The only team returning to the National Championships from 2018 were the Austin Blacks D3. Taking the field the day after the Division I squad’s heart breaking loss and looking to defend their title, there seemed to be a quiet determination surrounding the team. The determination showed early as they motored out to a 12-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes. However, Grand Rapids sensing the game getting out of control quickly pounced on a loose ball and got themselves right back into the contest, 12-7. Despite the jolting try from the Gazelles, Austin remained unfazed and added an another two tries to their total before the end of the half. With 40 minutes played, the Blacks D3 held a 24-7 lead.
The second half picked up where the first left off, Austin only taking 4 minutes before adding to their lead. Grand Rapids again sensing the game getting away from them, pulled it back a bit with a sharply executed backline move. With just over 25 remaining the Gazelles were down 31-12. That would be the closest the Gazelles got, as the Blacks went from strength to strength in the final quarter and added an additional 17 points to their total in the final 20. Austin defending their title in style, 48-12.
In a game filled with emotions, the Life Running Eagles and the Austin Blacks entered Saturday’s fixture with the hopes of being National Champions. The teams traded penalty attempts early, with Austin missing their first but Life connecting, through Sam Cowley, in the 18th minute. Cowley’s three points helped ignite the Life attack and saw them create a 10-0 buffer in the space of 5 minutes. Two consecutive penalties saw the Blacks sneak back into the thick of it. But Cowley, as he did all game, looked to have stamped out the Blacks’ momentum heading into the half with a brilliant individual effort. However, on the stroke of halftime a penalty try was awarded to Austin, and with 40 minutes remaining Life’s lead had been cut to four, 17-13.
The first ten minutes of the second half belonged to Life, as they continued to pour on the points, adding eight to their lead. Just as the game looked to be out of Austin’s reach, the Blacks scored two tries in eight minutes to take their first lead of the game, 27-25. With 15 minutes remaining, the Blacks looked to be in full control. The teams went back and forth for the remaining moments, each looking to find a score of their own. After sustained phase play, Life was eventually rewarded with a penalty shot with hardly any time left. Cowley calmly knocked it through and took the one-point lead. After regathering the restart, the Running Eagles held onto the ball and the lead, to claim the 2019 USA Rugby Club Men’s Division I National Championship.