Chicago Lions and Belmont reach US final

The Chicago Lions and Belmont Shore emerged victorious from tough semi-final battles over the weekend and will meet on June 9 in San Diego for the country’s top prize – the USA Rugby Super League Championship.

The Lions staved off a charge by cross-town rivals the Chicago Griffins to eke out a 20-17 win and earn their first trip to the final. They will meet last year’s runners-up, Belmont Shore, who downed a strong San Francisco Golden Gate squad 23-13 to return to the championship match.

In Chicago, Lock Eric Reed got the Lions on the scoreboard early with a first-half try that centre Andrew Tihore converted for a 7-0 lead. The Griffins’ only score of the first half came from a Murray Roeske penalty kick.

Leading 7-3, the Lions came out for the second half with purpose and added another three points with a Tihore penalty kick in the second minute.

Four minutes later, Tihore, who accounted for 15 of the Lions’ points on the day, ran in a try. His conversion kick was good, putting the Lions up 17-3.

Not ready to concede, the Griffins clawed their way back to a 17-17 deadlock through two converted tries. Reserve flanker John Tenconi dotted down 15 minutes into the half and standout center Ryan Westaway went over three minutes later in a flurry of activity from the Griffins. Roeske’s conversions brought the Griffins to 17 and momentum seemed to be on their side.

But with only five minutes to play the Lions’ star of the day, Tihore, kicked a 30-metre penalty to put the Lions up 20-17. From there, the Lions held on and earned their first trip to the Super League final.

They will face a Belmont Shore squad that has not lost this season, beating a very strong San Francisco Golden Gate team twice along the way, including Saturday’s semi-final.

Belmont went up 10-0 on SFGG through a Jason Roache try and two kicks from full-back Peter Galicz. SFGG got on the board with a Roger Tuamoheloa penalty kick just before half-time.

Playing in the absence of USA National Team backline selections Mike Hercus, Vilanese Malifa and Francois Viljoen, fly-half Dallen Stanford made his presence known by intercepting a pass and running the length of the field as the second half got under way.

Down 15-3, SFGG came back with a penalty kick by Tuamoheloa, but Belmont’s Galicz responded in kind and the home side maintained an 18-6 lead.

Former Cal football standout Shaun Paga – one of the league’s strongest runners – ran in a try for SFGG at the 75th minute to cut the lead to 18-13 and set up a nrevous finish.

But with two minutes to play former Collegiate All-American scrum-half Michael Petri ran in a try to seal the win for Belmont Shore.

US Super League semi-final results:

Belmont Shore 23-13 San Francisco Golden Gate
Chicago Lions 20-17 Chicago Griffins

US Super League final:

Belmont Shore v Chicago Lions, Saturday June 9, San Diego

 

365 Digital

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