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Tritons headed to rugby finals

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Give Brent Nelson a chance, and the Iowa Central rugby coach is sure to take advantage of it.

After finding out they would be placed in a different division earlier this month, the Tritons didn’t back down.

Iowa Central advanced to the USA Rugby Fall College Playoff DIAA national championship with wins over Bowling Green and Virginia Tech here this weekend.

The Tritons will now meet Western Michigan on Sunday, Dec. 8 in Charlotte for the national title.

“We definitely played with a chip on our shoulder,” Nelson said. “The kids played hard and our defense was incredible all weekend long.

“The kids stepped up on that side as we knew they would have to moving up a division.”

Iowa Central was forced to go from Div. II after placing third last year at nationals following several lopsided victories during this season.

“We knew we had to make sure that we proved ourselves,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t easy being asked to switch divisions like that midway through the season, but our kids accepted the challenge.

“I’m just so proud of them.”

The Tritons topped Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals, 15-12, as Jayden Williams and Tony Robinson scored. Rhys Smith was 1-for-2 on conversions and 1-for-2 on penalty kicks.

“It was a battle in the rain and cold,” Nelson said. “We never really got going against Virgina Tech, but Tony came on late as a fresh sub and dated his way through the defense.

“After that, our offense sort of went to a kneel-down situation and worked the clock.”

Viance Vano, Oliver Kwete and Malik Thomas all scored vs. Bowling Green, the defending national champions. Smith was 2-for-3 on conversions and 2-for-2 on penalty kicks.

“We really challenged our kids and they accepted that challenge,” Nelson said. “Our forwards really dominated.”