BOULDER, Colo. – Saint Mary’s 21-6 victory over life in the National Championship match capped a very exciting D1A Playoffs. Sure, there were a few blowouts, but plenty of teams earned valuable experience needed to close the gap that sits between college’s elite and those knocking on the door.
With the best of the best butting heads during the D1A Playoffs, some truly impressive student athletes played terrific rugby during the postseason.
Here is a list making up the 2014 D1A All-Playoff Team for the forward positions:
Paris Hollis, Life: Hollis is an imposing force on the pitch. He makes his presence felt in each and every match. The former powerlifter will be especially important to the Running Eagles’ success up front next season as Life is due to lose fellow front rowers Zach Walker and OJ Auimatagi to graduation.
Angus MacLellan: Davenport: The All-American has been receiving high grades all season from opposing coaches in the Mid-South. MacLellan’s combination of fitness and talent at prop should have him undoubtedly on the national team’s radar.
Ryan Pratt, Saint Mary’s: If it was a secret before the 2014 D1A Playoffs, then the secret should be out by now – Saint Mary’s has incredibly talented forwards to go with its dynamic backline. The Gael’s front three was especially strong, and Pratt not only was a force with his size, but the senior scored two tries in the Quarterfinals against Santa Clara and one in the Semifinals against Lindenwood.
Dino Waldren, Saint Mary’s: Waldren loves mixing it up at the breakdown, but the big man seems to equally enjoy taking the ball going forward. Saint Mary’s dangerous backline would not have nearly the space to work with if players like Waldren did not grind out the tough meters in midfield. The junior also had a try apiece in the Gaels’ Quarterfinal and Semifinal wins.
OJ Auimatagi, Life: The forwards captain for the country’s No. 2-ranked team missed some time due to injury early in 2014. Luckily for Life, Auimatagi returned in time to be in terrific form for the D1A Playoffs. Auimatagi’s leadership and on-field play was a huge lift to Life’s starting XV, and the California native even managed to find the try zone against Colorado in the Quarterfinal.
Gabe Sochanek, Davenport: Not shy about handling the dirty work up front, Sochanek is just as valuable as an attacking ball carrier. The AIG All-American contributed to Davenport’s back-and-forth win over Army with a long try-scoring break down the middle of the field that centers dream about making.
Jake Anderson, Life: There may not have been a forward in D1A that had a better season than Anderson. The large unit does it all: tackles, runs and controls the lineout. Anderson continued his blistering season into the Playoffs and scored a try in the Running Eagles’ win in the Quarterfinal over Colorado.
Connor Cook, Arkansas State: Not too often will you see a lock handling kicking duties, especially on a team with as much experience as the Red Wolves, but that is the unique kind of player Cook is. After totaling 13 points against Cal Poly in the Quarterfinal, Cook made a massively-important play in the Semifinal. Struggling to make gains against Life’s swarming defense, Cook managed to break free for a long run down the sideline, putting the Running Eagles on the back foot, which would lead to a try by Tom Haussrer, and put the Red Wolves within grasps of an upset.
Jeff Ferebee, Army: It takes a special type of player to captain an Army side, and that is exactly what Ferebee is. Against Davenport in the first round of the Playoffs, Ferebee scored two tries, each one giving West Point a lead. Unfortunately for Army, Ferebee’s second try looked like a game-winner before the Panthers were able to strike once more in the final minute.
Guido Murnig, Colorado: Playing with a separated shoulder, Murnig helped the Buffs’ efforts with a first-half try against San Diego State in the first round of the Playoffs. When a lot of players might deem themselves incapable of playing, Murning braced his shoulder and brought the physicality required for Colorado to hang with Life for 40 minutes.
Steyn Benade, Arkansas State: In many ways Benade was a breakout player for the Red Wolves. His steady play in a physically-tough conference made him a favorite amongst coaches. Benade’s consistency lasted throughout Arkansas State’s run to the Semifinal, which probably played a part in being named the team’s MVP.
Collum Magee, Army: After missing out on its East Conference matches in the fall due to a program-wide suspension, West Point made up for lost time with a streak of wins in 2014. Magee proved that any potential cobwebs had been swiped clean, as he poured in two tries against Davenport in the Playoffs.
Hiko Malu, Life: Playing amongst a rather experienced group of forwards, Malu is the youngster of the squad. But do not let his inexperience fool you for a lack of talent. The long and strong Malu plays with a tenacity that coaches love, and his extreme athleticism was on display during a long first-half dash against Colorado that opened up a Life offense which struggled to get in a flow prior to Malu’s break.
Luke Sauser, Saint Mary’s: Everyone who watched the D1A Final between Saint Mary’s and Life saw an incredibly physical match. Sauser, who scored a try in the Gaels’ Quarterfinal win over Santa Clara, played a major role in the physicality of the National Championship at Stanford.
Glen Maricelli, Life: Maricelli’s versatility allowed him to be valuable at both number eight and at hooker while OJ Auimatagi was hurt. The AIG All-American can be found all over the field, and he is equally competent making tackles as he is ball-in-hand. With Auimatagi graduating, it will be interesting to see if Head Coach Dan Payne keeps him at number eight next season or moves his appreciated forward to hooker.
Shaun Potgieter, Arkansas State: Potgieter finished a spectacular career at Arkansas State with a couple of solid performances in the Playoffs, including a try against Cal Poly. In terms of leadership and defense, Potgieter’s presence was always felt amongst teammates and opposition. The Red Wolves will surely miss the AIG All-American next season.