After a great comeback to beat the Kansas City Blues 25-24 in the Elite Eight, the Mystics knew they had their work cut out for them against NYAC. NYAC won their Elite Eight match comfortably, beating the Potomac Exiles 50-19, so the Mystics knew they would be coming up against fresh opponents with extra gas in the tank.
The Mystics came out firing and got on the scoreboard through a penalty from Mike Armstrong. NYAC claimed the lead with an unconverted try, but Mike Armstrong slotted two more penalties to move the Mystics into a 9-5 lead. The Mystics followed that up with a try from Vini Daley, which Armstrong converted to move into a 16-5 lead. NYAC struck back off the ensuing kick-off, and managed to charge down a kick before scoring a second unconverted try to narrow the lead to 10-16. Mike Armstrong then converted his own try to put the Mystics in charge at 23-10 late in the first half. NYAC pulled back with a converted try to bring the score back to 17-23, and they pulled ahead on the stroke of half time as they were awarded a penalty try that saw Jared Collinson shown a yellow card.
The yellow card didn’t have any immediate consequences for the Mystics, as they remained stalwart for the remainder of the card in the second half, but they weren’t able to expend that energy in pursuit of more points. Five minutes after Collinson made his way back onto the pitch, NYAC piled on the pressure through multiple penalties, and scored under the posts to extend their lead to 31-23. They kept up the pressure and forced the Mystics to garner a second yellow due to repeated infringements, causing Joe Shurmaitis to leave the pitch. NYAC scored off the resulting penalty and moved into a commanding 38-23 lead with over 20 minutes to play. Within a few minutes, the Mystics got some respite due to NYAC losing their flyhalf to a yellow card, and scored three penalties off of Mike Armstrong’s boot before Shurmaitis made it back onto the pitch, pulling the Mystics back to a 32-38 deficit with 14 minutes to play. Neither team managed to change the scoreboard over the last period of play, despite the Mystics doing everything they could to get in for a final try.
The Mystics showed a huge amount of courage and guts over the course of the weekend to show that they thoroughly deserved their berth in the Final Four. They played some great rugby over the two matches, and proved that they have the ability to compete at the top level of D1 rugby. Hats off to all of the boys and the coaching staff for two excellent outings in Charlotte and a hugely successful season for the club as a whole. Thanks must also go to all of Mystic Nation for their support on and off the pitch through both the fall and spring seasons.