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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