BOULDER, Colo. – A rematch of last year’s Big Ten Universities Championship match took place over the weekend, and the result had neither Ohio State nor Wisconsin walking away with a win. The 18-18 tie in Columbus kept both teams stagnant in the standings, and now the race for the Big Ten Championship contains four sides. These next two weeks will be the stage for big matches in the fight to get to the Championship match.
No. 14 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Wisconsin
This match was one that Big Ten rugby fans marked on their calendars at the beginning of the season. Wisconsin was able to get the upper hand against Ohio State in the previous two meetings, including its 34-20 victory in last year’s Championship game. Ohio State, tired of its misfortunes against Wisconsin, set out this season striving to overcome the obstacle that is the Badgers.
“We were very disappointed with our performance last year,” said Ohio State Head Coach Ron Bowers. “We made Wisconsin a team we needed to emulate to be successful.”
The Buckeyes did exactly that, but weren’t able to get the victory. Though a tie is tough to take, it beats a loss any day.
Ohio State’s Jojo Eramo started the game off with a try in the fourth minute, putting the team up, 5-0. Four minutes later, Buckeye full back Ronan Forrestal scored a try, and, with a successful conversion, put Ohio State up, 12-0, early. After Ohio State’s early lead, the defense from both sides cranked up to a new level. Another point wouldn’t be scored until the 24th minute, when Wisconsin’s Dane Fleck put the ball down over the try line in the corner.
A successful penalty kick gave Ohio State the 15-5 lead, but Wisconsin flanker Gabriel Kinzer broke free to score a try by the posts. This reduced the Buckeyes’ lead to 15-10, which was the score as the match headed to half.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, Wisconsin was able to take advantage of a scrum near the try line, turning the pack while Kinzer was able to get the ball in for the try, tying the game, 15-15.
The defense continued to be great for both sides, and there would be no more tries scored on the day. Wisconsin’s Matoko Noudehou booted in a penalty kick in the 70th minute, but Ohio State answered with a successful kick by Taylor Huff, which would end the game in an 18-18 tie.
This game was going to be a deciding factor in the Big Ten, one which was supposed to clearly separate who was going to persevere the last two weeks of the season to get to the Championship match, but now the race is wide open. Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin all have a chance to get to the Championship match.
It all starts with the Halloween games this weekend. Michigan and Wisconsin play their fifth games; Michigan will play Illinois, and Wisconsin plays Michigan State. These are must-win games for both sides, as they both need one more win to be alongside Indiana and Ohio State in the win column heading into November. If the Wolverines and Badgers are able to take their games, Nov. 7 will be a very exciting day in Big Ten Rugby, as any one of those four teams has a chance to play in the Big Ten Universities Championship game.
Purdue vs. Illinois
Coming off 50-point-plus performances against Iowa and Minnesota, Illinois was expected to put together a scoring exhibition against the Boilermakers, but that was not the case. Purdue welcomed the challenge Illinois posed, and was able to send the Fighting Illini home with a 27-22 loss.
It took nine minutes for a zero to be taken off the scoreboard, as Illinois put a penalty kick through the uprights. Fourteen minutes later, Purdue’s Mark O’Brien tied the match, 3-3, with a kick of his own. In the 28th minute, Purdue received a yellow card, followed by another yellow card in the 29th minute. Illinois capitalized quickly on the two- man advantage, as hooker Matthew Kopala barreled into the try zone. After a successful conversion, Illinois found itself up, 10-3. O’Brien kicked another penalty to send the Boilermakers into the half only trailing by four at 10-6.
Illinois opened the half with a try and a conversion in the 46th minute, but Purdue was able to score one of its own 10 minutes later, putting the score at, 17-13. Purdue’s O’Brien scored a try and kicked in the conversion in the 64th minute, putting the Boilermakers up, 20-17. That lead did not hold, as Illinois punched in a try with only six minutes left to go ahead, 22-20.
In the 78th minute, O’Brien crossed the try line for the second time, and gave the Boilermakers their first win of the season.
After not winning a match in the 2014 season, and opening their 2015 Big Ten season against three ranked opponents, this Boilermakers side had a point to prove, which they did with this win. Purdue plays two more matches in the coming weeks, and has potential to end this season on a high note. As for Illinois, it will need to bounce back in a big way if it wants to have a chance against Michigan.
No. 5 Indiana vs. Michigan State
Michigan State knew Indiana had a back line full of talent, but wasn’t able to stop them, getting run over by the Hoosiers, 64-3.
The Hoosiers scored five tries in the first half, two from Teddy Terezis, and one each from Bryce Campbell, Jacob Hidalgo, and Alexander Dorrier. Michigan State was able to score on a penalty kick in the first half, but that would be the team’s only points on the day.
Indiana proved last week that it is one of the best teams in D1A Rugby after beating Davenport. The Hoosiers are poised to snag the Big Ten Championship and make a deep run at the playoffs, but will need to get through Wisconsin in the last week of the season first. With the talent it possesses, this team looks unstoppable, but Wisconsin could be the team to do it.
Michigan State will also face Wisconsin in a match this weekend. Michigan State is a good side, but hasn’t been able to overcome the likes of Indiana, Ohio State, or Michigan. The Spartans have their last crack at a ranked team on Saturday, and will need to put together a better performance than they had against the Hoosiers.
Michigan vs. Iowa
The Wolverines were in charge from the start, scoring a try in the opening minute, and that was only the beginning. Tries from the likes of Zachary Burns, Andre Cargill, and Jeremy Reid, along with several others, helped Michigan to a, 45-7, halftime lead. The scoring only continued for the Blue and Maize, and they closed this match with a, 78-14, win.
Michigan is in position to potentially be in the Big Ten Championship game thanks to their dominating performance in this match. They will need to continue their solid performance with a win next week against Illinois, before they face the unbeaten Buckeyes in its last match of the season.