Tempe ends years of waiting with Men's DII National Championship victory over Detroit

GLENDALE, Colo. - Tempe Old Devils' second trip to the USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club Men's Division II National Championship Final in three years ended with a trophy ceremony Sunday with a 54-21 defeat of Detroit Tradesmen.

Tempe lost to eventual Champion Life West in the 2015 Semifinals, a year after a Final defeat to Rocky Gorge in Madison, Wisc. Sunday's match at Infinity Park was not one-sided, but well-managed by an experienced Tempe side.

Detroit's attack had been hyped leading up to the Final, and there were times when the backs showed their skill sets, but Tempe controlled the match from the beginning.

James Vaifale supported Palavilala Taumoepeau and Iopu Sanonu inside the Detroit 22 and kept himself in play in the tackle area five meters from the line, and the Old Devils kept possession through several crashes for prop Denton Pule to juke past the line for the opening try eight minutes into the match.

The advantage was doubled three minutes later when Maceo Brown latched onto the end of Christopher Iosefo's 20-meter kick to the touch line and ran 40 meters for the try. Detroit was not necessarily without the ball in the first half - or throughout the entire 80 minutes, for that matter - but could not turn time with possession into points on the scoreboard.

A booming kick from Tempe fly half Sanonu was recovered a bit too calmly by Detroit's Colin Tucker two minutes from the end of the half, and a big hit near midfield sent the ball loose for scrum half Alex Taefu to take to the try zone, 24-0.

Detroit spent a few extra minutes after the 40th searching for a try, and even went over the try line near the corner only for the half to be ended with a knock.

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The Tempe coaching staff mentioned not being satisfied with the 24-nothing lead after the first 40 minutes, and the Old Devils came out of the break with plenty of vigor to see out the victory. Brown doubled his tally four minutes into the second frame, fielding a kick and beating the resetting defense to the uprights. Kueli Danielson dotted down twice and Taumoepeau scored with a Tradesman in the bin, though Detroit's Ismail Bazzi, Conrad Bontrager, and Kevin Muto found the try zone for the 54-21 final.

"[At halftime] we said, 'We can do better than just 24,'" Taumoepeau said after the match. "The boys did and now we have it.

"It feels great for everybody. We've been working so hard for the last two years. We lost very close. We finally got here and it all paid off."

Tempe Old Devils | Men's DII National Championship
1. Steven Johnston
2. John Dillon
3. Denton Pule
4. Nathan Shere
5. Kyle Carreno
6. Richard Darrow
7. Sawyer Merrill
8. Palavilala Taumoepeau
9. Alexander Taefu
10. Iopu Sanonu
11. James Vaifale
12. Christopher Iosefo
13. Kueli Danielson
14. Maceo Brown
15. Lopaka Morris
16. Ruben Villegas
17. David DeMoss
18. Brandon Thompson
19. Michael Bertoni
20. Justin Reeves
21. Austin Sage
22. Vaaifetu Pauga
23. Michael Pettes

Detroit Tradesmen | Men's DII National Championship
1. Pawel Fadanelli
2. Benjamin Wendt
3. Jonathan Zemmer
4. Zachary Pelton
5. Stephen Wolff
6. Todd Shimshock
7. Patrick Keady
8. Conrad Bontrager
9. Kevin Muto
10. Kevin Kreger
11. Adam Saad
12. David Hiltzik
13. Samisoni Hafoka
14. Colin Tucker
15. Eric Jenks
16. Imad Harajly
17. Todd Else
18. Brad Allen
19. Ryan Koenig
20. Michael Maczuga
21. Zachary Gwinn
22. Aaron Peacck
23. Ismail Bazzi