The UCLA Rugby Bruins submitted one of their best performances in recent memory over the weekend, upsetting the #6 ranked Utah Utes 50-38 at home. The victory, which was afterwards described by head coach Scott Stewart as “Probably the biggest win since I’ve been coaching here,” saw the Bruins play with focused urgency, and determined precision from the outset of the game. It only took center Race Noeldner two minutes to intercept a pass from the Utah fly-half and take it sixty meters for a try. “Race has done a good job of somehow scoring those early tries all season, “ said flanker Matt Frederickson. “I think intercepting that pass and scoring injected our team with an important sense of belief.”
The Utes responded with a try a few minutes later despite the early setback after multiple phases of pick and goes from the forwards. The Utes maintained a predominantly forward based offensive attack all day, battering the tenacious Bruin defense over and over again.
“Those guys were huge, and not afraid to throw their size around,” said prop Leonard Bragg, a man who knows a thing or two about throwing size around.
The Bruins were not intimidated, and spent the rest of the first half executing with the cohesion and precision. Bolstered by a solid attacking platform by the forwards, the Bruin backs submitted scores from fullback James Faccinto, wing Seb Sharpe, a second from Noeldner, and a long, scything run from the Flying Francophile, wing Martial Chaput of Biarritz, France.
“The first half was one of the best rugby experiences I’ve ever had,” Noeldnder said. “The backs took every opportunity they got. Everyone did their job.” Utah refused to go away though, and pounded another try in with five minutes left in the half. With the score at 31-12, the Bruins entered the halftime break with heads high but minds wary of the very online catalogs sellers of viagra and cialis in the usa real possibility of a Ute comeback. “We knew that we hadn’t scored enough to beat them. It felt good to put that many tries in on a team everyone expected to roll over us, but we couldn’t let up” Noeldner said.
The second half was far more favorable for the Utes, who began to break through the Bruin fringes with more success despite the tireless efforts of the forwards. The Utes came out with a fire in the second half, scoring after only three minutes. They would score three more times before the final whistle, the last try coming with only two minutes left in the match. The Bruins were able to sustain the pressure, however, their efforts aided by tries from scrumhalf and Captain Grant Penney, who threw and dummy and broke through the Utah forward pack to score, and flanker Matt Frederickson, who took a quick tap penalty across the whitewash. Sharpe, the fleet footed freshman wing, also added a late second try. Flyhalf Ben Francis coupled great defensive work all day with useful leadership of the backline, and was also five of eight on conversions.
The Bruins were able to sustain the Utah attack up until the 80th minute, when a Utah forward knocked the ball on and Penney kicked it out. Final score Ucla 50, Utah 38.
The Bruins now face a bit of a layoff from gametime with final exams and Spring Break looming, but plan on putting in practice and fitness work throughout in preparation for an away double header against Pac rivals Arizona and Arizona State on April 5th and 7th, respectively.
“Now that we’ve earned some respect by beating Utah, there is more pressure on us than ever to work hard and perform,” said Penney. “We’ve got a lot of grinding to do to make sure we can maintain the momentum we have at the moment.”