Four Teams Remain
The AMNRL’s Atlantic Conference is down to the business end of the season and in the first week of playoffs the PA Bulls and the Connecticut Wildcats reigned supreme over their opposition.
In scorching conditions the Bulls ended the Northern Raiders Championship hopes with a 30-20 victory. The Bulls started the match slowly and at the end of the first quarter the scores were locked up at 4-4. In the second quarter the Bulls started to gain momentum and headed into the halftime break with a 12 point lead. The lead was maintained throughout the second stanza as the Raiders failed to make any significant inroads.
Kevin Wiggins and Corey Mayo were once again standouts for the Bulls, while Alejandro Valentin and John Grace were also impressive.
The heat may have attributed to the slow start by the Bulls but as coach David Niu told WeAreRugby the win was attributed to the team’s ability to stay focused. “We struggled in the heat during the first part of the match but we stuck to our game plan and were too powerful in the end.”
The Bulls will look to continue their impressive post season form next week when they take on the Connecticut Wildcats for a spot in the Grand Final.
In the second Quarterfinal match, the Connecticut Wildcats held off a fast finishing Bucks County Sharks outfit securing a 44-36 victory.
The Wildcats continued where they left off last week and it looked as though the match would be a blowout when they took a 22-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Matt Walsh and Michael Goward were once again in the thick of the action. The Wildcats duo scored five tries between them in a match that turned out to be a tale of two halves.
One Sharks player who has had no trouble rising to the occasion in recent weeks is back rower Zac Padgett. The 37 year old has turned back the clock in recent matches and the inspirational leader took up the challenge once again, scoring 3 tries as the Sharks surged back into the match. The fight back took the Sharks to within four points of the Wildcats before tries to Cunz and that man Walsh put the game out of reach.
Sharks player/coach Phil Shipos was at a loss after the match, struggling to come to terms with the outcome. As he told WeAreRugby “It was an absolute heart breaker for our boys today. It was a three hour trip to Connecticut once again in really hot conditions and we come away with a loss by just the one try. It makes you think of all the "what if" moments of the game.”
The Sharks will have one last shot at redemption when they take on the defending champions the New York Knights next week with the winner also securing a spot in the Grand Final.
Tries: Andrew Kneisly, Kevin Wiggins, Louis Tulio, Mike Brazil, Alejandro Valentin, Corey Mayo
Goals: John Grace (3)
Tries: Zac Rodda (2), Mick Esdale, Freddy Vero
Goals: Joel Venables, Matt Reilly
Tries: Matt Walsh (3), Michael Goward (2),Curtis Cunz (2)Giovanni Salinas
Goals: Matt Walsh (6)
Tries:Padgett (3), Dan Johnson, Steve Tormey, Jeff Pesature, Ryan Sodano
Goals: Steve Thompson (4)
Next Week’s Semi Finals
Bulls v Wildcats
Knights v Sharks
AMNRL Grand Final XV – August 18th