June 7, 2017
Austin Huns Edge New York Athletic Club to Win National Championship
Three tries, two penalty kicks, and eighty minutes later, the Austin Huns become the number one team in the nation and the rugby Men’s Division 1 National Champions, the only Texas club to accomplish this feat in the 21st century, and only the second time in USA Rugby history. This accomplishment is 45 years in the making, and the Huns couldn’t be more excited to bring home the only gold medals in rugby, to Austin, Texas. The Austin Huns beat 5-time national champions (most recently in 2015), New York Athletic Club, 27-23 in a thriller that will be remembered for ages.
The highly anticipated matchup between the east and west did not disappoint. It was a world-class match from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, as the top two teams in the nation battled it out for the crown. “It was a brilliant final. The standard of rugby was on par with other parts of the world,” said Eugene Eloff, Head Coach of the Austin Huns. With only minutes left in the game and down 3 points to NYAC, the Austin Huns displayed what they have all season, calm under pressure. “The character of our team came through, even when down they never panicked. That’s one great attribute about this team, they never panic, and that’s why we won this game,” said Eloff.
New York found themselves leading 6-0 just fifteen minutes into the match, but it would not be long before the Huns found themselves on the board after fly-half Timothee Guillimin converted a penalty kick in the 20th minute. Five minutes later we saw the first try of the match, which came by the hands of hooker Peter Malcolm. The next twenty minutes featured breathtaking displays of defense from both teams, but it was the Huns who won the battle at the line, keeping NYAC out of the try zone twice. With no time left in the half, Austin Huns 8-man, Deon Minnaar scored the second try of the match, while Guillimin’s conversions gave the Huns the 17-6 lead going into the half.
NYAC opened the second half firing on all cylinders. “Their defense was tight, the players were motivated,” said Eloff. After stealing the Austin Huns lineout, NYAC was able to spin the ball wide and score in the corner, closing their deficit to 17-13. A high tackle by Austin in 50th minute led to a third converted penalty kick by NYAC, score 17-16. The Huns brought on Todd Clever and CJ de Wet, who immediately added defense pressure and an explosion on offense. Nevertheless, the Austin Huns found themselves down, 23-17, in the 72nd minute after a try by NYAC.
The Austin Huns final drive was ignited by team captain Lomani Tongotongo, who broke through NYAC’s defense and offloaded to vice-captain and finals MVP Hanco Germishuys, who rumbled down the field and put the Huns just meters away from the try line. NYAC regrouped quickly, but seconds later found themselves on their back foot while on the receiving end of the Huns powerful maul. The Austin Huns spun the ball wide into the hands of Tongotongo, who again broke through the defense and took a few NYAC players on a ride. The ball got to fullback Martin Knoetz, who drew two defenders, and passed to wing Sani Taylor, who dove through two players and scored the game-winning try for the Austin Huns!
“I’m speechless. It’s unreal for me,” Germishuys, 20, told www.usarugby.org of the MVP award. “We put so much hard work in here; each and every one of these guys deserves all of this. Every guy in this team had a role. We were anxious but so pumped.”
“I’m very proud of the boys, and I want to thank everyone behind the scenes who make this team successful. A special thank you to USN and the supplements provided for the season. And so the season comes to an end, and for me as a coach this a personal highlight of my coaching career. In your time as a coach you win trophies, you lose battles, and that is what coaching is about. Teach people to become better people, and they actually portray that on the field. Seeing this Huns group grow game by game, training session by training session, in terms of leadership, skills, and fitness, it was an incredible journey,” said Eloff.
The Austin Huns look to take this year’s success into next season as they gear up to compete in the newly formed professional rugby league, Major League Rugby.
Up next for the Austin Huns is Seven’s season. The club will be looking to repeat as Red River Rugby Champions and possibly a national championship. The first tournament for the Huns is just two weeks out as the club competes in the 20thAnnual Bloodfest 7’s tournament. More info and registration can be found at austinhunsrugby.com/bloodfest.
About Austin Huns Rugby
The Austin Huns Rugby Football Club was founded in 1972 as one of the first rugby clubs of its kind in central Texas. For more than 40 years, the Huns have developed an organization and a culture that have produced winning teams, first class coaches and players, and a training and competition facility that is unmatched by any other in the region. The club is dedicated to developing athletes for national and international rugby competition, who are also constructive and contributing members of the community. The Austin Huns take pride in their contributions to improving the City of Austin and the culture of athleticism in the United States. Visit www.austinhunsrugby.com for more information.