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College rugby: Utah, Weber State roll to victories

The University of Utah opened its Pac-12 season Saturday with a dominating 38-0 victory over UCLA.

Going into the match, UCLA was favored based on the fact the Bruins edged the Utes last spring, were on their home pitch and entered the match with an 8-1 record. The Goff Rugby Report said the Bruins were led by “a tough” forward pack and a “skilled and experienced” backfield “with a strong overseas influence."

Undaunted, Utah started the game with the same intensity it showed against BYU two weeks ago, except this time the Utes held on to the ball and were sure on their tackles. Utah dominated in the forwards as Danny Christensen (scrum half) and Tonata Lauti (fullback) led the backfield. Chad Gough was outstanding at hooker, while prop Spencer Vickery and lock Nyles Lapuaho, making his first start of the year, led a ferocious pack.

Utah’s rugby director Mark Drown said the Utes’ defensive structures were sound for all 80 minutes, and the last two weeks focusing on tackling, ball handling and accuracy at the breakdown saw excellent results.

Utah coach Jon Law noted that Utah’s set pieces were particularly effective, especially in the air at the lineouts by stealing several of UCLA’s throw-ins. The coaching staff said it was very pleased with the team’s commitment and effort both over the past few weeks and in the match.

Law also praised Gabe Ruflin, who played a courageous match after being ill all week, and Tu’uta Polotu, who gutted through a calf strain to link up with Zen Rezivi in the midfield and shut down the Bruins' most effective attack option.

The Utes will now take a week off from 15s play as they participate in the Las Vegas Invitational sevens tournament this weekend. Las Vegas is a qualifier for the Collegiate Rugby Championship in May and 24 teams are competing including Kutztown and undefeated Arkansas State. Utah is in a highly competitive Pool E with American International College (an East Coast power), Claremont College (California), and Wheeling Jesuit (West Virginia).

Weber State wins two to open season

Former Utah rugger Mike Wunderli is in his second year as the head coach of Weber State University’s rugby team. His brother, Matt, is the forwards coach for the University of Utah. Both were stars on the 2007-10 Ute rugby teams that posted back-to-back 20-win seasons with Mike being named Honorable Mention All-American in 2009 and Matt an All-American in 2010.

Weber State opened its season at the Red Rock Tournament in Mesquite, Nevada, a week ago by defeating Idaho State, 64-24, and Southern Utah University, 30-14.

BYU whips Utah State

BYU upped its record to 5-0 by downing Utah State, 64-12. Cal hosted the University of British Columbia and went down to its first defeat of the spring losing to the Canadians, 19-6.

Other scores: Colorado State upset Arizona, 29-21; Central Washington was unmerciful in beating Western Washington, 132-3; Washington over Oregon State, 28-17; and Washington State downed Boise State, 24-19.

Eagle sevens in New Zealand

The fourth leg of the 2014-15 HSBC Sevens was played in Wellington, New Zealand, this past weekend. The Eagles opened pool play impressively as they trounced Japan, 41-5, and then jumped all over France, 38-7, before losing to South Africa, 26-14.

However, France defeated the Springboks which left the U.S., South Africa and France tied for first in the pool with 2-1 records. The Eagles were awarded first on point differential.

The following day was a bit of a disappointment. In the Cup quarterfinals the United States blew a 15-0 lead over Scotland in the final three minutes of play to lose, 19-15, when the Scots scored a try with 20 seconds to play and then the winning try after time expired. Relegated to Plate play, the Eagles lost a tough 12-10 decision to Fiji in the semifinals. New Zealand won Wellington with a 27-21 victory over England in the championship match. Despite its 2-3 record, it was an impressive showing for the U.S., which now returns home for the Las Vegas leg of the HSBC Sevens this coming weekend.

Utah high school rugby just weeks away

The Utah high school rugby season opens March 7. This year there are two boys varsity divisions (single and multi-school) each divided into three conferences.

The single school conferences are the Wasatch (Bear River, Box Elder, Davis, Highland, Olympus, West); Bonneville (Cyprus, East, Brighton, Herriman, West Jordan, Wasatch, Mountain View); and Sun (Cedar, Millard, Snow Canyon, Pine View, Las Vegas Rugby Academy, Las Vegas Aces, Hurricane, Dixie, Desert Hills).

The club side conferences are Timpanogos (Alta, United, South County Crusaders, Orem, Genesis); Oquirrh (Skyline, West Valley, TC Fusion, Lowland, Bingham); and Uinta (Wasatch, Bountiful, Cache Valley, Northern Militia, Kau Toa).

There are also 12 girls sides playing in two conferences (Northern and Southern).