For the first time in several years, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University played a rugby match. The two teams’ B-sides squared off on Thursday, November 9th ASU finished on the wrong end of the 42-22 scoreline. This game was much more important than just the result. The fact that the game occurred at all shows that the two programs are attempting to rebuild a partnership.
ASU’s B-side came into the game off the back of a defeat to Prescott the previous Friday. The B-side is a development tool at its core, a lot of the players are new to rugby with a few veterans sprinkled in to provide experience and leadership. The B-Side provides an environment for new players to develop and returning players to keep sharp and push their case for an A-side sport.
Results for the B-side have been rough this season, lots of rookies who have the size and ability but are playing against more experienced opponents. Those more experienced opponents are able to manipulate the game into a pattern that suits them and win.
The lineup up against U of A saw a front row with, Rasa Yaghmaie starting at loosehead with Alex Pitton hooking and Nick Booz at tighthead. In the 2nd row, Drake Zinn partnered with Ian Freemantle. The back row had Cameron McDonald and Alex Reiman on the flanks, while B-side Captain Eddie Barnhill packed down at 8.
In the backs, Teague Perez started at 9 and partnered Michael Kim at 10. The center paring was Alex Vargas at 12 and Nate Troxel at 13. The back three was Jesse Libberson on the left wing and Dalton Ferguson on the right wing with Braeden Darling at fullback.
ASU opened the scoring through Kim, who sidestepped his way through U of A defenders after a lineout in the 22. ASU defended bravely, especially compared to previous games where falling off tackles was a big problem. They were aided by a handful of U of A knock-ons and some unforced penalties at the breakdown.
ASU had some injuries to deal with, Booz was forced off with a back problem and McDonald was forced off with a head knock. The injuries forced changes in the ASU pack. Pitton moved from hooker to tighthead, TJ Hernandez replaced Booz and took over hooking. Donavan Provenzano replaced McDonald before Provenzano was also forced off after a head clash. Provenzano was replaced by Harmon Crowe, Crowe moved into the 2nd row and partnered with Zinn while Fremantle moved to 8 and Barnhill moved to flanker.
U of A then grew into the game their offloading game began to cause problems and allowed them to gain meters around the ruck. While U of A’s wide-to-wide attack also stressed ASU’s defensive line. They also began exploiting Troxel’s tendency to shoot out of the line. This forced Libberson into several 2 and 3-on-1s down his wing which he handled as well as could be expected. Despite stopping a few sweeping backline moves with some nice chop tackles two of U of A’s four first-half tries came down his edge.
Halftime saw more changes mostly in the backs, Adain Brooks came in for Darling at fullback. Liberson was replaced by Dapo Hakeem on the right wing. In the centers, Andrew Ady came in for Vargas. Troxel shifted to 12 and Ady played 13.
The 2nd half saw ASU have more possession thanks to U of A’s knock-ons. Ian Freemantle scored the first-second try of the 2nd half, sticking out a telescoping arm to score after a tight carry close to the line. Fremantle was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle before the first of U of A’s 2nd half tires.
Injuries and cramps saw more changes Barnhill came off with an ankle problem and Zinn left the game with a cramp. Kaden Ellison was forced to suit up and play in the back-row. Kim would also come off with cramp, he was replaced by Louie Quiroz who played 9 with Perez slotting in at 10. Despite the shuffling, Reiman scored another barge-over try midway through the 2nd half. Finally, Ady scored the final try of the game bursting through the line and running in from about 30 meters to cap off a solid debut.
ASU’s B side showed improvement, in previous outings tackle completion and the scrum have been problems. In this game the scrum was not an issue, the pack even managed to win two scrum penalties. Tackling was still a problem but had definitely improved from previous weeks. The attack also looked more dangerous the forwards were able to generate momentum allowing the halves to put the outside backs into space wide.
Off the field, ASU and U of A are attempting to rebuild their relationship. In previous years the A-sides played territorial cup matches once a year, a return to that in the future is a goal. For now, the opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the nation is enough for now.
ASU’s final game of the fall season is on November 17th. The A-side takes on Scottdale Blues at the Dorsey Fields (510 S Dorsey Ln).