Minnesota-Duluth looks to maintain DII title against Wisconsin-Whitewater

GREENVILLE, SC – Two Midwest powerhouses have advanced to the 2014 Emirates Airline USA Rugby Men’s Division II College National Championships today at Furman University campus. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater secured their spot in the final after beating Notre Dame College, and returning champions University of Minnesota-Duluth won a decisive victory over James Madison University.

After a loss in the 2013 semifinal match, Whitewater seemed determined to advance to this year’s final. Wet and chilly conditions made continuity tough for both sides throughout the match, forcing the two teams to struggle with knock-ons and penalties. A solid defense also contributed to nearly tryless first half, with Wisconsin leading 8-3 heading into the break.

The second half saw much more action from the Wisconsin side, with wing Matt Drzewiecki scoring back-to-back tries in the second half. Notre Dame fly half Ronan Forrestal did his best to manage the relentless pressure from the Warhawks, but the team’s lone try by Marcus Tuopola in the 70th minute was too little too late. Whitewater’s Timothy Grams converted his second penalty kick of the match to end the scoring at 26-10 and see Wisconsin on to the Sunday’s championship.

In the second semifinal of the day, University of Minnesota-Duluth solidified their dominance in Men’s Division II College rugby with their convincing win over James Madison University. Duluth set the tone in the first minute with a score from number eight Jake Luetgers. Duluth put up fourteen more points in the first fourteen minutes of the match before allowing James Madison on the board. With the meticulous boot of fly half Trace Bolsted, the Fighting Penguins were able to keep James Madison guessing and put up one more try to make the scoreline 26-7 before the half.

Minnesota’s defensive line speed continued to force James Madison handling errors while their dynamic offense gave Samuel Torvinen, Derrek Van Klein and Zachary Schwartz the chance to score tries early in the second half. In the 50th minute Bolstad ended the scoring for Duluth, securing his sixth conversion of the day.

Deciding to rest players for the final, Duluth made several substitutions, which gave James Madison a chance to find the breaks they had been looking for all game. James Madison’s Evan Larson was first to take advantage with his try in the 61st minute and was followed by forward Timothy Katz shortly after. Katz’s dynamic running and repeated line breaks allowed his team to maintain possession for much of the remaining half. James Madison wing Matthew Narzikul broke free for the final try of the match, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the early deficit. Winning 47-24, Duluth will return to defend their title against Midwest rival University of Wisconsin–Whitewater.

The third place match between Notre Dame and James Madison will kick off at 11 a.m. ET with the national championship final beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Both matches will be streamed live on USA Rugby TV.