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Before all this coronavirus madness, there was a time where, believe it or not, actual rugby was played by actual people.
There were plenty of phenomenal games throughout the course of the last year, ranging from high school to collegiate, to club, up to the international level.
Here are our five picks for the best games of the past 365 days:
High School: Penn High School vs East High School
It didn't take long for a dramatic finish to take center stage at the 2019 High School National Championships, and with it an upset to send shockwaves through the tournament.
In the quarterfinals of the Single School bracket of the tournament on Day 1, perennial powerhouse Penn HS (Indiana) took on under-the-radar local team East High School (Utah). Penn, who by many accounts were the #1 ranked team in the nation, came into the tournament as the #2 seed. East, meanwhile, were the #7 seed and were expected by many to see an early exit from the competition.
It looked like that would be the case, as Penn showed its class and built a 33-14 lead with just ten minutes remaining in the contest. But East dug deep and and scored a pair of tries to put the pressure on the boys from Indiana. With time all but run out, East found themselves with the ball on their own five meter line. What happened next was simply remarkable.
College: Life University vs University of California
The best collegiate game of 2019 also happened to be the most important. The undefeated Life Running Eagles took on the Cal Golden Bears for the second consecutive season, and Cal had revenge firmly on its mind.
A year prior, the two teams met in a game that fans all across the nation had been waiting years for. Since Cal had always participated in the now-defunct Varsity Cup ever since Life's undergrad program was started, the two juggernauts had not actually squared off.
However, the first meeting between the two titans of college rugby was anything but a contest. Life set a D1A championship record for largest margin of victory with a 60-5 thrashing of the Golden Bears. It was shocking result, but a humbling experience for the young Cal side.
One year later, they earned a miraculous semi-final victory over Saint Mary's to set up a rematch with Life in the final. The rematch was a phenomenal display of grit, intensity, and skill, as both sides fought tooth and nail, leaving every last ounce of their blood and sweat on the field that day.
Cal erased a three score deficit to take the lead with just eight minutes to go in the game, but Life responded with a try of its own to reclaim the lead with under five to go. The game ultimately came down to a Cal shot at goal to send the game to overtime, and the kick sailed just wide. It was a final worthy of memory for years, and both teams were more than deserving of walking away champions.
International: USA vs Canada
Any time you get the United States and Canada together for a border battle, you know it's going to be a good one. Regardless of either team's form at any given moment, the contest between the two sides will always be hotly contested.
However, the clash between the two teams at the 2019 Women's Super Series was an instant classic, capped off with a try for the ages.
Having gone down three tries early, the United States had dug themselves a major hole against the #3 ranked team in the world. But, coming off of two prior losses in the Super Series, the Eagles were determined they wouldn't let themselves drop to 0-3. Not on their home turf, and certainly not to their arch rivals.
The girls found a will and they found a way to turn the tide. Some timely turnovers, some incredible individual efforts and, most importantly, a unified team effort to stay in the fight saw them turn the tide and complete the comeback, 20-18.
Club 15s: Doylestown vs Atlanta Old White
The Division II semifinal game between the Doylestown Dragons (Pennsylvania) and Atlanta Old White (Georgia) was one of the wildest endings to a game of all time.
The match had six lead changes, and a whopping three in the final five minutes of the contest. Neither team was willing to give up despite injuries, yellow cards, and fatigue. Considering it was both teams' second 80 minute game in as many days, it's remarkable they could find the energy to duke it out until the final whistle.
Trailing 19-13 with five minutes to play, Atlanta scored a try and converted the ensuing kick to take the lead 20-19. But Doylestown responded, scoring a try of its own on what they thought may have been the final play of the game to go ahead 24-20. But the ref said there was time on the clock for one last kickoff, and Atlanta made the most of it. Old White slowly but surely drove the ball down the field, and after a series of crashes on the goal line finally crossed over.
This time it was the final play, and it was Atlanta that would be heading to Ohio for the DII championship game.
Club 7s: Schuylkill River vs Park City Haggis
After a year off from 7s competition, 2016 and 2017 Club Rugby 7s national champions Rugby Utah made a return to Club Nationals in 2019, this time branded as Park City Haggis. They came back looking as strong as ever (defeating eventual champions WAC in the tournament opener), and headed into the quarterfinals looking like one of the teams to beat.
Their opponents, the Schuylkill River Exiles, were the absolute surprise of the tournament. The boys, who labeled themselves "12 Scumbags From Philly", only finished fourth in their own qualifying region but won the Eastern Super Qualifier in June to earn an automatic bid to Nationals. In their first game of the tournament, they were defeated 38-0 by Belmont Shore, but still managed to make it to the quarterfinals by beating the Chicago Lions and then erasing a 19-0 second half deficit to beat the hometown Kansas City Blues.
The game with park city was a defensive struggle, but Bruce Dolan's try and Danny Giannascoli's epic sideline conversion as time was up saw the 12 Scumbags defy the odds and reach the semifinals.