San Mateo 5
A jubilant Patrick Culleton, treasurer of the club and native of Glenmore, Co. Kilkenny, was presented the winning plaque by flanker captain Jason Rose on behalf of coach Steve Teasdale and the entire victorious squad. In July 1991, Culleton suffered a neck injury and was paralyzed in a friendly game for the Wolfhounds on Martha’s Vineyard.
San Mateo, the two-time defending national champion, seemed a bit surprised by the power of the Wolfhounds, who play in the Northeast Rugby Football Union’s Premier Division. The match was marked by dynamic, powerful and physical play. The Irish started the match with steady pressure from both the front and back lines getting on the scoreboard first, scoring a try by Ed Koss at 6 minutes. Although the conversion was missed, David Williams scored a penalty kick for the Irish at the 15-minute mark and the Wolfhounds superbly defended their try zone, successfully pushing back all attempts from San Mateo to score during the first half. Another good penalty kick from Williams brought the score to 11-0 with the highlight of the first half coming from John Dalton, who drop-kicked for a dramatic goal at the 30th minute of play. The first half ended with Boston comfortably in the lead, 14-0.
San Mateo went into the Final Four weekend odds-on favorites to make it a three-peat, but the club from the San Francisco Bay Area didn’t anticipate the ferocious competition provided by the Wolfhounds. For San Mateo, their efforts were led by former U.S. Eagle Vaea Anitoni, who was talked out of retirement to help guide the team’s new, young recruits.
Physical play continued in the second half, marked by hard tackles, and the Wolfhounds never let up on their defensive aggression. San Mateo responded with the same intensity. The only score in the second half came from San Mateo Josese Savali, who found a small opening in the Irish defense running the ball in for the try in the 17th minute. The corner conversion kick was missed, and the match ended with the Boston Irish winning their first National Division I Club Championship title.
Boston’s David Williams was named Most Valuable Player for the Division I Championships match.
In the semifinal, Boston Irish had won the contest against Worcester RFC, the other New England side to reach this level of the competition. The score 10-8 reflected a close match in what has become the trademark of all recent games between the two. Two tries by Aussie Dave Mannion and Providence local Mike Liberatore helped secure victory over Worcester.