game when Mason Quick made a burst off a maul for his first score and final of 36-8. When the final whistle blew, fans chanted and lined up for their team which was on its way to the final.
“We expected to be here,” NOLA captain Casey Mackintosh. “We have experience and we play have a great team to scrimmage against so it prepares us well for any game or tournament.”
When asked about the obvious conditioning difference in the match, Mackintosh reacted like he knew the question was coming. “When you practice in 95 degree weather with 100% humidity it prepares you for anything.
With the win, New Orleans will now await the winner of Philly-Whitemarsh and South Bay.
New Orleans 36
Tries: Barlow 3, Breaux, Penalty Try
Convs: Quackenbos 4