Saturday February 1st High Country Rugby stayed in Atlanta to face the Renegades. Here is the match report from our own Dion Rabouin.
After falling behind by two scores in the first 10 minutes of the match, things could have easily unraveled for the men of High Country, but a fiercely aggressive defense and the inimitable speed of wing Kevin Stewart proved to be too much for the Atlanta Renegades as High Country emerged victorious in their first matrix game of the 2014 division 3 season, 36-29.
The Renegades scored a try in the game’s opening minutes with Matt Wade touching down in the corner of the try zone and Lachlan Conyers adding a kick for points off of an early High Country penalty. The eight-point lead came at the 8:20 mark of the first half, but High Country soon answered the call.
After playing largely on High Country’s side of the pitch, the Renegades were the victims of a forced error by their fly half. An errant pass was picked off by Stewart who took the ball down the sideline and around defenders to touch the ball down right between the posts. Fullback Nick Giglio added the conversion to bring High Country within one. From then on, it was a different game.
“I got this invisible juice,” said Stewart, “and once I turn it on, I’m gone.”
Stewart’s impressive half wasn’t even finished. At the 26:00 minute mark, the speedy winger again burst past Renegades defenders on another long romp to the try zone, to put High Country on top for the first time in the game, 12-8.
“I’m trying to win coach,” Stewart said. “I ain’t trying to disrespect nobody, but winning is the only thing I respect.”
Stewart’s second trip to the try zone ignited the Renegades, who would rally back and score just before the end of the first half to take the lead, 15-12.
In the second half, High Country got on the board first, with captain Troy Albright stealing a kick out of the air and taking it into the try zone for a score just one minute into the period. But the Renegades stormed back 10 minutes later with a try from Devin Lomis, to again take the lead. The conversion from Conyers gave the Gades a 22-19 advantage.
But Stewart’s speed would again change the game. After slipping two tackles near the pitch’s east sideline, Stewart broke away from the Renegades’ defense and put a step on a final defender that was straight from the repertoire of legendary NFL running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton. Stewart’s score and a successive try by Garrett “Aryan Nation” Hilgendorff would prove to be decisive, as High Country came away from the match victorious.
“I was always a star,” said Stewart after the game. “Y’all just didn’t know about me yet.”
For High Country Coach Nicolas Ambrosini, the win was all about the little things the team had done right.
“You find out life’s this game of inches, so is football,” said Ambrosini. “Because in either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!”