Last year, Wisconsin were the runners-up in the DII National Championship Final but on Sunday, they were a team on a mission and they finally got to hold that coveted DII trophy in their hands after beating Wilmington 60-27 in the 2013 DII National Championship at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.
Wisconsin showed their dominance from the get-go when seven minutes into the game, Wisconsin No. 8 Andrew Hanske made a powerful breakthrough run to put first points on the scoreboard from a lineout won inside Wilmington’s 22.
Wisconsin was once again on the scoreboard three minutes later when winger Andrew Norton gathered up the ball from a well placed box kick by scrumhalf Cody Moran-Guevara. The ball bounced badly for Wilmington full back Todd Gallen and landed in Norton’s hands. He simply had to ran the ball over the line for a further five points. Neither try was converted but Wisconsin was ahead 10-0.
Wilmington arrived on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute when flanker Kevin Barry was driven over the line by Wilmington’s pack after winning a lineout inside Wisconsin’s 22 zone. His conversion attempt was successful, however, the scoreboard remained in Wisconsin’s favor, 10-7.
Wisconsin kept their scoring momentum going when Miles Jobke’s penalty conversion was successful in the 27th minute, increasing their lead to 13-7.
A lapse in Wisconsin’s discipline afforded Barry another shot at the poles in the 32nd minute. It was a solid kick from just inside Wilmington’s half and the three points brought Wilmington to within three points of Wisconsin at 13-10.
Speedy Wisconsin winger Phil Winkler used his impressive speed to run the ball deep into Wilmington’s half in the 33rd minute, drawing the Wilmington defense before offloading to back Jeff Mortensen, who ran over a try for a further five points. Jobke’s conversion kick was good and Wisconsin was looking good at the halfway mark despite a try by Wilmington’s No. 8, Kevin Wiggins, three minutes before the halftime whistle blew. Barry converted, making 20-17 at intermission.
According to Wisconsin’s coach, Joe Lippert, things got fiery in the change rooms during the half time recess.
“We were in the same type of situation at half time last year,” said Lippert, “and I told the guys that if they wanted this championship, they need to go out there and grab it.”
Lippert’s fiery words seemed to inspire his team as they came out firing in the second half and dominated Wilmington by only giving up 12 points while notching 40 themselves.
These 40 points in the second half were attributed to six tries, and Jobke’s golden boot converted five of them. Wisconsin’s Mortensen scored his second try of the game in the second half, as did Wilmington’s Barry.
Solo tries went to Wisconsin’s flanker Max Zukowski - who was also named MVP of the game – center Robert Llewellyn, hooker Luis Lucas, wing Andrew Norton and reserve scrumhalf Paul Stroede.
“We, as a team, support staff, supporters and coaches, have worked the entire season towards this goal,” added Lippert, “and we would have been bitterly disappointed if the result had been anything less than what it was.”
“The team has put in a huge effort this season, from training to finally winning this championship,” concluded Lippert, “they deserve it and I am very proud of the team.”
Half time: Wisconsin 20 - Wilmington 17
Tries: Hanske, Norton, Mortensen (2), Zukowski, Llewellyn, Lucas, Jobke & Stroede
Penalties: Jobke (6)
Tries: Barry (2), Wiggins, unknown
Penalties: Barry (2)