LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Cal Poly and San Diego State won’t play their California Conference match against one another until April, but the team’s close encounters in recent years were reason enough to schedule a nonconference fixture ahead of their conference seasons. The Aztecs welcomed the Mustangs to San Diego for the friendly and used a gritty defensive effort to pull off a 13-8 win.
For two teams that have the skill and attacking prowess to score a lot of tries, the 21 total points tallied was a bit of a surprise.
“Both teams struggled to find much continuity at times and the skill execution was lacking overall, but I think some of that is to be expected this early in the season,” said San Diego State Head Coach Alex Lichgtig.
The first points of the game were produced by a well-placed chip ahead by San Diego State outside center Nick Lupian that was scooped up by full back Ari Flink and taken in for the try.
After Cal Poly slotted a penalty kick, the Aztecs went back to work. Prop Gil Covey put hard-charging Kevin McGlone through a gap, and the blindside flanker found support in Jacob Zinda who ran in a second try and extended San Diego State’s lead, 10-3.
The Mustangs strength in the scrum kept them in the game, and produced scoring opportunity the boys from San Louis Obispo were simply unable to finish. A stolen scrum did, however, set up its lone try to pull the Mustangs to within just two points, 10-8.
Continued resilience on defense and a Harrison Barkham penalty kick pushed its lead to 13-8 and wound up being all San Diego State needed to hold on to the slim victory.
“It was a closely contested match and we always enjoy playing Cal Poly,” Lichtig noted. “We narrowly got the result, but we know that won’t hold much weight when we meet again in April.”
The Aztecs execution was far from perfect, but the five-point win over a highly regarded Cal Poly side was enough to improve San Diego State’s place in Canterbury’s D1A Rugby Top 20 by one spot to No. 19 this week.
Cal Poly and San Diego State are both set to take on fourth-ranked BYU as the Cougars open its 2017 season with a trip to California. First, the Mustangs will host BYU Thursday, Jan. 26 before the Cougars head south down the coast to take on San Diego State Saturday, Jan. 28.