Duluth Defends DII National Championship Title

GREENVILLE, SC – University of Minnesota-Duluth claimed the 2014 Emirates Airline USA Rugby Men’s Division II College National Championship title Sunday at the Furman University campus in an exciting victory over University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

The reigning champs were strong out of the gate and opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a try from fullback Austin Haecherl. The conversion was missed however, and Whitewater quickly answered back sending Brandon Lopez over the line. Timothy Grams converted the kick to bring Whitewater into the lead.

Midway through the half, Wisconsin’s Matt Drzewiecki scored his third try of the weekend and Grams slotted the kick to bring the score to 5-14. However, Whitewater’s offensive surged was enough to wake up the Duluth defense and they were able to keep the Fighting Penguins out of the try zone for the remainder of the half.

Reminiscent of Saturday’s kick off, Men's Division II National Championship MVP Jake Luetgers grabbed possession in the first play of the second half, ran over 50 meters, and dove over the line to put Duluth back in the game. The try proved to me a momentum shifter as Duluth would score twice more in the half and held Whitewater to zero tries despite a yellow card.

Center Logan Hanson and flanker Luc Desroches were responsible for the final two tries of the match. Bolstad converted the first of the final two tries to bring his total conversions to seven for the weekend, and scrumhalf Cody Christensen succeeded in scoring the final two points of the match to solidify Duluth’s 24-14 win.

Coach Jeramy Katchuba will be pleased with the team’s second national title and Minnesota fans are anticipating continued strength from the side as the team has the opportunity to prove its depth and development of young talent in the coming years.

The Division II consolation match between James Madison University and Notre Dame College also proved to be a tale of two halves as James Madison put the first two tries on the board and maintained a 24-10 lead heading into the half.

Notre Dame’s Alex Janotka turned the tide for the Falcons with his try in the 40th minute and the athleticism of the Notre Dame squad quickly proved more elusive than James Madison could handle. For the remainder of the half the team would put down five more tries, none from the same player.

Cardell Terry, Spencer Duncan, Christian Adorno and RoNeil Reynolds scored their first tries of the weekend and Marcus Tuopola secured his second, with Logan Weinstock converting his fourth kick of the match. James Madison’s Chris Kunkel was able to pull off a final try in the 80th minute, but it was not enough and Notre Dame would claim third place with a 48-29 victory.

Both days were streamed live to over 6,500 fans and will be archived on USA Rugby’s Youtube Channel.