Photo Credit: Norma Salinas Photography
Austin Huns Press Release Post-Championship
AUSTIN HUNS WIN NATIONAL RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
DEFEAT NEW YORK ATHLETIC CLUB 27-23 THIS WEEKEND IN GLENDALE, COLORADO
First Texas Club To Claim The Title Since 1984
Major League Rugby Starts In 2018 With Huns As Founding Members
Austin, TX (June 6, 2017). Three tries, two penalty kicks, and eighty minutes later, the Austin Huns become the number one team in the nation and the rugby Men's Division 1 National Champions, the only Texas club to accomplish this feat in the 21st century, and only the second time in USA Rugby history. This accomplishment is 45 years in the making, and the Huns couldn't be more excited to bring home the only gold medals in rugby, to Austin, Texas. The Austin Huns beat 5-time national champions (most recently in 2015), New York Athletic Club, 27-23 in a thriller that will be remembered for ages.
The highly anticipated matchup between the east and west did not disappoint. It was a world-class match from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, as the top two teams in the nation battled it out for the crown. “It was a brilliant final. The standard of rugby was on par with other parts of the world,” said Eugene Eloff, Head Coach of the Austin Huns. With only minutes left in the game and down 3 points to NYAC, the Austin Huns displayed what they have all season, calm under pressure. “The character of our team came through, even when down they never panicked. That’s one great attribute about this team, they never panic, and that’s why we won this game,” said Eloff.
New York found themselves leading 6-0 just fifteen minutes into the match, but it would not be long before the Huns found themselves on the board after fly-half Timothee Guillimin converted a penalty kick in the 20th minute. Five minutes later we saw the first try of the match, which came by the hands of hooker Peter Malcolm. The next twenty minutes featured breathtaking displays of defense from both teams, but it was the Huns who won the battle at the line, keeping NYAC out of the try zone twice. With no time left in the half, Austin Huns 8-man, Deon Minnaar scored the second try of the match, while Guillimin’s conversions gave the Huns the 17-6 lead going into the half.
NYAC opened the second half firing on all cylinders. “Their defense was tight, the players were motivated,” said Eloff. After stealing the Austin Huns lineout, NYAC was able to spin the ball wide and score in the corner, closing their deficit to 17-13. A high tackle by Austin in 50th minute led to a third converted penalty kick by NYAC, score 17-16. The Huns brought on Todd Clever and CJ de Wet, who immediately added defense pressure and an explosion on offense. Nevertheless, the Austin Huns found themselves down, 23-17, in the 72nd minute after a try by NYAC.
The Austin Huns final drive was ignited by team captain Lomani Tongotongo, who broke through NYAC’s defense and offloaded to vice-captain and finals MVP Hanco Germishuys, who rumbled down the field and put the Huns just meters away from the try line. NYAC regrouped quickly, but seconds later found themselves on their back foot while on the receiving end of the Huns powerful maul. The Austin Huns spun the ball wide into the hands of Tongotongo, who again broke through the defense and took a few NYAC players on a ride. The ball got to fullback Martin Knoetz, who drew two defenders, and passed to wing Sani Taylor, who dove through two players and scored the game-winning try for the Austin Huns!
“I’m speechless. It’s unreal for me,” Germishuys, 20, told www.usarugby.org of the MVP award. “We put so much hard work in here; each and every one of these guys deserves all of this. Every guy in this team had a role. We were anxious but so pumped.”
“I’m very proud of the boys, and I want to thank everyone behind the scenes who make this team successful. A special thank you to USN and the supplements provided for the season. And so the season comes to an end, and for me as a coach this a personal highlight of my coaching career. In your time as a coach you win trophies, you lose battles, and that is what coaching is about. Teach people to become better people, and they actually portray that on the field. Seeing this Huns group grow game by game, training session by training session, in terms of leadership, skills, and fitness, it was an incredible journey,” said Eloff.
The Austin Huns look to take this year’s success into next season as they gear up to compete in the newly formed professional rugby league, Major League Rugby.
For the first time in club history, the Austin Huns are the National Division 1 Champions after defeating NYAC at Infinity Park, 27-23. A combination of brute running force and good defense were the major factors in the Red River Champions’ ultimate victory.
To begin the first half, NYAC worked with the facets of their game that got them there in the first place. They displayed good control while getting the ball out of the ruck quickly to their Gazelle-like backs. Unfortunately for them, whenever it seemed to matter most, the Huns brick wall of a defensive front would force a turnover.
Because of this, the first half featured a lot of action in the midfield, with the first nine points of the game coming via penalties, in which NYAC held a 6-3 lead over the Huns thanks to the leg of Harry Bennett. That would eventually change after Austin’s Peter Malcolm scored the game’s first try. A successful conversion by Timothee Guillimin would put them up 10-6.
Fans in attendance and watching around the world would have thought The Huns had this game won by the end of the first. Things such as mental errors and a few players getting caught out position allowing the athletic backs of the Huns to take advantage of space were making it seem as if NYAC was simply outmatched both scheme-wise and athletically. The first half would come to a close with the Huns leading 17-6.
Something inspirational must have been said in the New York locker room during the half, because NYAC came into the opening minutes of the second determined to erase the mistakes of the first and win. They began to move the ball forward consistently, and were eventually rewarded with a fantastic fake-out and try by Chris Mattina. Following that was Harry Bennett again, who not only hit a successful conversion, but even added on a deadly accurate penalty to put NYAC down by only one, 17-16.
Enter Todd Clever.
The USA Eagle legend and Hun seemed to bring a renewed sense of energy to his squad the second he stepped on the field. Clever showed of his ruggedly physical and tenacious style going into the rucks which in turn allowed them to take back control of the pace by maintaining possession.
The Huns would begin to pull further away when Timothee Guillimin recovered from a recent miss to put them up 20-16 via a penalty. Knowing defeat would be inevitable if they didn’t respond, NYAC would answer the call like Rohan to Gondor (sorry, I’m a nerd) when Gareth Gibbs gave his team the lead with a try of his own, putting NYAC ahead 23-20.
Although it was great phase that opened the door for Gibbs’ score, many watching could sense it wasn’t meant to be at this point. The Huns were out there for blood by this time, with the gleam of the championship trophy practically in their eyes, and nothing short of victory would do.
Huns Captain, the ever-reliable Lomani ‘Money’ Tongotongo, was able to break out a huge run to set up the equally speedy Sani Taylor for what would turn out to be the game-winning try. Despite a slight push-back by NYAC in the dying seconds, the ref would eventually blow the whistle, the play dead, and confirm the Austin Huns as the 2017 D1 Champions.
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