The Iowa City Ducks are headed to the Midwest Playoffs. Or rather, the playoffs are coming to the Ducks.
The Chicago Riot, Wisconsin Sharks and Milwaukee Rugby clubs will be in town Nov. 4-5 for the first round of the Division 3 Midwestern Conference playoffs. The Ducks will be there too, after a big win against Muddy River and a last-minute tie in Des Moines to round out the last two weeks of the season.
Iowa City won big against Muddy River with a final score of 95-12 to close the point-differential gap with Des Moines on Oct. 21.
"We needed a big win and we got it, good job boys," Forwards Coordinator Mike Brown said after the game. "We should be winning every game by that much."
The Muddy River win set up a showdown in Des Moines on Oct. 28. The Ducks went into the capitol to face off against a team that was hungry to avenge their loss from earlier in the season and it showed in the first half.
The Ducks fell behind early plagued by errors and defensive miscues, Des Moines was able to take advantage and was ahead at half. But, similar to when Iowa City faced Des Moines earlier in the season, the second half would show the Ducks weren't done.
An explosive try from Fullback Alistair Miller to start the second half gave the boys from Iowa City the spark they needed to start fighting back.
Tama Leutele, who was named Ducks man of the match for the second consecutive game, said he was proud of his teammates resolve.
"I give my team lots of respect for not giving up after being scored on by Des Moines," he said. "The second half came and everyone adjusted the way they needed to and went to work."
It was discovered after the match that Leutele forgot to bring the man of the match jacket. As a result he was made to shoot the boot.
Despite two rumbling tries courtesy of Leutele, the Ducks still found themselves down in the dying minutes of the match, even after multiple opportunities in Des Moines territory. But a last-minute try by Outside Center Joe Ranard made the score 24-24 and sent the Ducks to the playoffs.
"At that point in the match I was just thinking 'someone has to score this try'," Ranard said. "We'd been so close to scoring a few times before and I knew there wasn't much time left, so when I saw my opportunity, I took it."
The Ducks will face the Wisconsin Rugby Club on Saturday, Nov. 4 at the University of Iowa Rugby Fields. Ducks Captain Ty Carew said it feels good to be back in the playoffs.
"A lot of hard work is paying off," Carew said. "We've done a nice job of staying focused."
Focus is also what Carew attributes the teams success during the season to.
"The team has focused every week on who our opponent is and what we need to do," he said. "We've done a great job of working on our weaknesses and using our strengths."
"It's hard to predict the playoffs. I know our first opponent will be a tough team, they have a history of being a great rugby club," Carew said. "However, I think we'll be very competitive and if we keep our heads in it, we could go even deeper into the playoffs."
Duck's President Chuck Furness said he was excited to be headed to the playoffs too.
"This is the youngest Ducks team I can recall, probably the smallest too," Furness said. "15 years ago we were a very pack-dominated, grind-it-out kind of team. Now, we're an up-tempo team that can put points on the board."
"One thing hasn't changed though," Furness said. "The Ducks still know how to have fun."