Furman fought past a physical UNC-Charlotte team 13-5 Thursday night in a game that paves the way for the Paladins to capture the Western Division of the Southern Rugby Conference
Both the 49ers (4-1) and Paladins (6-0) entered game with undefeated records by crushing their opponents with lopsided wins. In the first night college rugby game at Furman since 2000, the Paladins came out determined and took the fight to UNCC early on. Center Adam Miller found the try zone at the 13-minute to give Furman a 5-0 advantage after the missed conversion.
The Furman team seemed to lose momentum midway through the second half when senior center Jacob Milchuck left the game with a shoulder injury. Five minutes later the situation worsened when lock RJ Bradley was sin binned for a rucking violation.
For the final 15 minutes of the first half, Furman failed to muster an offense threat and both teams kept each other in check with fine defensive play.
Early in the second half sophomore Jeffrey Rein connected on a penalty kick to extend the Paladin’s lead to 8-0. With 27 minutes remaining, the 49ers found the corner of the try zone to nip the Furman lead to just three points.
Ten minutes later, though, senior prop Adrian Marcogliese muscled in a try give Furman a 13-5 lead that would hold. Throughout the contest Furman played sound defense but squandered several scoring opportunities in the second half that could have knocked the wind out of the determined UNCC team.
Furman held a strong advantage against UNCC on scrums and lineouts but committed 13 penalties compared to five for UNCC.
“Our defense was really strong tonight,” said Furman Coach John Roberts. “The team showed tremendous heart in pulling out the win against a very solid UNCC team. At the end we had more than a few athletes who were not playing their natural positon.”
Furman enjoys a two-week break and will close out the regular season Oct. 22 at Appalachian. A convincing win against the Mountaineers could give the Paladins the home field advantage in the SRC semi-final game on Oct. 29.