Newberg pounds Battle Ground
With four teams vying for the last three spots in the Rugby Oregon state playoffs, the postseason picture was anything but clear entering the final weekend of the regular season.
All the Newberg boys rugby team knew was that it needed a win over Battle Ground at home Saturday to stay in the hunt.
Aside from surrendering the opening try of the contest, the Tigers left little doubt, scoring 29 unanswered points to roll to a decisive 29-5 victory at Renne Field.
"I think this will give us a lot of momentum to keep pushing through," senior Geoff Carstensen said. "We need to overcome some injuries and we'll be good to go."
The Bulls entered the contest tied for second place, having lost by three points to league-leading Prairie, and looked the part in taking the lead early. Using their size advantage up front, the visitors kept their forward pack tight and pushed their way over the try line for a 5-0 lead.
Newberg answered back almost immediately, with Carstensen breaking through the middle of the Battle Ground line for a big gain. That drew in the defense, helping Cam Sutton to reach the corner flag and tie the game 5-5 after the Tigers swung the ball out wide.
Newberg took advantage of a Bulls foul and a good kick to set up deep in Battle Ground territory, setting up a second try, with Camrin Pilcher hitting the conversion kick to make it 12-5.
Sutton added a second try shortly before halftime to bump the lead to 17-5, but the Bulls struggled to gain traction with their forward line after the opening possession, rarely pushing deep into the Tigers' end of the field.
"We learned that they were hitting the sides really well, so we had to get low," Carstensen said. "We got low, got it out to the backs and did some magic. It just happened to work out today. They're a really tough team, so it's a good win."
Newberg could have built an even more commanding lead if not for some unfortunate turnovers and fouls near the Battle Ground try line, but a nice kick return by Sutton set up a score by Pilcher that made it 22-5 early in the second half.
"He's a natural," Newberg coach Rick Rogers said of Sutton. "He's a strong runner. He's one of these one-and-done seniors that I wonder where they've been for three years."
The Tigers tacked on another try by Max Boenisch for good measure and senior prop Isaiah Parker nailed a difficult conversion kick to seal a complete performance.
Despite Newberg's win the playoff picture actually got cloudier, in part because Reynolds topped Oregon City 36-24, which left the Tigers, Bulls, Raiders and Pioneers all tied for second place with 23 points.
Newberg's (5-1-1) was awarded the No. 2 seed in the four-team state championship, but as of Tuesday morning, Rugby Oregon was still reviewing the playoff seeding for Battle Ground (5-2), Reynolds (5-2) and Oregon City (5-2).
The Tigers are scheduled to play their state semifinal at 9 a.m. Saturday at Delta Park, with No. 1 Prairie (7-0) slotted into the other.
"We're going to work on fundamentals and make sure everyone is 100 percent solid," Carstensen said. "Then it will depend on who we play next."