YOUNG WILDCATS START YEAR WITH WIN IN SUN BOWL
Arizona Developmental 50
Lock Charlie Harden '20 was instrumental in the Wildcats' victory on Saturday in both the set piece and the loose play (photo credits: James Jiron)
Sept 12- Arizona Rugby got their preseason underway this weekend as their Developmental Side took on UTEP in their Rio Grande Conference opener. With Varsity Backs Coach Patrick Coco at the helm, the young Wildcats traveled to Texas and met the Miners in the Sun Bowl, UTEP's Football Stadium and one of the most historic stadiums in the country.
While both teams felt each other out early, the Wildcats' defense was on full display, as the Forwards answered the challenge laid forth by the coaches. Lock Charlie Harden and Number Eight Patrick Evans were key in this effort, putting in work over the ball and leading to extra possessions for Arizona. A penalty against UTEP induced by Evans led to an Arizona lineout deep in Miner territory, and a set piece move saw Lock Zachary Knobbe-Hewitt set up Hooker and Captain Zach Biggs for the first try of the day 22 minutes in. After a UTEP try in response, Arizona worked their way downfield, with Flanker Chris Napoli's linebreak leading to a gap that was exploited by Center Marek Easton, who dotted down for the Wildcats' second try which was converted by Scrumhalf Calvin Brannon to put Arizona up 12-5. Soon after, Brannon was the beneficiary of strong front foot ball, sneaking in from a meter out and converting his own try to put Arizona up 19-5. The Wildcats would add one more score just before half, as they put ten phases of strong attack together in UTEP's half that led to Flyhalf Kristian Sanchez's try to put Arizona up 24-5 at halftime.
The 19 point lead was a good first effort, but adjustments by Coaches Coco and Andrew Matyas and a try by UTEP kickstarted the Cats. In the 57th minute, a UTEP scrum stolen by Biggs led to Sanchez putting Center Lucas Bartzis through for the try. Soon after, the Wildcats' reserves got in on the action, as Wing Max Lyle scored two tries and Prop Sanjar Gybyrov got one of his own. Scrumhalf Thomas Villalobos made 3/4 conversions in the half, leading to the final margin of 50-15 and the first victory for the Wildcats.
There were numerous standouts on the day, as Flyhalf Krisitan Sanchez came on in a reserve role and opened up the attack, while Lock Charlie Harden and Flanker Gabe Coray-Dozier were aggressive in defensive breakdowns. Man of the Match for the staff was Center Marek Easton, who gashed the Miner defense regularly and put in outstanding defensive work of his own. "Marek put on a show today" said Head coach Sean Duffy "I was really pleased with his work defensively in our structure, and a number of young players made strong debuts in their introduction to College Rugby. Credit to our staff of Patrick Coco and Andrew Matyas for assembling a game plan and implementing it, and a huge thank you to UTEP for securing such a fantastic venue. They played hard, our boys are feeling it still, and this year in the Rio Grande is going to be exciting."
The Sun Bowl is a 52,000 seat stadium which annually hosts a College Football bowl game and is the venue for UTEP Football. The match was the Wildcats' history, with the first-class atmosphere providing a special introduction to College Rugby for the young team.
Arizona Developmental Side moves to 1-0 in the Rio Grande Conference, its first year in the league that stretches from Texas to New Mexico. The next action for the Developmental Side will take place October 8th when they host Arizona State University Academy in a non-conference match.
Tries: 8- Lyle (2), Biggs, Easton, Brannon, Sanchez, Bartzis, Gybyrov
Coversions: Villalobos- 3/4; Brannon- 2/4
Penalties: Chang- 0/1