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Wildcats Chase Down the Lopes, FT GCU 22-53 UofA

And there you have it everyone.  GCU likes to have night games, it definitely provides a much different feel here in Arizona.  Upon arriving to the stadium ,I was a little bit late having been stuck in traffic driving down Lincoln Boulevard,  you find yourself at the 4500 seat soccer stadium, a massive parking structure only 100 meters away.  Through the use of social media and on the ground hustling by the Lopes players posting and handing out flyers, local outreach with Brophy Prep and the Phoenix Firebirds youth in attendance, the crowd swelled to 1200.  For any college match, heck any rugby match in this country, that attendance figure is awesome.  The bottom section of the field was slammed and I just didn't want to fight for a seat so I went for a higher vantage point.

The stadium announcer was well versed in how to call a match which provided the rabid GCU faithful the limited information to add to the already great image before them.  GCU does a great job when it comes to pushing their product with multiple camera angles set up for GCU TV (their own youtube channel), not sure where the archived footage went though.  When it comes to amenities the GCU Stadium had their concessions in full operation, and a pro-shop just across the way if you desired merchandise.

But, onto the match.  UofA came into this match 13th in the D1A standings, which is a bit low for a team that made the D1A semi-finals last year under Sean Duffy But I suppose that's what you get when you're in the West and Play a true Spring schedule versus a split schedule.  You can call that some east coast bias for sure.  The reality is that Arizona is one of the top Rugby Programs in the US and they showed it.

GCU is a bit of an up and comer the last couple of years, they've been built from the ground up by former Head Coach Ryan Kelly, and now Current Head Coach Cameron Wyper with assistants:

 Adam Muszynski and Tomasi Paletua.  They spent two years in D1AA and earned promotion over the summer to D1A and quickly becoming a top program.  In fact, they sent a prop to the MLR already in Nick Kwasniewski.

Moving forward to the match.  You could definitely see the youth in the Lopes program with some mental errors, but their defense held for most of the half.  They may have not been able to enact their will in the first 30 minutes, but they were able to hold back the Wildcats with tackle after tackle.  Arizona brought forward a much leaner pack and in most of the first half GCU punished them at the scrum and ruck, yet, the experience they've recruited over time would win out as the Wildcats didn't lose a scrum.  The Wildcats had perfect passing to complement their speed on the wing.

The Wildcats go ahead early off of a box kick from Scrum-Half Matt Rogers as Dante Weeks performed the recovery on the long kick and chase almost perfectly at the '14 mark.  Shortly thereafter the Wildcats received the ball pushing into Lopes territory and earning a penalty at the '15 mark.  Kick was easy and they're up 0-10.  Lopes earn the ball after the kickoff and capitalize early with Flanker Roddy Hamilton bringing it to  7-10.  The Lopes looking to push forward made some mental errors as they pushed the ball forward.  Wildcats earning the ball and Dante Weeks hits the gap for the Wildcats earning a try on the fringe and they proceed to go up 7-15.  The Cats receive the ball, marching down the field pushing the try line only to be pushed back with the relentless defense of the Lopes.  Yet they regrouped and off-loaded from Lock Sean Coleman to the Hooker Zach Biggs for the try near the posts.  Try is converted at '31:30 7-22.

Early in the second half Matt Rogers showed you why he could be the best scrum-half in the country, not with his ball speed but with his instincts.  In quick succession he scored two tries, the second with a kick and chase on a grubber kick where if he'd done something different could have been a knock-on.  Yet his hands and feet were sure which put the Wildcats 10-36 with most of the half to play.  At the 50 minute mark it seemed to show how dominant the the Lopes Scrummaging was, however, Lopes Hooker, Suwaiter Poch was unable to steal the ball.  Although the Wildcats gave ground in the scrum they held, pushed the ball out to Dante Weeks on the wing for another try giving them the 10-41 lead by missed conversion.  GCU responds early after that try with one of their own by Hooker Suwaiter Poch.  After some back and forth at the mid-field Wildcats did what they were doing all night with their crisp passes and Dante Weeks puts another in to take the lead 15-46.  Off the reception, the ball was pushed to open-side winger Ryan Hudson who flashed the after-burners to seal the game 15-53 at the 70 minutes mark.  The effort remained all night for the Lopes as they would force a turnover and go for broke, Fly-Half Austin Taefu earning a try under the posts following some heavy work by the forwards.  Lopes received the  ball but would finish the match committing a penalty to give the Cats a 22-53 victory to begin the season.

GCU Lopes @ SDSU Aztecs at 1PM MST 20 JAN
UofA Wildcats @ UCLA 3PM PST 3 FEB (StubHub Center)

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