In a highly anticipated Elite Cup semifinal on a warm overcast day, a fit, fast and confident Life XV defeated the New York AC 41-17 (six tries to three) at the AC’s home field in Pelham, NY.
The 41-17 final score, however, actually flattered the hosts, as two of the NYAC’s three tries came in the game’s final 10 minutes, when a number of Life’s reserves had entered the game. Life flyhalf AJ Mc Ginty led all scorers with 16 points (T, P, 4C).
Life opened the scoring in the third minute with a McGinty penalty goal following an infraction five yards from the AC’s line, 3-0.
The New York AC retaliated in the 13th minute when center John Cronin crossed for a try following a Life infraction at the ten. The conversion by wing Gideon Balloch gave the New York AC their only lead of the day, 7-3.
Life went ahead for good in the 16th minute when scrumhalf Brendan Thompson touched down following a lineout at the AC’s five and McGinty converted, 10-7.
Life’s lead increased to 15-7 ten minutes later when hooker and captain James Issacson scored an unconverted try three meters from touch after multiple Life attacks from inside the New York AC’s five.
Flanker Benji Goff scored Life’s third try of the half in the 35th minute when he touched down following a drive five meters from the AC’s line. McGinty’s conversion brought the halftime score to Life 22, New York AC 7.
Life’s Elite Cup scoring parade resumed five minutes after the restart when flanker Benji Goff scored his second try following a lineout win and drive five meters from the AC line, 27-7.
Flyhalf AJ McGinty displayed his ball-carrying skills in the 22nd minute, running in a 30 meter try and then converting to bring Life’s lead to 34-7.
Life’s final points came when center Tui Osborne crossed for a counter-attack corner try, that McGinty converted, 41-7.
Down but not out, the NYAC battled to the end. They redeemed themselves with unconverted tries by reserve #8 Manny Cipriani in the 30th and prop Kirk Hamilton in the 34th; bringing the final score to 41-17.
Commenting on the match, Life’s captain, coach and prop James Issacson said, “The boys have worked really hard and really deserved the win. I can’t really single out any player for special mention. We really had to concentrate and hold onto the ball and everyone did their job. It was fantastic.”
It was, said NYAC coach Bruce McLane, “one-way traffic all day.”
Life came into the game determined to play a more controlled, phase-play game, and they did that. They kept control of the ball for long periods, and sorely tested an injury-plagued Winged Foot squad.
“Coming into this game we just had a feeling,” said flanker Benji Goff, who has been playing superbly all season – so much so that rumors are now circling about higher honors. “We just were going to approach this game the right way. We knew we needed to keep our composure, and if we gave up a try, we shouldn’t panic, but come right back and do what we normally do.”
The calm, determined approach, tempered with the knowledge that they had lost two close ones to NYAC this season, fueled the Running Eagles all day.
Goff was superb on the day, but dismissed any accolades, saying he was just the guy to fall down after the tight five mauled the ball into in-goal. He did mention former Davenport University standout, Damecus Beech, who had his first start at prop against the NYAC and held his own quite nicely.
AJ MacGinty was also a key performer at flyhalf.
“I don’t know how he did it, but he’d see a bit of space behind their backs and every time he’s just put the ball in there,” said Goff. “We’d get a lineout and we’d be on the front foot again.”