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Union U18 Boys Win State Championship!

Posted on 5/27/2018 by Mudturtle Rugby |   Return To Blog

The Union Mudturtles and the Jersey Shore Sharks set the stage for a very exciting championship game.

Union wanted to return to the top spot after a championship loss last year. They prepared well, by playing many highly regarded teams in numerous tournaments including the HS Championships 2 weeks ago. The Jersey Shore Sharks played 3 games in 2 weeks to pull through the playoffs and beat 2ndseeded Morris Rugby to secure a championship spot.

The Union County Mudturtles faced off against the Jersey Shore Sharks in the Blue Division - Community-based Championship game this past Saturday. The Union team, the Community-based number 1 seed, came out strong in the first half moving the ball wide and forcing the Sharks to spread out their defense. At the six-minute mark, the Mudturtles were able to move the ball into the Sharks 22. By lining up the forwards wide, it forced the Sharks to defend the rucks out a little further, giving junior scrumhalf Sean MacLaney a gap, which he took. After breaking thru a tackle, MacLaney was able to put the first score of the game on the board. Senior center Ryan Rhatigan converted.

The Jersey Shore team fought back deep into the Mudturtle end and were awarded a penalty, which they put through the posts making the score 7-3. The Mudturtles were able to bounce back by attacking the Jersey Shore wings and forcing turnover errors. After some strong ball handling, the Union team knocked on the door as Jersey Shore defended well. Eventually, the Mudturtles were able to form a quick ruck 7 meters out from the Jersey Shore try line and with fast hands move the ball through flyhalf Ryan Dones who delivered a pop pass to senior captain Sebastian Morales who pounded in the score. Rhatigan was able to convert.

In a mirror image of the last try, the Mudturtles were able to move back up the field and use the same type of quick hands play to deliver the ball into Rhatigan's hands who lunged over the try line for the score, which he also converted.

At the half, Union was ahead 21-3.

The Jersey Shore team refused to lie down as they battled back early and hard against the Union side in the second half. Down a player due to a yellow card, the Sharks were able to get on the board quickly. Junior Flyhalf Evan Burton took the opening restart all the way down to just outside the Union try line. The Mudturtles were able to jackal the ball but immediately committed a costly penalty giving Jersey Shore the ball back only 10 meters outside the Union try zone. After a series of a dozen crash balls by the Sharks, the frustrated Union team were penalized, which the Jersey Shore scrumhalf took quickly and scissored the Jersey Shore center who pounded in the short-handed try. The Sharks went on to convert bringing the score to 21-10.

The Sharks continued to pound against the Union team with a series of crash balls. Each crash ball inched the powerful Sharks down the field. Eventually, they were able to pound it into the try zone. The Sharks closed the gap to 21-15. The Jersey Shore team upon receiving the kickoff continued to pound their forward runners with the ball. After a questionable call by the referee, which saw Prop Jordan Barham receiving a yellow card for a high tackle, that the film revealed was clearly not one, the Mudturtles were down a man. Dones was also called for another penalty after the Jersey Shore player threw him to the ground. Dones was issued a second card within 30 seconds of the prior card giving the Sharks a 2-man overload. Burton was able to take advantage of a depleted Union team by running up the middle after receiving a kick and swerving his way deep into Union territory. As he was getting tackled, Burton was able to offload to his scrumhalf who put it over the line for the score. After the conversion, this gave the Jersey Shore team the lead, 22-21, with less than 9 minutes to go.

The Mudturtles were able to survive the remaining card advantage and get back to full strength. After a try saving tackle by winger Cole Zuckerman, the Mudturtles pulled things together to fight their way back into the game. Instead of going for points 15 meters outside the Jersey Shore try line because injured kicker Rhatigan had to leave the game, the Mudturtles choose to run it in. A quick series of pop passes saw the ball in Dones hands who was able to break thru the Jersey Shore defense for the score. MacLaney was able to convert the kick with a drop goal making the final score 28-22.

Final Score Union 28 – Jersey Shore 22