Monday, April 14, 2014
When you’ve been waiting four years, what’s 10 more minutes?
Wando rugby defeated Greenville, 10-3, in the state championship game Saturday at Furman University in Greenville to earn the program’s first title in its four-year history.
Regulation expired with the Warriors leading, but the officials added 10 minutes of extra time. Greenville threatened inside Wando’s 22-meter line with an aggressive attack throughout the bonus minutes, but the Warriors defense held solid to preserve the title win.
“It was like a 10-minute goal-line stand,” Wando head coach Tod Shepherd said. “Our defensive front was unbelievable.”
Greenville scored off a penalty kick 15 minutes into the game to hand Wando (10-0) its first deficit of the season. Junior Sam Huthwaite countered almost immediately for Wando, scoring a try 50 seconds later from five meters out to put Wando on top, 5-3.
Before the end of the first half, sophomore Jon Cummins added a second score from 10 meters out wide on the wing to send Wando into halftime with a 10-3 lead.
“As soon as Greenville scored, we knew what to do,” Shepherd said. “We kicked off deep, turned the ball over, applied pressure right away and kicked it up a notch to keep that pressure on them.”
Greenville ramped up its attack in the second half, searching for points but was shut down by the Warriors stronghold. Defensemen Sean Kiernan, Austin Clark, Ryan Moody and Micah Stewart led the blockade with one-on-one tackles against Greenville’s larger players to preserve the lead through the second half and extra minutes.
“Those guys made solo tackle after solo tackle,” Shepherd said. “I can’t believe some of the tackles we made.”
The win marks the second time this season Wando has defeated perennial power Greenville and completes a perfect season for the Warriors. Fifteen seniors will graduate from this season’s team, including a core group who helped start the program as freshmen four years ago.
“This is for the kids,” Shepherd said. “I wanted it so badly for the kids because I know how hard they’ve worked. It really was a special group. They’ll have this to look back on for the rest of their lives.”