CATS WIN THRILLER IN SEASON OPENER
 

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Kyle Fulton's try in the first half helped steer the Wildcats' comeback in front of a large crowd. (Photo credits: Isaiah Willhoite)

Jan 31- Arizona kicked off the 2022 season on Saturday at Sitton Field, welcoming not only #13 UCLA but also fans back for the first time in two years. If Saturday is any indication, fans this year are in for a special season. 

Things got off to a fast start, with George O'Brien taking advantage of a stolen scrum to touch down for the Wildcats' first try of the season, a special one for the new Scrumhalf who would score again ten minutes later to widen the lead. UCLA would respond, however, touching down in the left corner after Arizona penalties to take a 17-12 lead. The tactical kicking game of Robert Figley helped pin the Bruins deep in their half, and a quality lineout platform set up a Kyle Fulton score in the corner to retake the lead before a Figley penalty made it 22-17. Just before half, the Bruins were able to respond, taking a 24-22 margin in to the break and continuing the back and forth theme.

"Halftime was important. It was our first hit out and we looked like it. You want your first week to be the floor and build from there, so I guess we've hit that now. We knew things would start to click on for us if we took a little better care of the ball and cleaned up a few things" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy. The halftime break settled the Wildcats but also reinvigorated the Bruins, as they scored twice in the first six minutes of the second half to go up 36-22. Then, things changed.

 

Down two scores, the Wildcats' reserves started to make their presence felt, with Scrumhalf Maxime Cathala setting up Wing Ted Champion for the first try of his career which Figley converted to make it 29-36 in the 60th minute. Some great attack shape and a linebreak by Center Lucas Agasse paved the way for Hooker Zach Barker's pick and jam try to make it 34-36 in the 73rd minute. A Figley conversion from deep in the left corner tied the game at 36 and put the large, loud crowd on their feet at Sitton Field. Patient play and pressure put the Wildcats inside the Bruins' half with possession and little time left. A penalty from 40 meters out in the 78th minute created an opportunity and Figley took it, nailing the kick to give the Wildcats a 39-36 lead. The Bruins managed to get their hands on the ball and some dogged defense and a poach from Figley sealed the win and sent the fans at Sitton Field in to celebration mode. 

 

For the Wildcats, the win was a special one, announcing themselves back on the scene after last year's shortened season and giving their fans, both in person and at home, something to cheer about. "A total team effort. Our reserves may not be reserves long if they bring energy like that. We needed 1-23, and that's why depth is so important. A huge credit to our fans who stuck with us when it got dark there, and came back in droves, and a huge thanks to our fans who tuned in to our new webcast" said Duffy. Saturday marked the program's first self-produced webcast, providing a distribution platform for its fans, alumni, and future players to enjoy each week. 

 

The Wildcats will make the trip to Phoenix this Saturday for their first road game of the year, taking on #17 Grand Canyon at 6 PM MST.
 

Match replay from Saturday can be found here.

 

SCORING vs UCLA

Tries: O'Brien (2), Fulton, Champion, Barker

Conversions: Figley- 4/5

Penalties: Figley- 2/2

ROSTER vs UCLA

1- Seamus McCarthy

2- Zach Barker

3- Harry Bluck

4- Jack Brown

5- James Rivers 

6- Jack McCrossin

7- EJ Freeman

8- Carter Clarke

9- George O'Brien

10- Robert Figley

11- Jacob Broselle

12- Matthew Start

13- Abe Turpen

14- Kyle Fulton

15- Jon Rogers (C)

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16- Cameron Blair

17- Liam Swanson

18- Caeden Chase

19- Aidan Hendry

20- Tyler Heer

21- Maxime Cathala

22- Lucas Agasse

23- Ted Champion