Oceanside won the DIII National Championship at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. Sunday, beating Old Blue 44-40 in a game that took a full 100 minutes to conclude. The teams were knotted at 32-32 at the end of regulation, and a heroic three-try performance from Tai Enosa pushed Oceanside over the top.
“I was just trying to push my boys throughout the whole game, just telling them hang in there, hang in there. You have to do the work. Even if you’re tired you have to do the work,” said Enosa, named the game’s MVP.
“If it wasn’t for [my teammates], I wouldn’t have scored those tries, so everyone deserves it. For Oceanside, this means a lot to them…They didn’t come all the way here to lose. We had to fight for our life that last 20 minutes.”
Old Blue opened the scoring with a Willie Nelson penalty in the 10th minute, and Enosa leveled the score with his own kick in the 17th minute.
Old Blue was pinged for a penalty near midfield three minutes later, and Oceanside kicked to touch. Old Blue appeared to have stolen the lineout, tapping it to its side, but Oceanside scrambled and regained possession, and No. 8 Gabriel Edwards rumbled in from 20-plus meters for a try. The conversion attempt was missed.
New York went directly on the offensive, and nearly scored from a scrum move starting at the attacking 22. The scrumhalf gave up the ball and got it back, but was dragged down a few meters short of the try line. The offload attempt was knocked on.
Oceanside extended the lead when hooker Levi Ueti bowled over after a series of crash balls in the corner following an Old Blue penalty. Unconverted, the penalty put Oceanside up 13-3.
Oceanside then started edging to the wrong side of the whistle, and Old Blue took a shot at posts from near midfield, but the kick was short, and Tai Enosa knocked on trying to catch it, giving Old Blue a five-meter scrum. Nothing came of the prime attacking platform, and the half ended 13-3.
Old Blue started on the front foot in the second half and earned a point-blank shot at goal, which Nelson slotted, pulling Old Blue to within a converted try at 13-6. The Chiefs lost their outside center to the sin bin for the penalty.
Nelson took another shot at goal in the 51st minute but missed. However, the 22-drop from Oceanside was charged down, and resulted in a five-meter scrum after a Chief carried the ball into his own try zone and dotted down. Old Blue drove the ensuing scrum over the try line, and No. 8 Cameron Jones scored. Nelson converted, leveling the score at 13-13.
The Chiefs responded immediately, taking possession off of the restart and spinning the ball wide to Jerome Ropati, who stepped his way 40 meters for a try. The conversion was successful, making it 20-13.
Oceanside nearly extended the lead twice, but knock-ons meters from the line ended both attacks. The Chiefs finally managed to stretch the lead when Tai Enosa opted to run himself and not risk a knock-on from a pass, darting over 60 meters for the score.
Old Blue crawled back in the game with a try off another short-range set piece, this time mauling in off of a five-meter lineout. Jones dotted this one down, too.
New York didn’t let up, and strung together several phases on the next possession. Lock Michael Cartwright picked from the base of a ruck from the attacking 22 and shrugged off an ankle tackled en route to the tying try. Nelson’s conversion was successful, and Old Blue led 27-25.
The Chiefs didn’t lay down, and it didn’t take long for them to get back into the attacking end after a couple of runs from Enosa and Ropati. Oceanside showed great patience inside the 22, and Danielson Sialoi finally crossed the line on the wing after several phases in tight. The conversion was missed, making it 32-27.
New York decided it wasn’t done, either, and managed a tying try in the corner from wing Brendan Vignoles. The touch-line conversion attempt was missed, forcing overtime.
Old Blue got possession first after the kickoff and drove into Oceanside’s end. The Chiefs turned the ball over but knocked on, and then stole the scrum but knocked on. Old Blue went wide off the set piece and got to within five meters of the try line before being brought down.
The New York ball carrier was called for holding on, and Enosa quick’-tapped and took the ball past the 50-meter line before offloading, only to see the pass knocked on.
New York went back on the attack and was rewarded with a shot at goal, which Nelson slotted, putting Old Blue up 33-30. That’s how the 10-minute extra period ended.
The second was Enosa’s, as he scored twice, once on a long range move and once from short distance, get Oceanside on top. This tries were sandwiched by a Joel Venables try from Old Blue, but it wasn’t enough.