COLLEGE STATION, Texas – College rugby teams typically prefer getting a friendly or two under their belts after the winter break in order to burn off rust and any holiday cheer that accumulated in the midsection. Texas A&M, however, opened 2015 with a Red River Conference match against TCU.
The rust was apparent in the first half for the Aggies, who were also playing a number of B-side players due to the unavailability of a few typical first-team starters. Fortunately for the home team, Texas A&M was strong in the set pieces and it allowed the Aggies to build some confidence and slowly begin to play on their front foot.
The confidence eventually turned into an opening try for fly half John Shell, as well as scores by prop Connor Wilson and second rower Jake Browning.
A young TCU team had plans of making the match a hard-fought contest for 80 minutes, and did a solid job of doing so in the first stanza. A converted try from Ke’Arruis Brunson and two successful penalty goals from the Horned Frogs made the score 17-13 at halftime, and a first conference victory in sight.
Instead, a much-improved defensive effort by the Aggies wouldn’t allow TCU to score any second half points.
“We had some guys step up and begin to get comfortable with the system we’re trying to put together,” first-year Texas A&M Head Coach Clayton Hayes said of his team.
Still lacking offensive punch, Browning took it upon his broad shoulders to score twice more in the second half to complete a hat trick, and improve the Aggies to 3-1 with a 29-13 win.
Texas A&M will complete its Red River Conference schedule and have an opportunity to seal a second-place finish in the league Feb. 14 versus Baylor.
“They are going to be ready to knock us off,” Hayes had to say of the Bears. “As much as we want to finish 4-1 rather than 3-2, we still have to get it done on the pitch.”
Hayes’ first season at the helm in College Station has gone better than many onlookers foresaw. While a 3-1 record has been an excellent start, Hayes seems more focused on improvement.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with where we’re at right now, but we still have a lot of work to do to get these guys playing at another level,” said Hayes. “I think we’ll get there eventually, but it’s a matter of getting our players in the right position, and training the right way.”
Aside from the match against Baylor, the Aggies have remaining games against a newly-reinstated Louisiana State team, Arkansas State, and a nonconference fixture against Texas.