Saturday Game Rewind: Rugby’s Second Half Outburst Ties Davenport in Big NCR Match

Wheeling, W. Va. – As the month of June ends, we continue to inch closer towards the 2022-2023 season with another exciting year of Cardinals Athletics coming your way. In our final Saturday Game Rewind of June we head back to a cold and windy October afternoon as the Wheeling Rugby team took Bishop Schmitt Field to battle Davenport. The team was at a crossroads of their season after taking two tough losses to Army and Notre Dame before getting a forfeit victory over Kent State to move their record to 4-2. A loss would have made them 4-3 and had them climbing out of a slump, but they were determined and battled their way to a 29-29 tie that moved them to 4-2-1 and seemingly spring boarded their season as they went to two National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) National Championship events and finished as the sixth best team in the country.

October 16th, 2022: Wheeling 29, Davenport 29

Entering the Saturday afternoon contest, Wheeling Rugby was looking to get momentum back on their side after a tough stretch of games. They dropped a road contest to Army and followed that up with another close loss to Notre Dame College. They were supposed to come back home the next week, but injuries forced Kent State to forfeit the game, moving Wheeling to 4-2 on the season. They were getting ready for their toughest opponent to date in a game that could have gone a long way in determining their season. A loss drops their record to 4-3 and leaves them looking for some momentum. However, a win would move them to 5-2 and have them riding high heading into their regular season finale. Guys like Chief Chipfumbu and Ayoub Jalli each had strong starts to the season and we’re looking to help their team out of the funk.

Wheeling took the game’s opening possession and quickly drove the ball down the field against the Panther’s defense. They got the ball down field and Mohamed Haddar took the ball across the goal line for the first try of the day to give Wheeling a 5-0 lead. However, the play was called back due to a penalty and the Cardinals would be erased off the board. The Cardinals would get on the board courtesy of a two-point kick and a three-point kick that would make it a 5-0 Wheeling advantage. Davenport added a three-point kick and halfway through the first half it was 5-3 Wheeling. However, the momentum was swinging in Davenport’s favor as they began to move the ball up the field with precision against the Cardinals.

They scored their first try of the game late in the first half to take a 10-5 lead and the Cardinals would muster another point before halftime but headed into the locker room trailing 10-6. The Cardinals were held off the board for the final 20 minutes of the first half and were looking for a way to generate more offense. After the two straight losses, things were starting to look stale for the Cardinals offense as they tried to find their groove. They were unable to finish possessions in the first half and Head Coach Mike Geibel was looking to make some second half adjustments that would help his team breakthrough and gain some of that momentum back.

It took a little for the offense to get going again in the second half, and Wheeling still trailed 16-9 17 minutes into the half after a try from Davenport and a Wheeling three-point kick. The turning point came when Jose Oltra broke off a big run that landed Wheeling inches from the goal line. They pushed it in and had their first lead of the day at 17-16. The Panthers immediately answered with a three-point kick and led 19-17. The two teams traded tries on the next two possessions as the offenses took over and set up what was going to be a wild final five minutes of play.

Davenport had the ball with just over seven minutes to play and carried it down to the opposing 40-yard line before Wheeling got a big stop and forced a kick. The ball took a Cardinal friendly bounce, and the offense was set up just 15 yards away from the goal line. Three minutes later, Wheeling had advanced the ball five yards, but set up a scrum at the 10-yard line as the game clock kept ticking away with Wheeling trailing 26-22. The Cardinals would win the scrum and had two players nearly cross the goal line. After a turnover scare, that was called back due to a penalty. Chief Chipfumbu picked up the ball and pitched to Rua Karimazondo, who took the ball across the goal line. The ensuing conversion kick made it 29-26 with 4:30 to play. Davenport would get the ball back, but the Wheeling defense held tight forcing them to kick a three-pointer and the game would end in a 29-29 tie.

While it wasn’t a win, the tie still kept Wheeling going in the right direction as their record moved to 4-2-1 on the season. The offense showed a spark at the end of the game and the Cardinals went on to win their next three straight contests, including the NCR Rhino Rugby Bowl National Championship. It was Karimazondo’s third try of the season, but one of the biggest ones of the year for the team as they went on to have the best season in program history.

We kick off July’s editions of Saturday Game Rewind with America’s Past time next week as we look at Wheeling Baseball’s come from behind victory to end the season against West Liberty. Check back every Saturday afternoon as we highlight another big game from the 2021-2022 athletic year.

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