Back-to-back Titles for UCF Rugby

Back-to-back Titles for UCF Rugby

Photo: Travis Prior, USARugby.org

Central Florida won its second-straight DI-AA National Championship Sunday, trouncing Arizona 64-13 at Steuber Rugby Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif. The Knights and Wildcats traded barbs early on, but the Knights proved to big to deal with.

First blood was drawn 13 minutes in when Arizona’s Kyle Rogers slotted a penalty following an infringement from UCF at the breakdown. The Knights responded five minutes later with a penalty of their own, leveling the table at 3-3.

Arizona applied pressure off the ensuing restart, and the Wildcats kicked to the corner for a five-meter lineout. They missed with a long throw, and UCF tried to run out of its own end. The Wildcats turned the ball over, went through several phases and put Anthony Spencer in for the game’s first try.

Jack Arnold displayed some quick hands on the movement, passing to prop Jarrett Bunnin, who rumbled forward and dished to Spencer. The conversion was missed, making it 8-3 to Arizona with just over a quarter of the game gone.

Central Florida evened the score in much the same way it got behind. Arizona tried to play too much rugby in its own end, UCF turned the Wildcats over, and the Knights strung together a tying possession. No. 8 Gerhard Veit got the ball near the touch line, drew in the last defender and slipped a pass to wing James Boozer for the try, recalling visions of the game-winning score from the 2013 final. The conversion missed, UCF and Arizona were tied 8-8 with 13 minutes to play.

Central Florida kept pounding away with strong forward runs, and Scott Watters, who’d worn Arizona down with several impact runs throughout the half, dove over on a pick-and-jam from inches out. Gunnar Johnson hit the conversion, putting UCF up 15-8 with just over five minutes to play in the half.

Sean Nelson looked like he was going to pour on another five points when he caught Arizona without a man in the pillar position and ran ahead 40 meters. He was caught. though, and lost the ball forward.

The Knights didn’t let Arizona out of their own end after the run, and turned the ball over. Flanker Samuel Levi spun his way through two arm tackles and fell into pay dirt for the try. Converted, it put the Knights up 22-8 with just a minute to play.

The time left on the clock was enough for the Knights to add one more try. This time it was scrumhalf Harold Chiffleau darting in from inches out. The conversion was made, and UCF carried a 29-8 lead into intermission.

Halftime didn’t slow the Knights any, as back-to-back-back tries pushed the lead to 50-8 less than 15 minutes into the half. All were again results of hard-charging runs followed up by more hard-charging runs.

After another UCF try and a long Knight defensive stand, Arizona punched in its second try in the 65th minute. Arnold missed the conversion, and the game was still well in hand with UCF leading 57-13. The Knights managed one more converted score for the final tally of 64-13.