The Tigers control play to set up playoff final versus Lincoln Saturday at Delta Park

PORTLAND — Coming off a difficult 39-22 loss to Lakeridge that knocked his team from third to sixth in the final standings, Newberg head coach Rick Rogers didn’t know how his team would respond to being knocked out of the Cup playoff (top four teams) and into the Plate playoff (teams in fifth through eighth).

After all, a week prior to the Lakeridge loss, the Tigers had upset second-place Reynolds in its best performance of the season.

Rogers was a bit worried after Newberg controlled play in the opening five minutes Saturday, but surrendered a quick counter-attack try to fall behind SETH GORDON - Strike a pose - Senior Jacob Hooker attempts to maneuver past two Central Catholic defenders Saturday during Newberg's 27-15 win at Delta Park. The Tigers will face Lincoln Saturday in the Rugby Oregon Boys Varsity Premiership Plate final.

The Tigers quickly eased the mind of their head coach, responding with back-to-back tries and two Ian Halstead conversion kicks in the following 10 minutes to grab a 14-5 lead.

Newberg went on to score 27 straight points before the Rams got on the board again the final minutes to earn a 27-15 victory Saturday at Delta Park.

“I wish I could figure it out, but they’re so up and down,” Rogers said. “One week they’ll be great and the next they’re just flat. I’m not sure why, but hopefully they’ve figured it out and we’ll finish up strong in the next match.”

The Tigers (5-4) were constantly threatening to score in the first half, but Jarrett Whittington finally broke through for a try to tie the match and Halstead nailed a long conversion kick from a difficult angle to make it 7-5.

Just two minutes, later Jacob Hooker stole a Catholic Central pass and scooted 30 yards for a second try and Halstead was true on his kick once again to make it 14-5.

Hooker, who has terrorized opponents the past two weeks, nearly added a second try, but was denied just short of the try line. Shortly after, the Rams kicked the ball out of bounds and when the ensuing line out (a throw-in to restart play) went past both Newberg and Central Catholics catchers, Hooker was there to collect the ball and made a deft scoring run to make it 19-7 at halftime.

Hooker has scored eight tries in his past three games and has 12 for the season, which is a Newberg record.

“If you can go out and average more than a try a match, that’s pretty good,” Rogers said. “He’s just tearing it up.”

After kicking off to the Rams, the Tigers block an attempted clearing kick deep in Catholic Central territory, eventually setting up the most notable play off the game.

Following a restart, Halstead received a pass in the middle of the field, about 25 to 30 yards from the try line. After faking a run to his left, he stopped and executed a perfect drop kick, which is perhaps the rarest play in high school rugby, splitting the uprights to make it 22-5.

“That was just phenomenal,” Rogers said. “In seven years of this, I’ve seen that one other time and oddly enough it was the week before that a kid did it to us. Nobody from Newberg’s ever done that.”

After pounding the ball with its forwards for a stretch, the Tigers caught the Rams off guard by quickly swinging the ball out wide, where Dakota Heath got around the corner to score his team’s final try.

“I liked it when we were varying the attack,” Rogers said. “I thought we did that really well.”

Catholic Central took advantage of a tiring and perhaps too relaxed Newberg defense to score a pair of tries in the final five minutes, including one on the last play of the game.

The Tigers will now face Lincoln, a 28-27 upset winner over fifth-place Battle Ground, for the Plate championship at 10:30 a.m. at Delta Park. Newberg won the regular-season match up 10-0.

“I think they’ll be confident, too, and ready to play,” Rogers said. “(It) should be a fun match.”

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