Fresno Match Report - 6-4-11
Written by Ian McNulty   

Fresno Match Report - 6/4/11

NORFC 38 - 17 Fresno

The air is always thin up here in the mountain city of Glendale, Colo. But today it was the determined effort, the tenacious unity and the historic achievement of the New Orleans Rugby Football Club that took people’s breath away.
On its first ever trip to the USA Rugby final four, the NORFC earned a decisive 38-17 victory over the Fresno RFC of California to advance to the national championship round on Sunday, June 5. The team faces South rival Tampa Krewe for this national title match in the Infinity Park stadium, the premier rugby venue in the U.S.
The game kicks off at 2:30 pm New Orleans time (1:30 pm Mountain Time in Glendale). NORFC sponsor Finn McCool’s Irish Pub will show a live broadcast of the game, so all fans back home should wear their colors and support together. The game will be streamed live here:
The New Orleans fan base came out strong for today’s groundbreaking match. The sideline was yellow with NOLA Rugby T-shirts and the ladies in our corner had their own custom NORFC parasols to wave in support. Together, they kept the sideline vocal and engaged during scrums and clutch defensive stands.  See a clip of supporters and the team’s victorious march off the pitch here:
While the team’s attention is now firmly fixed on the ultimate challenge tomorrow, today’s performance has earned a place in NORFC lore and deserves a detailed report.
“We came out fast and furious, like we always want to, and we kept building from there,” says NORFC head coach Jerry Malina. “Fresno never gave up and they kept the pressure on the whole game, but we were able to build on our lead and carry the game. I’m extremely proud of this team’s performance today. We know why we’re here and what we can accomplish together.”
The victory began with a quick strike just half a minute into the game when Ross “Screech” Bellaci drove the ball deep into Fresno territory. From a ruck, Jeff Reuther passed the ball out to a hard-charging Mauricio Urrutia who offloaded along the sideline to Alex Phillpot for the first try. Urrutia converted and we were off to a 7-0 start.  
Soon, New Orleans was attacking again behind the Fresno 22 meter line and after a determined effort to force the ball in at the corner the squad shifted direction and got it out wide. Jarrett Falcon took it forward on a 15-meter run, breaking tackles and dragging surprised defenders to reach the goal line. Another conversion by Urrutia made the score 14-0 after about seven minutes of play.
The New Orleans forwards were handling the Fresno pack, and after one particularly strong scrum the team picked up a penalty kick which Urrutia made good for a 17-0 lead. Fresno soon had its own chance for a penalty but the ball went wide.
However lopsided the early scoring, this opponent persistently threatened in New Orleans territory but for the most part the NORFC was able to keep them outside of its red zone. Joel McLain made a key interception to diffuse one serious run and soon a combined defensive effort would also prove out. A big Fresno runner made a huge break and looked certain to score, but a contingent of backs ran him down at the side line, Screech made the tackle and the ball went loose high in the air where Reuther was there to catch it. From a feigned kick, Reuther ran it forward some 30 meters back into Fresno territory, offloading to Phillpot who then pitched it to Matt Lytle for some more distance before the ruck. A penalty at the next breakdown set up Urrutia for another penalty kick. It brought the score to 20-0 and by turning a potential Fresno try into more New Orleans points it made a thundering statement.
With the half winding down, New Orleans picked up another try when Urrutia caught a Fresno chip kick and ran it back untouched past disorganized defenders to score. He converted too, giving the NORFC a 27-0 lead, but it turned out that Fresno would have the last word in the half. After a goal line battle in the corner, Fresno brought the ball wide and hammered in its first try, though the conversion sailed wide, ending the half at 27-5.  
After the halftime break, New Orleans restarted the game on its own terms, again attacking deep and bringing up a penalty opportunity to extend things to 30-5. A subsequent penalty score upped it to 33-5.  But when Fresno had an opportunity to score this determined opponent capitalized on it, driving through the middle for a try to tighten things to 33-10. Soon enough, though, New Orleans found a way to answer, charging once again on their goal line and surfing the ball through hands to Phillpot for a try in the corner for a score of 38-10.
Fresno came knocking again, but after a series of attacks Matt Upton poached the ball from under them and Reuther kicked it out of dodge.?Now in the last 20 minutes of play, Fresno was back for an extended run on the New Orleans goal and did this time turn it into points with a try and a conversion. That brought things to 38-17. But with reserves pouring on and the clock winding down the writing was on the wall.
At the final whistle, New Orleans was victorious and its date with destiny in the national final round was set.
In the following semifinal game, on the same pitch, Tampa Krewe and the Old Aztecs RFC of San Diego brawled at each other in a match that came down to the wire and ended with a Tampa victory.

Halftime Score - New Orleans  27 - 5 Fresno

Final Score - New Orleans 38 - 17 Fresno

New Orleans Gold 
1) Matt Upton; 2) Wes Eustis; 3) Sean Malek; 4) Matt Lytle; 5) Ben Benvenutti; 6) Rob Hoffman; 7) Ryan Fitzgerald; 8) Jarrett Falcon; 9) Joel Mclain (c); 10) Jeff Reuther; 11) Alex Phillpott; 12) Pat Kennedy; 13) Saade Bou-Mikael; 14) Mauricio Urrutia; 15) Ross Bellaci; 16) Adam Massey; 17) Tony Breaux; 18) Nick Benvenutti; 19) Paul Bode; 20) Chris Beacher; 21) Seth Magden; 22) Ricky Decastro; 23) Nick Raziano
Tries (4): Phillpott (2), Falcon, Urrutia 
Cons (3): Urrutia (3 for 4)
Pens (4): Urrutia (4 for 4) 

Copyright © 2010 New Orleans Rugby Football Club. All Rights Reserved.  A busbeepbeep production. Some images by Mark Steve Guillory.