Brain Purcell, Staff Writer
Wolverines struck first against the Crimson Utes. The Wolverines charged down the field into Utes territory, where they were rewarded a penalty kick for the Utes not coming through the gate at the ruck. (In rugby, a ruck is formed at the tackle, where both teams contest for the ball). Wolverine’s captain, Kepueli was well within range for a kick at goal, but opted instead to kick for touch, deep within the Utes territory for an attacking opportunity. After UVU won the lineout, the forwards showed their raw strength in an impressive driving maul, which had the Ute players peddling backwards. From there, all it took was a couple more pick and goes before prop, A.J. Dawe, would power forward with the first try of the game.
For those American football fans, a ‘try’ in rugby is similar to a touchdown, but is only worth 5 points instead of 6. A missed conversion gave the Wolverines an early 5 – 0 lead.
Utah Valley continued to dominate, with the majority of the first half being played in the Utes territory. The Wolverines constant pressure on defense caused for a costly mistake by the Utes, which lead to a Wolverine’s scrum about 5 meters outside the Utes goal line.
The scrum in rugby is a critical part of the game and is a chance to show which team has more power and strength, as players push against one another in an attempt to gain possession of the ball.
Wolverine’s Ryan Nonu broke off the scrum with ball in hand, and ran down the pitch. He was stopped just a few feet from the goal line. With some quick thinking, Wolverine’s scrum half, Macklin Brown, spotted the gap off the ruck, and quickly went to the blind side. He then dove over to touch the ball down and scored UVU’s second try.
The Wolverines made the statement that they were here to play. They continued to showcase all their weapons from their arsenal, as the fast, nimble backs swung the ball out wide for an open attack. It was UVU’s lightning fast winger, Valentino, who turned the corner and made a break for the try line. Valentino was stopped just short of scoring, but quickly managed to offload to his teammate in support, Mekeli, who touched the ball down in goal for another Wolverine’s try!
It is said lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but for the Wolverines it nearly did; as UVU continued to punish the Utes, it was now a chance for the other winger, Chase Combe, to score his try as he powered down the side line for another impressive score against the crimson ruggers.
With less than two minutes to go in the half, the Utes came back with a vengeance, determined to score before half time. They drove the ball deep into Wolverine territory, where they ended up inches from the try line. At first it seemed as if the Ute players were attacking against a green brick wall. However, with a costly penalty against the Wolverines, the Utes were able to capitalize on the mistake, and penetrate UVU’s defense for their first try of the game.
Both the Wolverines and the Utes started the second half with determination in their eyes. But it would be the Wolverines who drew first blood, as they continued to run positive gains, setting themselves up for another attacking situation. The constant attack against the Utes allowed for a gap in the defense, which Wolverine’s captain, Kepueli, took full advantage of by breaking through the line of defense. He then threw a dummy pass to draw the defender away, allowing for the captain to score a try for himself.
It now seemed a Wolverine victory was inevitable, and some impressive runs from the flanker, Hayden Moss, only seemed to give more evidence that a UVU win was near. Moss plowed through the tacklers down the field, leading to another UVU try down the side line. This left a difficult conversion attempt for the captain, but Kepueli split the uprights, adding another two points for the Wolverines.
The Utes stayed relentless throughout the game though. When Wolverine’s center, Zach Burr, crossed the try line to score, it was the Utes ruthless determination that held the ball up, and prevented Burr from scoring. Burr later got his redemption, by running onto a crash ball and scoring a try of his own.
With a last ditch effort to put some more points on the board, University of Utah lessened the blow, by scoring two more tries before the final whistle, resulting in a Wolverines rugby win with a final score of 44 to 17.