College rugby: UCLA ends Utah’s perfect start in dramatic St. George match

BY HUGH BROWN

ST. GEORGE — UCLA rallied to take a late lead, and then held on to hand Utah its first loss of the season.

With two minutes left in regulation time at Snow Canyon High School, the Bruins stole a ball in the ruck and once again spun it wide to a wing, who scored the try. The conversion gave UCLA (9-2) their first lead, 31-26. The final few minutes of the match was all Utah, as the Utes (4-1) came at the Bruins with everything they had. Utah drove inside the Bruins’ 5-meter line after time had expired, and looked like they might pull out the victory, when a UCLA back intercepted a pass and went the length of the field to tear the heart out of the Utes and silence the fans. Final score: UCLA 38, Utah 26.

UCLA came out hard to start the match and, by spinning the ball out wide, got inside the Utes’ 5-meter line where they were stopped on three consecutive rushes. Utah counter attacked.  Driving deep into UCLA territory, Tonata Lauti fed Keoni Hamala who drew tacklers and passed off to Matt Ball who scored in the corner for a 5-0 lead after 11 minutes of play. That lead held until the 25-minute mark when a UCLA back bulled his way over the goal line and scored a try following a series of inside passes to tie the match at 5-5. Two minutes later Scott Strong intercepted a pass inside the Bruin 22 meter line and scored just left of the posts. The conversion was good and Utah led 12-5, which remained the score at the half.

It was Utah who came out in the second half with great intensity. Two minutes in, Jacob Morrison picked up a loose ball out of a ruck, broke a tackle, and then fed Strong who scored a try down the sideline. Drake Myers connected on the conversion for a 19-5 Utah lead. Unfortunately, after the Utes took the kick off, UCLA pressure resulted in a number of terrible backward passes inside Utah’s 22-meter and the Bruins recovered a loose ball and scored for a try in the corner. An excellent conversion cut the lead to 19-12. Fifteen minutes into the half UCLA struck again as they got an overlap and scored in the corner to cut the lead to 19-17.

The Utes kept attacking, however. At the 22-minute mark a Myers kick put Utah in good field position and Taylor Thomas drove to the goal line where he was hit, but managed to ground the ball for a try. Myers’s conversion upped the Utes’ lead to 26-17.

There were two factors that contributed UCLA’s rally in the final 18 minutes of play. First, a number of Utah forwards appeared winded and were walking during play. Second, the Utes had their hooker sin binned for 10 minutes for a questionable action that was picked up by the touch judge.

The Bruins took advantage of being up a player when they picked up a loose ball out of a ruck on their own thirty and spun it wide to a winger who took it all the way in for a try in the corner. The conversion made it 26-24, but UCLA seemed to have found renewed energy and they were simply getting more forwards to the rucks and malls to overpower the fewer Utes who opposed them.

IN OTHER ACTION:

BYU gained revenge for its earlier loss to the Gaels in California by beating St. Mary’s 35-21 in Provo. KSL’s Tim Johnson filed a great photo gallery for DeseretNews.com on the 15 lessons he learned at the game.

Arkansas State scored a late converted try to defeat Davenport 15-10. Navy swamped Kutztown 38-3. California demolished Cal Poly 95-14.

OTHER SCORES:

Mar 8-9 – Arizona State over Oregon State 59-5; Air Force over Colorado State 31-26; LSU over Tennessee 41-18; Santa Clara over Cal Poly 31-28; Clemson over Wheeling Jesuit 42-14, Washington over Eastern Washington 53-0; Central Washington over Boise State 95-12

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