#14 Arizona 47
#11 UCLA 8
Captain Kyle Rogers sent a statement on Saturday, upsetting the Bruins with an emphatic victory at Sitton Field. (Photo Credits: Rusty Wortman)
Feb 6- Arizona welcomed UCLA to Sitton Field on Saturday in a key matchup in the PAC Conference standings but also the national rankings. With both teams ranked in the top 15 heading in to Saturday, this would be a significant match for the Wildcats in their pursuit of a national championship in 2017.
Fortunately for #14 Arizona it was their defense that set the tone, with consistent pressure leading to possessions for the Wildcats inside the Bruins' 22 that they eventually exploited in the 8th minute as Center Shane Dempsey put Prop Steven Branham through a gap before the front rower set up Number Eight Tyler Hansen for the first score of the game. Flyhalf Anton Grigoriou converted to make it 7-0 early for the home side. Arizona won the territorial battle early, and took advantage of this with a maul inside the UCLA 22 that led to Flanker Zach Heisterkamp putting Prop Cody Hunt through for a try. The two bits of unselfish play from the Forwards set the tone for the first half, said Head Coach Sean Duffy. "Forwards working well off the ball are a dangerous thing, and couple that with some good unselfish play by guys like Steven and Zach and we found ourselves in a good position in the first twenty." The Bruins would not go away easily, however, as they marched down the field to get on the board with a 29th minute penalty before Grigoriou responded by setting up Ben Joseph for a beautiful try and conversion to make it 21-3 Wildcats. The back and forth tone continued as a UCLA try was answered by Dante Weeks, with the Wing scoring in the right corner on the stroke of halftime to make it 28-8 going in to the break.
Knowing the Bruins would respond, the Wildcats sustained their defensive pressure and picked their spots to attack, with Branham this time getting put through a gap by Hansen to make it 35-8 before the Number Eight from Japan charged down a kick and laid the platform for Scrumhalf Matt Rogers, whose resulting box kick was gathered by his brother, Captain Kyle Rogers for the Wildcats sixth try and the nail in the coffin for the embattled Bruins. The icing on the cake came in the 68th minute, as a linebreak by Weeks put the Wildcats on the front foot and allowed Kyle Rogers to find Freshman Lock Bronson Teles for the game-capping try, the first of his career.
The win was a statement for the young Wildcats, as they looked to show growth from a strong first month of the season in which they defeated Santa Clara, played #1 Cal tight in Berkeley, and defeated Utah Valley. "The scoreline is flattering but that is a good team in LA and we are thankful for the win in the always tough conference" said Duffy "we have lost to them each of the past three years so to not only break through but to break through like we did and do it at home is really special. Credit especially to the guys who have been here through these years of building like Kyle Rogers who now are leading from the front as we look to continue to grow from here, and the youngsters like Anton Grigoriou who was special in his first varsity start." The Wildcats' win coupled nicely with that of Arizona Women's Rugby, who defeated UCLA 40-10 in the first match of the day to set the tone for their counterparts. The crowd for both matches was enthusiastic and looks to grow as the season progresses.
Arizona looks to move up in the rankings following the win, and now sets their sights on a home contest with Grand Canyon University. Following their matchup with the Lopes, the Wildcats finish February with road games against #18 San Diego State and Arizona State.
Tries: Hansen, Hunt, B. Joseph, Weeks, Branham, K. Rogers, Teles
Conversions: Grigoriou- 6/7