WHEN former Orange Emus utility Elliot Brice joined the New Orleans Rugby Club (NOLA) in January he had no idea he would go close to American rugby’s highest honour.
Brice, playing fly-half, led the Crawfish to a 2014 Division One USA National Club Championship series final appearance on Sunday morning (AEST) after his team was written off in the early stages of the season.
As the only unpaid, non-professional team in the top division NOLA were underdogs going into the quarter-final stage of the competition.
Brice starred in NOLA’s final eight wins over the Sacramento Lions (62-32) and Dallas Reds (34-29) but even as one of his side’s best, the 22-year-old could do little to stop a rampaging LIFE University unit in Sunday’s championship clash at Breese Stevens Field in Madison, Wisconsin.
Led by USA internationals Shaun Davies and AJ MacGinty, the Running Eagles scored seven tries to NOLA’s one in a runaway 41-7 victory.
Despite the scoreline, Brice said his team should be proud.
“There is no shame in getting beaten by that LIFE team,” Brice said after the loss.
“We got outclassed but they’ve got a number of USA players who should play at next year’s World Cup. This whole season has been an incredible experience.”
A flanker in his junior years, Brice made regular appearances for Emus’ Blowes Clothing Cup side in 2011, 2012 and 2013, mainly on the wing.
Starting the season as a reserve grade centre Brice forced his way into the top grade pivot position midway through the season.
Against the Running Eagles, and for much of the season, Brice sacrificed aesthetics for effectiveness as he tried to inspire his Crawfish teammates to a win.
However, with NOLA’s ball-handling leaving a lot to be desired the Running Eagles turned virtually every Crawfish mistake into points.
Brice is expected to return to Emus’ playing ranks when he returns to Australia in the coming weeks.