Rugby club wins 2 of 3 on the road

By By Tye Smith

By Tye Smith

The U rugby squad, a club team sponsored by Campus Recreation Services, had a strong performance over the weekend at the Jackalope Tournament in Laramie, Wyo.

Falling just shy of the tournament championship, the Utes lost in the final game against Colorado State by a slim margin, 17-14.

Competing at the single elimination tournament in a six team division, the rugby squad trounced the first team it encountered Saturday morning.

The Utes got off to a good start, as they defeated first-round opponent Nebraska 37-0.

“The Nebraska game was our best game of the tournament,” head coach Mark Numbers said. “Against Nebraska we really flowed. Our whole team really jelled as a group.”

An early round victory meant another game the same day. The U squad drew Colorado as its second-round opponent, and played a close match against the Buffaloes.

The Utes emerged victorious, winning 26-19, but not before being called by the referees for several momentum-shifting penalties.

Numbers was disgusted with the number of penalties called against his team, blaming the calls on poor refereeing resulting from a regional bias.

“The refs in that union (Colorado’s region) want the teams from their union to do well,” he explained. “They were a lot tighter on us with penalties than they should have been.”

Numbers pointed to the fact that Colorado scored 14 points as a direct result of penalties.

Not wholly disappointed with the effort, Numbers noted his satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of the game.

“Even though it was a lame game, we still pulled off a win,” he said.

By winning its first two games, the rugby team advanced to the final game held on Sunday morning. Taking on a traditional Mountain West rival school in CSU, the Utes played a good game, but came up just short of the tournament title.

This time, Numbers was not willing to attribute the loss to penalties.

“We had some nitpicky penalties called against us, which did hurt, but we can’t blame the penalties,” he said. “The loss was our fault. We did not play our best ball and we gave the game up.”

The Utes were obviously disappointed that they didn’t win the tourney, but they did show signs that this newly assembled group is coming together nicely.

Numbers explained that many of the team’s core members graduated last year, leaving him with a group of inexperienced but athletic players.

“A lot of these guys are new to the game of rugby,” he said. “But they did well. I was pleasantly surprised.”

The tournament has no bearing on the record of the Utes, whose official season doesn’t start until the spring. According to Numbers, fall games and tournaments are mostly a way to “see where we are and where we need to be.”

The experience provided by the fall season could prove to be invaluable to many of the newer players.

“The tournament was a perfect opportunity to test the waters,” Numbers said. “The team showed some great play, while revealing some elements that we need to work on.”

There will be plenty of chances this fall for the rugby team to figure everything out. Next up, the team travels to Logan this Saturday for a game against Utah State.

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