ARIzONa Toughs out road win
#11 ARIZONA 32
#15 UCLA 27
Jacob Hall and the Wildcats head in to the break with a key win. (Photo credits: Linda Brothers)
March 6- Arizona has taken a number of steps forward this year, from its off-field announcements to its strong efforts against some of the nation's best sides. As the young side grows up, winning on the road is a key piece of their development. After Saturday, the team is well on their way to ticking that box.
Taking on #15 UCLA on the road, the hosts would start fast, taking advantage of two penalties deep in the Wildcats' half to put together a try and take an early lead. An immediate response was needed, and Arizona did just that as Center Mattox King put Wing Jake Broselle through for a try from 20 meters out to tie the game 7-7. The Bruins would respond this time, taking advantage of another Wildcat penalty to make it 10-7 in the 20th minute. A few minutes later, a headsup play by Flanker Jack Brown saw him pounce on a loose ball and sprint in for his first try, giving the Cats a 14-10 lead. The teams went back and forth for much of the remainder of the first half before Seb Hickey, EJ Freeman, and Matteo Berenger combined on a well-worked move to put Berenger through and give the visitors the 19-10 lead at the break.
"Disappointed to have left some points on the board at the break, but the message was composure and patience in a hostile environment" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy.
The additional message, as seen through the decisions, was depth, with the Arizona reserves making an impact intantly when called upon to pick things up. In the backs, that started with Jacob Hall, as the first-eyar Scrumhalf settled the attack down and found his ryhtym with Hickey to help put the Wildcats in attacking position. Up front, Props Dalton Slaughter and Seamus McCarthy started to turn the tide in the scrum, winning multiple penalties. These wins in the margins would be all the difference as the Bruins mounted a comeback. After taking 22-10 lead on a Seb Hickey penalty, two UCLA scores would bring the hosts and the crowd back in to the game and make things interesting. Another standout reserve Joey Lewis combined with James Rivers and Jack Brown to dot down a score to make it 27-20, but it was short-lived as UCLA tied the game at 27 on a linebreak with less than ten minutes left.
"This is where you see what we are really made of, whether it's a must-win or whatever, I'm not as concerned. I want to see who keeps their head and focuses on the gameplan and their role. Thankfully we saw a bunch of that late" said Duffy.
After the UCLA try, Arizona kicked deep to pin the Bruins deep in their half. Sustained pressure and strong defense by the Wildcats forced a critical mistake, a UCLA pass out the back of their try zone to set up Arizona with a five meter scrum. In the ensuing scrum, the Arizona forwards would earn a penalty advantage, allowing the Wildcats to play expansively with the free play, which Broselle seized for his second try, giving the visitors the 32-27 lead with less than two minutes to play.
There would be one more piece of drama in this one, however, as a stolen restart and a penalty against Arizona gave UCLA the ball 30 meters out with no time left. Some dogged defense, strong tackling, and great pressure would force a UCLA knock on with time expired, securing the dramatic win for Arizona 32-27. The victory, coupled with results around the country, puts Arizona in prime position for the postseason, opening the door for a possible home playoff match as one of the nation's top eight seeds. "Full credit to Coach Bennett and UCLA. They made us really work, and what a finish. This shows how tough this conference truly is, and in order to go where we want, we need games like this to build on. Shout out to our reserves, there is no way we win without them today and that gives us coaches a lot to think about regarding selections moving forward" Said Duffy.
Arizona Second XV took care of business earlier in the day in less dramatic fashion, securing a 79-7 victory over UCLA Second XV. The win puts them back in the win column, and shows the depth of the side that will look to build after the bye week. Both of Arizona's teams are off next week for Spring Break but return to action March 18th as they host #13 Colorado.
Tries: Broselle (2), Brown, Berenger, Lewis
Conversions: Hickey- 2/4, Hall- 0/1
3- Isaac Morrill
8- Jack Bresland
11- Antonio Gonzalez
20- CJ De Vault
22- Charley Redknapp
23- Dominic Soares