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By Michael J.A. Nauta Jr.
Yesterday afternoon, the final four boys teams in the IIAAG/GRFU High School Rugby League went to battle in hopes of picking-up a victory to advance to this year’s championship game. In the first match, the Father Duenas Friars and Simon Sanchez Sharks brought nothing but their “A-game” to a game that came down to the wire in order to determine a winner.
Despite trailing for most of the game, FD never gave up and managed to come from behind to defeat their opponents 13-10 while earning a berth in the title match.
“We can come up with many excuses as to why we played the way we played today, but as a team it was just a matter of putting all that aside and playing hard to final whistle,” said FD’s Leo Tudela. “Taking the lead wasn’t because I scored the try, it was because of the help from my teammates.”
The start of the game seemed to be all defensive on the part of both teams. Neither was able to penetrate the ball through their opponents defense keeping the score nil for the first seven minutes.
However, midway through the period, Simon Sanchez put the game’s first points on the board after a speedy Matthew Sojo intercepted an FD pass and found his way in the end zone for the try. On the ensuing play, teammate Wes Shiroma converted the kick to give the Sharks an early 7-0 advantage.
Father Duenas continued to find ways to equalize the game and eventually created several good opportunities. Relying on the strength of Shawn McManus and Josh Miranda, the Friars were with a few meters of the try line. However, the boys in purple and gold held ground denying the five points.
FD did manage to trim their deficit after Jerome Artero kicked for points and split the uprights making it a 7-3 game. Before the halftime break, the two teams converted one kick apiece keeping the margin at four (10-6) points.
Intensity in the second half was at a game-high as both teams came out looking rejuvenated. Both teams kept their respective fans on the edge of their seats with hard hits and near-scoring opportunities. Later in the half, Father Duenas seemed to have recognized that they were playing against time.
With less than two minutes in the game, the Friars came together and use their strength in numbers to push the ball deep into Sharks territory.
It was only a matter of time before Leo Tudela found himself past the try line for the score to give his team their first lead of the game. A conversion by Artero made it a 13-10 game and seconds later the whistle to end the game was blown giving FD the victory.
“Simon Sanchez is a really tough team and they kept us on the edge for the entire game,” said FD captain J.P. Mallari. “Despite trailing we knew that we couldn’t give up, at halftime our coaches reminded us about our FD Friars roots and what we were made off.”
With the win, the Friars move on to the championship game where they are scheduled to take on the GW Geckos.
Geckos shutout Islanders
In the second semifinal game of the day, the GW Geckos squared-off against the John F. Kennedy Islanders. With a title shot on the line, neither team made it easy for their opponents. However, when it was all said and done, only one was able to walk away victors. After a scoreless first half, the Geckos managed to spark their offense later in the game and defeat the Islanders 12-0 to advance to the championship game.
After resuming play in the second half, GW would not be denied their chance at scoring much longer as Tommy Borja pounded his way through the JFK defense for the try. A converted kick by Tevin Santos gave the Geckos a 7-0 lead.
The Islanders look poised to knot the game on their next possession as Alan Cooper powered his way downfield. However, the Geckos were able to put a halt to the attempt and eventually found the ball back in their hands. As time continued to tick away, the Geckos put the nail on the coffin after Damon Hocog scored to make it a 12-0 game. JFK found themselves being eliminated after the referee signaled the end of the match.
IIAAG/GRFU High School Rugby League action resumes Friday with girls playoffs. Championship games are scheduled for Saturday with the girls varsity tackle taking the field at 5:15pm, while the boys championship game is scheduled for 6pm.
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