Two local rivals, the Washington Rugby Football Club and Northern Virginia, found themselves in the final of the 12-team Cherry Blossom Rugby Tournament yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial fields. And after 80 minutes of what many of the players considered their cleanest and hardest-fought contest of late, Washington came away from the two-day tournament with a 25-9 victory.
"We came out with our best 15 men," said NOVA captain George Wilkenson. "It's a good series and a good rivalry." Washington beat George Washington, 11-3, and NOVA ousted Old Blue of New York City, 12-9, in the semifinals.
In the women's final, the Maryland Stingers of the University of Maryland successfully defended their title by beating the NOVA Vixens, 16-4.
Bill Bernhard, Washington's fullback and kicker, made three penalty kicks, scored a try and twice converted kicks after tries and left wing Chip Henderson scored a try in each half for the winners. NOVA's Frank BePoli scored all nine of his team's points on a drop kick and two penalty kicks.
Bernhard made his first two penalty kicks as Washington took a 6-0 lead. BePoli made it 6-3 when NOVA controlled the ball out of the scrum and he drop kicked from about 30 yards out. Henderson scored a try to give Washington a 10-3 advantage. Bernhard made a penalty kick from just inside the midfield stripe, and BePoli made a penalty kick to make the score 13-6 at the half.
Although BePoli brought NOVA within four at the start of the second half, the team lost forwards Bob Richard and Mike Albrighton to injuries and used both of its allotted substitutions in the first half.
With NOVA feeling the effects of playing in its fourth game in two days, play opened, springing Washington's backs. Henderson picked up a ball at midfield and ran untouched into the try zone. "Three guys just pounded the NOVA back," Henderson said, explaining one of the game's few broken-field runs. Bernhard's kick from directly in front of the goal made it 19-9.