Broncos boot Aztecs
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara hosted San Diego State in Division 1A’s Match of the Week, and the two California Conference clubs did not disappoint in the Broncos’ 17-13 victory over the Aztecs.
In what has become a rivalry defined by physicality between the two teams, Santa Clara needed a try from Kyle Dunne in the final 20 minutes to regain a lead it would not relinquish.
“We do our best to come out and match other teams’ physicality,” said Dunne. “San Diego State is a very good team and a very physical team. So we knew we were going to have to really step up.”
Stout defensive efforts by both teams did not allow for many scoring opportunities in the first half. The Aztecs elected to use Kalei Konrad’s boot to get them on the board first with a penalty kick for points to open the scoring.
Andrew Clem answered for Santa Clara with a converted try to take a 7-3 lead. San Diego State called on Konrad to narrow the lead with another penalty kick. The successful strike closed the first half scoring, and Santa Clara went to the break with a 7-6 lead.
John O’Hara’s long dash through the San Diego State defense went for an unconverted try to open the second half. State’s offense quickly countered with a Frank Ramos try converted by Konrad giving the Aztecs a 13- 12 lead.
San Diego State’s lead would not hold as flyhalf Mark Kuppenbender initiated what would be the play of the match.
Feeling the heat of the relentless Aztec pressure, Kuppenbender kicked over State’s defense and Dunne scooped the ball in pace and over the in-goal line for the game-winning try.
The win starts Santa Clara (1-0) off in the right direction following a 2013 season in which it took its share of lumps throughout the California Conference schedule. Beating a quality team in San Diego State (1-1) to begin their 2014 season should give the Broncos a boost of confidence. Still, the team knows there is plenty of work to do.
“We know it’s just one game,” said Dunne. “Every team is going to bring it every single weekend. So, we need to be on top of our game.”
In just his third season at the helm, Santa Clara Head Coach Paul Keeler’s knowledge and commitment to the to the club is paying dividends. The Broncos are a young team without a ton of rugby experience, leaving plenty of room for growth under Keeler’s tutelage.
Santa Clara will look to improve to 2-0 in the match against UC Davis this coming weekend. San Diego State will work towards getting back over .500 when it takes on Sacramento State Feb. 22.