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EJ Freeman was one of many new Wildcats who shined in the season opener. (Photo credits: Chris Mooney) 

March 23- After the COVID-19 induced layoff that shut down much of the sporting world, Arizona finally got back on the pitch Friday as they welcomed Grand Canyon to Tucson. With numerous measures in place and smiles on the faces of both teams, the Wildcats kicked off season number 52 at William David Sitton Field.

The excitement peaked when one of their new faces broke the line and dotted down in the first of two tries by Wing Ryan Thompson in the first fifteen minutes. The Arizona backs are led by Vice Captain Jon Rogers and the Fullback did his best to lead by example, intercepting a GCU pass and going over 80 meters for the Wildcats' third try to set the tone for a dominant half and a 28-3 lead. 

At half, the challenge was keeping the team on task and building slowly given the long layoff. "Timing can be built in training but we really need matches to perfect it and we're thankful to have a game like Friday's to do that" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy. In the second half, it was the Captain Riley Kerr who made his presence felt, setting up Daniel Hagan and EJ Freeman for tries and scoring one of his own all within the first 15 minutes. Leading at one point by a 55-3 margin, the score afforded the Wildcats the opportunity to hand debuts to a number of Freshmen, with seven earning the jersey on the night.

For the Wildcats, the win is a good first step, but they already won just by getting on the field. On the victory Duffy said that "Sean O'Leary and I spoke in pregame and we are in lockstep that we are just happy to play after all that has happened. I'm incredibly grateful to have the support of Campus Recreation, Campus Health, and the university as a whole to enable us to get back on the field. We will continue to stay vigilant, follow best practices, and aim to be a model for other programs to follow in how to return cautiously, properly, and above all safely." The Wildcats now turn their attention to Central Washington, with a trip to the Pacific Northwest this week before a return match with Grand Canyon next Friday in Phoenix. 



Tries- 9- Thompson (2), Rogers, Hutchings, Hagan, Kerr, Freeman, Niethammer, Cathala

Conversions- Figley- 9/9

GCU: 3 tries, 1/3 conversions, 1/2 penalties 


1- Zach Barker

2- Mustafa Khaled

3- Harry Bluck

4- Billy Esposito

5- James Rivers

6- Daniel Hagan

7- EJ Freeman

8- Riley Kerr (C)

9- Brendon Paulsen

10- Robert Figley

11- George Niethammer

12- Solomon Hutchings

13- Matthew Start

14- Ryan Thompson

15- Jon Rogers (VC)


16- Eric Cervantes

17- Oscar Elvin

18- Seamus McCarthy

19- Jack Brown

20- Jack McCrossin

21- Maxime Cathala

22- Abe Turpen

23- Tyler Sloan



Friday, March 19

6:00 PM PST

William David Sitton Field

2021 Schedule Link

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