The North Texas Cowboys participated in our first post season tournament the weekend of March 16-18. It was a new experience for many of the players of the NTC to play Rugby at this level. When we started this season our goal as a team was to be competitive at the tournaments we entered. We surpassed that goal and more when we started winning games. By the time sectionals rolled around we had a new starting line up, a much improved bench and some hard fought victories under our belt. It was time to put the NTC to the test and see if we could make nationals in our first full season. For the NTC to make nationals we would have to accomplish two goals at sectionals. First, we would have to beat two of the three other teams in our pool and finish second in pool play. If we could do that we would advance to the qualifying round and have a shot at playing for nationals. Second, to guarantee advancement to nationals we would have to win our two qualifying round games against the other second place pool play finishers.
The weekend started with a resounding victory over the Jackson Jags. We jumped on the Jags early and never let up. The starting line was pulled before the end of the first quarter and our bench took over. The level of play never dropped as we closed out the Jags in an impressive fashion with a 54 to 18 win. We didn’t have much time to enjoy the victory as we had to play the St Louis Rams, the number 1 seed in the tournament, in just a few hours. In the game against the Rams we started strong matching them goal for goal in the first quarter. We began to lose our focus in the second and the experience of the Rams took over. We continued to fight but the Rams proved too much handing us a 53 – 34 loss. Day one ended with the NTC having 1 win and 1 loss. In order to advance to the qualifying round we would have to win our last pool play game against the Chicago Bears on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning starts with a game against Chicago. In order to achieve our first goal and advance to the qualifying round we must beat the Bears. We have played the Bears before in Jacksonville Florida. In fact, we beat the Bears 46 – 45 in over time to capture our very first team victory. We knew this would be a tough game just like last time we faced the Bears in Jacksonville. Once again we started hot and we never lost focus. We knew what was on the line and the whole team played their hearts out. The improvement in the team was evident as we rolled over the Bears 50 – 34. With goal number one for the weekend accomplished our sights where set on the first game of the qualifying round later in the afternoon.
The Qualifying round started on Saturday afternoon with a game against the Michigan Storm. The Storm was seeded 3rd in the tournament and they have a very solid team. We come out swinging, matching the Storm goal for goal. Then Disaster, we get a flagrant foul called on us. Then two more fouls follow immediately. When it’s all said and done we are down six points. We keep are heads up and finish the first quarter trading goals. In the second quarter match up well but we can’t overcome the six point deficit and the Storm pulled away in the second half. We lose to the Storm 42 – 60 erasing our guaranteed spot at nationals. Our last game of the tournament was on Sunday. If we win this game we would still have the chance to play our way to nationals in a three way play off in April. We are playing the Indy Brawlers a team we know nothing about. We find out soon that they have size and some speed but, we felt like we would match up well with them. Again we started well and lost focus in the second half. We lost to Indy 43-59 and with that loss all chances for nationals were gone. That weekend we played very well at times and we showed just how inexperienced we are at others. Are all star .5 Matt Reynolds earned another best in class award and on a national stage this time. All of our other players got a ton of valuable experience that will serve us well in the seasons to come.
Over all, sectionals and the whole season was a success. During the season we played better than such a new team is expected to play and at sectionals we had ourselves positioned to go to nationals. I am very proud of my team and the way we played this year and I am looking forward to what the future will bring. On behalf of my team I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to RISE Adventures, the sponsors and to all the volunteers that kept us rolling this year. I can not express to all of you enough how much your help means to me and the rest of the North Texas Cowboys! Andy Burton