Super League gets all-Chicago semi-final

Chicago rugby fans will get the USA Rugby Super League semi-final match they were dreaming of when the Lions and Griffins go head-to-head two weeks from now for a shot at the league championship final.

The winner will face one of two strong California sides – quarter-final winners Belmont Shore or San Francisco Golden Gate.

Playing in consecutive matches at the annual Chicago Ball Tournament in Lemont, the Lions and the Griffins downed Old Mission Beach Athletic Club and New York AC respectively to earn their trips to the semis.

The first match saw OMBAC and the Lions go back and forth in a well-contested first half before the Lions pulled away in the second 40 minutes and notched a 46-28 victory.

In the second match, NYAC got on the board first, but the Griffins went ahead in the 26th minute with a Matt Koch try and never relinquished the lead. The Griffins’ 28-15 win continued their surprising run in this, their first season since being promoted to the Super League.

The White Conference champion Lions moved full-back Jeremy Nash to fly-half in place of Scott Peterson, who is on tour with the US Eagles national team in England.

Nash adjusted well, scoring two tries, while outside center Andrew Tihore contributed 26 points through a try, three conversions and five penalty kicks.

OMBAC – without four top players selected to the Eagles’ Churchill Cup squad – managed four tries from four different players and kept the match tight until late in the second half. Star full-back Evan Haigh accounted for eight points from two penalty kicks and a conversion for OMBAC.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were the key for the Lions, who racked up 16 unanswered points through three Tihore penalties and a try from Nash to go up 34-21.

OMBAC center Riaan Hamilton scored one try for the defending champs, but it wasn’t enough to get back into the match.

Having watched their hometown rivals advance, the Griffins came out inspired.

The Blue Conference champions went down early when NYAC made the best of a turnover, moving the ball to space and putting prop Troy Bartley away for a try.

But the Griffins scored the next 16 points to close out the half, and in the end that was all they would need.

Hooker Steve Petzel and speedy wing Dave “Wheels” Whelan added second-half tries, one of which center Murray Roeske converted, to give Chicago the 28-15 win.

On the West Coast, Belmont Shore scored the first 20 points and ended the Dallas Harlequins’ surprising season 20-10.

Wing Iopu Sanonu kicked a penalty and scored a try while center Peter Sio and flanker Caine Elisara added tries and Jason Roache kicked one conversion for undefeated Belmont Shore.

Dallas earned a penalty try in the waning moments and center Vaughn Crowe booted one penalty and a conversion for the Harlequins’ ten points.

San Francisco Golden Gate downed Old Blue 38-20 , with tries by full-back Andy Aitken (2), flanker Danny La Prevotte, wing Toshi Palamo and prop Jason Bowden.

365 Digital

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