TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona was deemed the favorite in its top 15 showdown against Colorado State for no reason bigger than the fact the Wildcats were playing at home. It turns out the road team had plans of its own, as the Rams withstood a comeback from the hosts to upset Arizona, 29-21.
Displaying fluid attacking phases, Colorado State jumped out to an early lead on the strength of tries from scrum half Carmine Hernandez and full back Liam Wynne, and eventually went to intermission leading the No. 9 team in D1A Rugby, 19-13.
Arizona looked to be the more determined side opening the second half, quickly taking its first lead at 21-19 after a try and penalty goal. However, the Rams never deterred from their gameplan, and fly half Luke Engelhaupt put his team back in front with a successful penalty kick with just eight minutes remaining in the match.
Colorado State would go on to score a late try, putting an end to any hopes of a second comeback from Arizona, giving the Rams their biggest win of the season.
Squandering a lead on the road to a team ranked ahead of you is a tough pill to swallow, and a situation that might have seen Colorado State board its bus to head back to Fort Collins with a loss in the past. The resilient effort in the desert shows that this year’s Rams team might just be different from teams of years past.
“They are sick of being the underdogs, to be honest,” Assistant Coach Ryan Walker said of his team’s refusal to give up. “We are aware of our capabilities and have moved up in the ranks over the years, but when push comes to shove we’ve lost some of the big games. So, we’ve been emphasizing the importance of this game ever since we scheduled it.”
Ben Pinkelman, an AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American from a year ago and a player the Eagles coaching staff has high praise for, was once again all over the pitch for the victorious Rams.
“He’s definitely a lead-by-example type of payer,” said Walker of his star flanker. “His knowledge of the game is pretty comprehensive, so it doesn’t matter if we’re on defense, attacking, in a lineout or a scrum; he leads from the front and shows the guys what needs to be done.”
Even though no play was bigger than Engelhaupt’s three-point boot with less than 10 minutes to play, and Pinkelman was Pinkelman-like, it was prop Jackson Brockway who was awarded Man-of-the-Match recognition from his team.
“He was one of the smallest forwards on the field, but when he hits you it feels like a freight train has hit you, and he was leveling guys all day,” Walker mentioned of his front rower’s afternoon.Next up, the Rams host nearby men’s senior side Boulder RFC, where they will continue to iron out wrinkles before picking up the second half of the West Conference season Feb. 21 against New Mexcio.