Ducks fly into playoffs after déjà vu in Des Moines

The Ducks after their 24-24 tie in Des Moines on Oct. 28.

The Ducks after their 24-24 tie in Des Moines on Oct. 28.

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.

Ducks Captain Ty Carew fights to keep possession against Muddy River on Oct. 21 at the University of Iowa Rugby Fields.

Ducks Captain Ty Carew fights to keep possession against Muddy River on Oct. 21 at the University of Iowa Rugby Fields.

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."





Ducks battle back to beat Des Moines, move to 4-0

Ducks Lock Tama Leutele puts the moves on against Des Moines on Saturday, Oct. 7. After getting down early, the Ducks fought back to win 30-27. (Photo: Ben Statler)

Ducks Lock Tama Leutele puts the moves on against Des Moines on Saturday, Oct. 7. After getting down early, the Ducks fought back to win 30-27. (Photo: Ben Statler)

The Iowa City Ducks escaped with a win on Saturday, Oct. 7, beating Des Moines 30-27 after falling behind by two tries early in the first half. The Boys from Iowa City now sit atop their division's table at 4-0 in league play. 

The Duck's man of the match Saturday was Scrum-half Ryan Taylor. Taylor said he tried to get the ball out quicker as the game went on, and thought the team ran well in general.

"I think as the backline gets more comfortable with each other in phases and get our fitness up, that will get better and better," Taylor said. "This was the first match I really felt in shape, I think our fitness work in practice is paying off on the field."

Duck's President Chuck "Prime" Furness said he noticed two major things the team could work to improve upon from Saturday.

"We had too many penalties. When we get better our penalties go down, but on Saturday we we're kind of going backwards with the amount we got, we have to cut them down," Furness said. "We also could have made some better decisions inside the 22-meter line, there was a lot of wind, which made it tough to kick, but we made some bad choices too."

But there were some positives Furness said he noticed as well.

"Our scrums got better and better, by the end of the game we were able to hold our own pretty well," he said. "We stayed and played tough like we always do."

Duck's Captain Ty Carew said he agreed with Furness.

"That will to win really came out," he said. "We did well in some tough situations and we were able to come through."

Carew said he thought tackling was one of the biggest areas of improvement the club could focus on before hosting Clinton on Oct. 21. 

"I think almost everybody tackled high or missed in some way, once we get hands on a guy, we have to bring him down, that's how you stop good teams," Carew said. "But I thought we were coming up together well and our point of contact was pretty good."

Going 4-0 is something the Ducks haven't done in awhile, and Carew said it was good to see the team working together.

"It feels pretty good, I think everyone's kind of on the same page," he said. "I think we have a great group of guys that are focused on a single goal and people can align with that." 

Furness said he agreed with Carew.

"We still have that 'buzz'," he said. "Not many teams are able to keep that going."

After Saturday's win the Ducks hosted Des Moines at Grizzly's South Side in Iowa City for a social and some cold beer. That win, the closest all season for the flock, wouldn't have been possible without everyone on the club putting in effort, Carew said.

"It wasn't just the 15 guys on the field that won that game for us," he said. "It was the 30 guys that keep showing up and practicing hard every week."





Ducks fly high in win over Northeast Iowa

Ducks Oktoberfest.jpg

The Ducks remain unbeaten after defeating the Northeast Iowa Barbarians 46-21 on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Oktoberfest in Amana. The Ducks previously beat the Barbarians at the beginning of the month, but this win brings the flock to 3-0 in league play this fall. 

Duck's captain Tyler Carew said he thought the team had done a complete turnaround when compared to the 2016 season.

"Last year at this time we were 0-4, now we're 3-0, that's a complete 180°," he said. "I think we're turning it around for the best."

Although there were a lot of positives to take from Saturday, Carew said there was still more the team needed to work on.

"We need to work on letting the ball do the work, there were some times where we didn't," he said. "We also need to work on our tackling and breakdowns and not relying on the sir."

Forwards coordinator Mike Brown said he saw a lot of good things out of the pack on Saturday, but saw room for improvement as well.

"I thought we spread the ball really well and had a pretty solid defense in the pack," Brown said. "Communication's a huge thing though, we have to talk more."

Backline coordinator Tyler Dailey said he thought the backs did a good job of keeping their heads up.

"Overall we tackled fairly well and we didn't allow mistakes to get us down," he said. "We have to continue to work on spreading the field on defense and communicating both offensively and defensively."

Next up the Ducks host Des Moines at home in Iowa City. Carew said it would be the team's biggest challenge yet.

"Des Moines has a lot of speed, we're going to have to counter that," he said. "They move the ball well and they play good defense, it's going to be a challenge."