Park City earns playoff ticket
When the Park City Muckers and the Salt Lake Haggis joined forces this year to become the Park City Rugby Football Club, a Division I-level squad, they set their sights on playing well enough to sneak into the playoffs.
Instead, they will be practically running to the USA Rugby National Championship Tournament after soundly beating Back Bay of Newport Beach, Calif. 44-22 on Saturday. The win makes them a three seed in the Competitive Region 1.
"This year has been pretty exciting," said Park City Rugby president Jack Walzer.
In its only lead of the game, Back Bay scored an early-game try to go up 7-0. Park City answered by scoring three converted tries in a row by Ryan Fletcher, Nafetalai Sitake, and Tongia Vaitaki. Back Bay scored on a penalty kick, before Vaitaki scored another try to end the half at 26-10.
"The idea was to put it to these guys early and not let up," Walzer said.
In the second half, Park City scored again off of tries by Matt Anderson, Naki Angilau, and Mike Palefaul
"We kept the pressure on them and let them know we were going to win," Walzer said.
Back Bay managed to rally for a short time and scored two tries and a converted a kick for 12 points. But Park City successfully finished them off with a 3-point penalty kick by Vaitaki to finish with 44 points and a spot in the playoffs.
"Back Bay was unable to contain Park City’s explosive forward pack and fast-paced backline," said Park City’s Jayson Snortland.
Park City was not expecting such a blow out. Back Bay was the 2005 Division I National Championship runner-up, and retained much of their team from last year. Walzer suspected that the drastic change in altitude and playing a tough game against an unseen team had an effect on Back Bay.
Park City was also able to play to a packed crowd of Parkites and Salt Lake fans alike, who were treated to a convincing win and warm weather.
Park City was among five teams selected to travel to the tournament in Columbia, S. C. May 13-14. They enter the tournament as a sixth seed and face Palmer College of Chiropractic in Iowa from Region 3 at the 11th seed in their first matchup. The tournament will be played in a Sweet Sixteen-type format, where teams from across the country will play in single elimination game. If Park City emerges as one of the last four teams standing, they will head to the National Championship Finals in San Diego, Calif. June 3-4.
The biggest challenge ahead for Park City Rugby is preparing to play against some of the country’s best competition and raising the necessary funds to travel down South.
Park City will be a difficult team because of their loose play and creativity. The team is very effective at reacting successfully to in-game situations and often change their plays with ease. Walzer says the biggest preparation the team needs to make is to become more disciplined.
"The more mistakes you make at this level, the more a team will take advantage," Walzer said.
As far as getting 25 members of the team over the Columbia, Park City is well on its way. Thus far Big 4 Distributors, No Name Saloon, Millcreek Plumbing, Park City Market, Identity Properties, Park City Lock and Key, Davanza’s and Park City Sign have all climbed on board. Walzer is hoping to attract a few more in order to defray the travel and accommodation costs for team members in need.
Those interested in sponsorship opportunities may call 640-4850 for more information.
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