CATS DROP FINALE IN WILDCAT BATTLE
#2 CENTRAL WASHINGTON 17
#11 Arizona 0vs #
Jack Bresland and the Arizona forwards helped pitch a second half shutout in the regular season finale. (Photo credits: Linda Brothers)
March 27- #11 Arizona made the trek to the Pacific Northwest for their final regular season match of the year, taking on one of the best sides in the nation as they test themselves ahead of the D1A postseason. In an all-Wildcat affair, the hosts were #2 Central Washington as Arizona looked to get an upset win on the road to boost their seeding.
"Look nothing against our prior squads. But we know what we have and most importantly, we know what we are building and how special this is. We feel we can play with anyone because we've played with everyone this season." said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy. That mentality was encapsulated in the opening tackle as Flanker Abe Turpen put in a great hit to open the game in the opening minutes and set the tone for the first quarter. It was a back and forth affair early as the Arizona defense and set piece brought one of their best early efforts and pitched an early shutout while also starting to make inroads into the CWU defense. A turnover, followed by a maul penalty against Arizona was the mistake CWU needed as they touched down from a meter out to make it 5-0 in the 16th minute. A great response by the visiting Wildcats put them deep into CWU territory, with multiple lineouts just five meters out that were repeatedly turned back by the hosts. Late in the half, an intercept try by CWU made it 12-0 before another attacking opportunity for the Wildcats would go begging, this time off of a long Ted Champion linebreak that resulted in a turnover. A third score just before half in the right corner would make it 17-0, and leave the Arizona side rueing their lost opportunities.
"We felt we left points on the board, and gifted CWU points with an intercept that really changed the game. At half it was about firming up our already pretty strong defense and being more efficient when we get into their 22" said Duffy. Consider one of those two goals accomplished, as the defense led by Assistant Head Coach Patrick Coco and scores of big plays from James Rivers, Turpen, Mattox King, EJ Freeman, and Jack Bresland combined to pitch a shutout in the final forty. But it was the Arizona attack that would let the Wildcats down, with three opportunities in the 22 that they would squander and a strong CWU defense that made life difficult for the young side. "Credit to CWU, they are a good team and as the likely #1 seed in the West, they are a threat to win it all. But we left opportunities and points on the board, and the message moving forward is in order to play the high-tempo attacking style we want to play, we must first do what we're supposed to do in the basics. We want to eat desert before eating breakfast and that's not how this works. We'll fix it, with who we have, or we'll find the guys that can do better. Only up from here and I'm thrilled with our defense and set piece that kept us in the game and showed what we can do against a really good group of forwards" said Duffy.
The two Wildcat sides now move into the D1A postseason, with CWU likely clinching the #1 seed in the west and receiving a bye, while Arizona heads into what is most likely a trip to either BYU or Cal on April 8 for a regional quarterfinal. Stay tuned for brackets, kickoff times, and broadcast details.
CENTRAL WASHINGTON LINEUP
8- Jack Bresland
18- Isaac Morrill
20- Charlie Green
21- Jacob Hall
22- Charley Redknapp
23- Antonio Gonzalez