Halifax RFC were knocking at the door in the final minutes, but P.E.I. was up to the challenge
P.E.I. Mudmen's John MacDonald tackles a Halifax R.F.C. player during semifinal playoff action Sunday in Charlottetown.
A mad scramble best describes the last few minutes of the Halifax R.F.C.-P.E.I. Hunter's Ale House Mudmen rugby semifinal on Sunday in Charlottetown.
The Halifax club, down 21-18 and with the ball, pressed and pressed at the Mudmen zone for a go-ahead try in the waning moments at Co-op Field, but couldn't get through the determined Mudmen defence.
When the final whistle blew, P.E.I. had held on for the 21-18 win and earned a berth in the Nova Scotia Men's Rugby League Division 1 final.
It's the first time the club has reached the title game in three previous attempts.
Mike Deighan, Mudmen scrum half, said the formula for the goal-line stand was simple – be ready fast.
"Get it tight in the line, line up quick. Play hard-nosed defence," Deighan said.
The Mudmen now face the Halifax Tars, which beat Enfield 12-5 on Friday in the other league semi.
The title game is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28, in Halifax, but the start time has yet to determined.
P.E.I., a two-time Division 2 champ, moved into Division 1 this season and finished with a 7-3 regular season mark.
On Sunday, a high scoring first half countered the defensive-minded second frame as the Mudmen led 16-15 at the break.
Charles Waddell, Mudmen fullback, put the Island squad up 21-15 with a try early in the second half. The convert was missed.
The Mudmen spent a good portion of the second half in the Halifax zone, breaking off several long runs to keep the visiting squad pinned in its end of the pitch.
"This is history for us, just getting to the final." Phil Gallant of the P.E.I. Hunter's Ale House Mudmen, which reached the Nova Scotia Men's Rugby League Division 1 championship game on its fourth attempt.
But Halifax closed the gap to 21-18 on a three-point penalty kick and the league's third-place team found its legs, applying consistent pressure on the Mudmen defence, which dug in and, if not for solid tackling, may have found itself aiming for a comeback victory.
Waddell agreed the Mudmen tackling played a large part in the win.
"I think so. They didn't really break through a whole lot. I didn't think they got the long runs against us that we did against them," he said. "We put pressure on them and forced them to execute or make mistakes."
James Mallard scored two trys for the Mudmen.
Next is Halifax Tars. The league's top team finished 8-1-1 and shellacked the Mudmen in the teams two meetings this year, outscoring P.E.I. 107-3 including a 49-0 shutout on home ground in July.
But that was then, said Waddell, this is now.
"Part of it is to forget about the other two games. We finished second in the league so we should be here," said Waddel, adding there might be nerves early but those will pass. "Maybe at the beginning. Might be when there's a couple of hundred fans on their ground in Halifax. But that'll be a lot of fun."
Online at www.rugbyns.ns.ca.