ASU and GCU held a joint training session on Saturday, Jan 14. Both teams used the season as prep for their upcoming regular seasons.
To begin the session the teams divided into forwards and backs. The backs ran their set plays against each other on one side of the field while the forwards worked on scrums. After a few minutes, the teams came together for a full team period. GCU and ASU took turns running plays off of scrums from different parts 0f the field. Once the scrum would go live, the two teams would play two phases then break and do the same thing from a different spot on the field. the teams also took the time to divide into forwards and backs. GCU worked on kicking and highball catching. While ASU focused on re-familiarizing themselves with their plays.
The A-sides played a short full-contact scrimmage. ASU put their B-side in for the 2nd part of the scrimmage. The scrimmage ended 24-0 in favor of GCU.
The scrimmage showed the many areas where ASU needs to improve before its season opener against USD. The back line struggled with tackling their opposites and generally looked rusty. The poor tackling was concerning considering the back line was so good defensively last season and through the fall. The backs was missing center Josh Lesley and winger Cooper Baines both of who are good defensively.
Another issue was rust, ASU's players only got back to campus last weekend and had just two practices before the joint practice with GCU. So they haven't had much rugby in the last month.
Exits from the 22 were also a problem, ASU tried to play their way out of trouble too often and it got them into trouble with knock-ons and turnovers gifting the ball to GCU deep in their own half. When they were able to get a setup and away it was poorly executed or the chase was not organized.
The back-line was not solely to blame, the forward pack got a baptism by fire in the scrums. There was much rotation throughout the pack, the opportunity to try different combinations or players in different positions in a semi-controlled environment was utilized to the fullest. There is some inexperience among the front rowers a few of them have had limited time in their positions or are just rusty from a month or so of no rugby. GCU's front row also matched up well with ASU's front row. ASU's props are tall and so have a hard time dealing with shorter props who naturally start a bit lower.
One of the bright spots in the forward pack was the forwards' ability and work rate in the loose. The defensive line-out for ASU was also a bright spot, they stole two of GCU's throws and frequently had jumpers in position to contest against GCU's jumpers.
There were a few team-wide work-ons too. Tackle height in both the forwards and backs was too high, which led to too many missed tackles. Carry height was also a problem which led to ASU losing collisions on the game line and gave GCU an easier time when it came to slowing the ball down.
Defensive width was also a problem area. Players frequently bunched around the ruck and didn't spread out, especially close to the line.
There are still two weeks and one more game before they play USD and the trend from training to training has been upwards. ASU's next game is next Saturday, January 21 at West Side Sports Complex against the Phoneix Storm.