Photos by Rich Bristol
BOULDER, Colo. – In an extremely competitive weekend of D1A Rugby, six conference matches were played in total, all of which were decided by six points or less.
After last week’s snowstorm in the Rockies, the West Conference got underway Saturday and produced two compelling matches, while the Mid-South witnessed two near-upsets. In California, Santa Clara improved to 4-0 by narrowly defeating Cal Poly.
Life 19-15 Lindenwood
Lindenwood hosted Life Friday night in Saint Charles, Mo., in what would be a precursor to Saturday’s slate of hotly-contested matches. Life relied heavily on Joe Cowley’s boot. The flyhalf accounted for 14 of Life’s 19 points, all of which came from Cowley’s foot.
Lindenwood overcame a 10-5 halftime deficit with a James Poli try and conversion by Lungile Tshuma. Tshuma followed the conversion with a penalty and the Lions looked to be on the verge of an upset over D1A’s No. 2-ranked team. However, it was Cowley’s deadly accuracy that led to nine unanswered points and a Life win.
The narrow margin of victory may have come as a surprise considering Life was coming off of a convincing 34-7 win over Arkansas State. However, Lindenwood seems to be improving every week under new head coach JD Stephenson. The Lions are 0-2 in the Mid-South having lost to Life and No. 3-ranked Arkansas State by a combined 12 points.
Arkansas State 15-10 Davenport
Arkansas State was on the brink of losing back-to-back games until a late comeback turned back Davenport. Arkansas State controlled the early phases of the match that ended with a try from lock Zachery Allen. Davenport’s defense clamped down on the Red Wolves following the score, and the Panthers were able to put eight man Dominique Baily in for a try that would level the score to 5-5 at the break.
Davenport took its first lead when center Travis Kamstra touched down. The Panthers again missed the conversion attempt, but the impressive defensive effort held its 10-5 lead with less than 10 minutes to play.
That is when Cody Crawford, filling in at flyhalf for injured playmaker Zinzan Elan-Puttick, took over the match. Crawford scored 10 points in the final nine minutes of the match preventing Davenport from notching the upset in its first Mid-South match of the season.
Santa Clara 31-28 Cal Poly
Santa Clara, having already raced off to a 3-0 start to its season, recorded its biggest win of the year by taking down Cal Poly. In a back-and-forth affair that saw four lead changes, both sides fought hard, refusing to allow the other to hold momentum for very long.
The Broncos went into halftime with a 23-14 lead, highlighted by center Kyle Dunne’s intercepted pass for a try.
Cal Poly would match its first half output by scoring two converted tries in the second 40 minutes. The Mustang’s fourth try put them up 28-26. Just when it looked like Santa Clara’s D1A winning streak would come to an end, J.J. Holmgren answered with a try of his own putting Santa Clara up for good at 31-28. Holmgren ended the match with 16 total points.
UC Davis 19-13 UC Santa Barbara
Davis capitalized on an opportunity to pick up its first conference victory of the season. The Aggies hosted UC Santa Barbara and won the game in the most lopsided D1A match of the weekend – only a six point victory. Davis has this coming weekend off before hosting Saint Mary’s March 22, while Santa Barbara takes on the very same Gaels team this weekend.
Colorado 24-20 Wyoming
Colorado opened its D1A season with a victory over cross-boarder rival Wyoming. The early stages of the match were controlled by Wyoming, who took a 17-10 lead to intermission. A converted try by the Buffaloes would tie the match at 17-all. After Wyoming regained the advantage with a penalty, the Cowboys looked to be on its way to stealing a road win. However, it was captain Jean Claude Trublet de Neumont who punched through the Wyoming defense for a try with less than two minutes remaining to seal the win for the Buffs.
Air Force 29-24 Colorado State
Air Force, like several other D1A teams this week, found themselves trailing in the second half before eventually taking over the lead late in the match. Tied 17-17 at halftime, the Rams would eventually take a 24-22 lead in the winding minutes of the game. It was until a superb tackle by a Zoomie won possession for Air Force near mid-field. The cadets took advantage of the turnover and scored a game winning try to start the season 1-0.
Saint Mary’s 21-35 BYU
An inspired Brigham Young team exacted revenge on a Saint Mary’s team that beat them in California just a few weeks ago. BYU managed to hold serve on the second part of a home-and-away series between the two rugby powerhouses. Saint Mary’s fought hard, but BYU had their number on this Saturday playing in front of its home crowd.
Minnesota 10-15 UM-Duluth
The Golden Gophers suffered a loss at the hands of in-state foe and Division II National Champion UM-Duluth.
Cal Poly 14-95 Cal
It does not get much harder than playing the Cal. However, Cal Poly took on the Bears less than 24 hours after losing to a very physical Santa Clara team.
Wheeling Jesuit 14-42 Clemson
Kutztown 3-38 Navy