Life Chiropractic College West’s men’s rugby team saw one of the biggest turnaround seasons in program history come to an end Saturday in Austin, Texas. The Gladiators fell to the Austin Blacks, 27-21, in their national semifinal clash.
The Blacks came in unbeaten on the 2019 season, had outscored their previous rivals by a combined margin of 722-136, and were playing in front of a passionate home crowd at Burr Field. Near the end of the first half, the Blacks reeled off 12 quick points and, in the process, turned a 7-7 tie into a 19-7 advantage at the break.
However, Life West got right back in the game at the first opportunity. Tim Stanfill received the second-half kick-off and ran it back for a try, reducing the deficit to just five points. The Gladiators cut the margin to just three points later in the half but could get no closer, and the Blacks ultimately prevailed by six points to move on to next month’s national final against Life University’s Running Eagles.
Life West’s Meli Ratumaimuri and Siupeli Sakalia also scored on tries in the contest, while Martini Talapusi made all three two-point conversions he attempted. Additionally, the Gladiators held the electric Austin offensive attack, which had averaged more than 72 points per game prior to Saturday’s contest, to that team’s lowest point total of the season to date.
Plagued by injuries during the 2018 season, the Gladiators won just three games during that campaign. One season later, with a healthier squad that was hungry for success, Life West’s team finished with a 9-3 record and a status as one of the last four programs in its level playing for a national championship. Highlights of the season included a Pacific Rugby Premiership championship, which came with a 36-27 victory over Belmont Shore. This was the same team that had handed the Gladiators their two regular-season defeats.
Next up for Life West’s rugby programs is 7’s season, which takes place this summer. The men and women will be coached by the father/son duo of Adriaan and Devereaux Ferris, and the women will be preparing for their first season in the USA Rugby Women’s Premier League, which is coming up this fall.
For photos from Life West rugby’s trip to the Lone Star State, check out a gallery on the Life West Facebook page.