In a tremendous come-from-behind victory, Virginia moves onto the DII men’s club quarterfinals after defeating Bragg 25-22.
|Virginia's into DIII quarterfinals.|
Bragg had built a 17-5 lead into the half, and by all accounts, that momentum was going to carry them into the next round of playoffs.
“We were in a hurry when we got the ball and were trying to hit a homerun with every possession,” Virginia coach Tom Oxenham said. “When we got the ball, we’d make a bad pass, poor kick, and turn the ball right over to Bragg. To Bragg’s credit, they didn’t relinquish the ball to us at all.”
Oxenham fired up his players at the half, and the team realized it wasn’t ready to exit the playoffs. Their response lacked frenzy, and took a more controlled, patient pattern. Virginia restored faith in its phases, used its defense to force turnovers, and so began its comeback.
Instrumental to closing the gap was lock Damien Blanchon, whom Oxenham called the heart and soul of the team. Coupled with the expert kicking and decision-making of flyhalf James Fealy, Virginia inched its way back into contention with tries from outside center Evan Davis then fullback Sebastian Fezas. Fealy nailed a penalty before Bragg ran in a try out wide to tie it up 22-all.
At the 80th minute, Virginia was awarded a penalty in which Fealy felt confident in slotting. As teammates turned their backs in anxiety, Fealy lined up the shot and split the posts with ease. At 25-22, that would be the last score of the game.
“I’m happy, I’m ecstatic with the win,” Oxenham gushed. “Any win is good at this stage of playoffs. I wish it was an easier match so I could’ve replaced and rested some players, but that’s something to worry about for tomorrow.”
Virginia will see Syracuse in tomorrow’s quarterfinal.