LAFAYETTE, Colo. – In the second-to-last weekend of action in the Red River season, Oklahoma scored two late tries to get past Texas, while Texas A&M continued its impressive form by handling Texas Tech, 57-8.
No. 20 Oklahoma 20-12 Texas
The Sooners’ trip south to take on the Longhorns was the team’s first conference match since returning from its spring break tour of Jamaica. The trip to the Caribbean was extremely valuable in terms of getting everyone on board playing time, and positive as far as results go.
The team picked up a victory against the Montego Bay Panthers, and highlighted its tour with a win over the Jamaica National Team, 23-20.
The tour was also unique because Oklahoma competed in 15s, but also helped to organize a sevens tournament in which it beat the likes of St. Catherine Thunder Cats, the Jamaican Defense Force and the Spanish Town Vikings before losing to the Mona Titans in the Final.
“It was a lot tougher to control the speed and athleticism in sevens, but the boys played hard competing as an A- and B-side in five matches each,” said Oklahoma Head Coach Doug Neubauer.
The time spent in Jamaica produced lifelong memories, but it also left the Sooners a little beat-up heading into their match versus a winless Texas team. Oklahoma only compounded its bumps and bruises by making too many errors.
“All year we have had letdowns after big matches, and this was no different,” Neubauer said. “We knocked the ball on, committed penalties, ran into touch with the ball, and basically just played poorly.”
After the Sooners took the game’s first lead on a converted Manny Soto try, Texas tied the match at seven-all midway through the first half. Oklahoma winger Anthony Barthas added a penalty kick, and Canterbury’s 20th-ranked team went into the break leading, 10-7.
Just three minutes into the second period, Texas scored its second try, but the conversion failed to give the Longhorns a two-point lead. However, eyeing a second-half deficit against its bitter rivals seemed to motivated Oklahoma to clamp down on defense.
“Texas came at us as we knew they would,” said Neubauer. “Fortunately, our defense was up to the task. We gave up 12 points, but it could have been more.”
A few pairs of fresh legs were brought on to the Sooners’ tight five, and they started to play in the other team’s half. Still down, 12-10, with just five minutes to play, full back Will Neff scored his second try of the season, and was soon followed by wing Colin Bray’s game-winning score.
“With little time left we knew we were in the game, and just had to stop making mistakes,” Neubauer said. “We were able to put together some attacks that resulted in two tries to close it out.”
Texas A&M 57-8 Texas Tech
Few teams in the nation are playing better rugby than Texas A&M, but that wasn’t the case during the opening phases of Saturday’s win over Texas Tech.
Red Raider scrum half Gonzalo Eizmendi fired up the scoreboard early on with a successful penalty kick in the third minute. Soon after, fly half Wesley Otto scored his second try in as many games, and Texas Tech led, 8-0, after 11 minutes.
“It’s been a recurring theme and our biggest obstacle so far this year – starting strong,” explained A&M Head Coach James Lowrey. “To Tech’s credit, they played physical and were accurate when playing direct.”
After the wakeup call delivered by the Red Raiders, the Aggies quickly began to fire off scores. Tries from Robert Larson, Rafael Mogollan, and debutant Jason Skov helped earn Texas A&M a 40-8 halftime lead.
The paced slowed just a bit for the Aggies in the second half, but the pressure applied on Texas Tech was enough to send Skov over the line a second time, as well as senior Matt Theordore and Travis Henry.
Skov may have stolen the headlines with his two-try performance, but it was his locking partner, Jacob Browning, and loose head prop Connor Wilson who had the biggest influences on the match.
“They got through a ton of work and were constantly putting the team on the front foot,” described Lowrey. “They are both close off the field, and their chemistry showed.”
Since its Jan. 30 season-opening loss to Oklahoma, Texas A&M has been playing lights out. The Aggies have gone 3-1 in that stretch, with the team’s lone loss coming in a heartbreaking two-point defeat to undefeated LSU – easily the Tigers’ toughest match of the season. In those three victories, A&M won by nearly 34 points per contest.
“It’s rewarding to see the growth – physically they have made some great strides,” Lowrey said.
“We would like to have that Oklahoma game back, especially for the seniors who are graduating, but, in saying that, the lessons learned were invaluable.”
The Aggies’ final game of the season will be at home April 2 against TCU.