Norwich Rugby Downs Furman and advance to Final Four
GREENVILLE, S.C. - The Norwich University men's rugby team rallied from three different 17-point deficits to pull off a dramatic 60-41 overtime victory over Furman University in the 2019 USA Rugby Division II National Tournament Quarterfinals.
Norwich (8-2) punched its ticket to its third USA Rugby Division II Final Four appearance in the last four years with its eighth straight victory.
The Cadets trailed 41-24 with 15 minutes remaining in the second half, but rattled off three straight tries, including scoring on the final play of the second half and retaining the ball for 80 meters to punch it in for the score with Kyle Clark (Pataskala, Ohio) finally touching the ball down. Jeffrey Minicucci (Bolton, Conn.) added the successful conversion from straight on with no time left to tie the match at 41-41 to complete the dramatic comeback.
Senior Nate Rolling (Taylorsville, Utah) continued his remarkable season, totaling five tries to bring his total to 21 on the year to lead the Norwich offense. Clark added three more tries, while Jonah Fanuef scored one as well. Minicucci had one penalty kick and six conversions to account for 15 points.
Norwich scored two tries in the first 10-minute overtime with Fanuef touching down and Rolling scoring his fourth of the day. Rolling then capped the scoring in the second overtime with a try off a line out on the final play of overtime to take the 60-41 victory over the No. 2-ranked Paladins on their home field.
Furman held leads of 24-7, 34-17 and 41-24, but it couldn't hold off a resilient Norwich squad that kept rallying back time after time.
Furman sprinted out to a 24-7 lead with Rolling scoring the lone try in that run to break up the Paladins' offensive barage. Clark ended the first half with the final try and Minicucci hit a conversion to cut the Furman lead to 24-14 heading into the halftime break.
Both teams converted on penalty kicks to open the second half scoring to make it 27-17. Furman then scored two of the next three tries to take a 41-24 lead with Rolling scoring the lone Cadet try in the middle.
In the final 15 minutes, Clark scored twice and Rolling scored once to complete the improbable comeback. Rolling scored to make it 41-34 with 1:19 left and then Clark scored the game-tying try on the final play to tie the match at 41-all following Minicucci's conversion.
Norwich advances to the national semifinals where it will meet Queens University of Charlotte for the second straight year in the national tournament. Queens defeated Norwich 29-26 in the round of 16 en route to a fourth-place finish. The final four will be hosted in Charlotte, N.C. on Dec. 7 and 8.