Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Written by: Neville Henry
It’s a windy night in Chicago where the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Irish of Notre Dame Men's Rugby are being hosted by Brother Rice High as they play for the Challenge Cup. Brother Rice High is the recent State Champions in Rugby and is looking to build on their success and build a strong and enduring rugby organization. By the turnout tonight, they are well on their way with over 600 in the stands on Easter Saturday.
With their recent wins over Arizona State, and close games with Arizona and Davenport the Irish are keen to prove they are for real and are confident, but the Buckeyes have a strong Rugby tradition, and they will certainly be a handful, and can be expected to put up a great fight.
Ohio State is playing against the wind in the first half and we will see how that affects the game today. The initial 10 minutes see the Buckeyes pressing the Irish continually, but the Irish defense holds and forces Ohio State to turn it over several times. As ND pushes out, they fumble on the 22. Ohio State takes the scrum and quickly move the ball to the left, but with strong defensive tackling again taking the ball away, but ND looks a bit rattled at this opening by Ohio State and their strong drives. Their scrums are strong and equal to ND. Ohio wins a line out and attacks again, but again are turned back by determination of ND, but they lose the ball. ND wins a scrum and clear the ball with a great kick with the wind. ND wins the line out and with great passing and strong running from the backs with a flick pass and they were on the Ohio State line and the forwards did their job. 5 – 0 Notre Dame.
It was a great move and team try, but it looked a bit against the play, but as it turns out the wind was at their backs and Ohio State had a tough time from hereon in the first half. By midway through the first half the Irish begin to control more of the game. Ohio State has had quite a bit of possession and have held their own in both line outs and scrums, but they had a tough time against the strength of the Irish backs.
As ND kicked deep into Ohio State territory, they had the opportunity to score several times, but dropped a few critical passes when they had an opportunity to go on with it. They pressed and continued to get the ball out to the left side, which was to become a dominant part of the ND game tonight. The ND backs are beginning to show more than just glimpses of their talent with sustained multiple attacks, and although a few opportunities went begging it was still "great to watch" rugby.
Eventually though it paid off and after driving down to the line and being held up. Winning the 5 yard scrum and quick hands got the ball to Ryan Robinson and in for the try. The conversion was successful. The Irish would have a great day with the boot, but they needed it, as Ohio State was to play a different second half. 12 – 0 Notre Dame.
Ohio State tried picking up their game playing clean but aggressive rugby, pushing the off sides and the ref let many not in straight line outs go, probably considering the wind, but Ohio State had their chances. ND defense knew its job and did it well repeatedly forcing scrums and turnovers.
Again ND pressed the left side with great running from the backs, but again to find the ball going into touch. They soon switched the attack to the right side, but were called for holding on right at the line. The penalty barely makes it to the 22, and although Ohio State took the line out, they lost possession and ND is quick to strike with great hand speed and support. 19 – 0 Notre Dame.
Following the kick off, ND kicked back to half way and Ohio State pressed, but a quick couple of penalties in succession had Ohio State within kicking range and they convert the penalty. Ohio State is on the board. 19 – 3 Notre Dame.
The strength of the backs continued to show as ND had another quick breakaway down the right side, but the try is not allowed. Ohio State takes the scrum and gets out of trouble, but both teams had some scrappy play. Soon the Irish are back pushing down the middle with 5 minutes to go in the first half. There is a 5 yard scrum and Ohio State gets a penalty and attempted to get out of trouble again, but ND get the ball back with their own penalty and they kick for great position. ND wins the line out, and with a fine display of great rugby go in for a try and make a great conversion. Notre Dame is up 26 – 3 at Half.
The second half begins with the wind picking up and temperatures falling. Notre Dame appears to be really strengthened, particularly after a long kick into ND territory, a tactic that Ohio State was to continue throughout the half, but this time the Irish got the ball on their 22 and pushed up the left side for a glorious try. 33 - 3 Notre Dame.
Ohio State continues to kick deep into Notre Dame 's half, but ND defense holds. After a head high tackle, ND takes a quick penalty and the Irish are back at half way. But it’s a struggle as ND is having a bit of trouble controlling the ball in the wind. ND continues to attack with flashes of the great back play that was seen in the first half, but poor handling leads to a loss of momentum. Both teams tussle, but Ohio State uses the wind well and keeps the ball in the ND half and eventually win a 5 yard scrum and dart around the blind side for a try that is converted. 33 – 10 Notre Dame. This was important as they have their first try over the strong ND defense, which would not please the Irish.
Quickly the Irish respond down the right side and win a 5-yard scrum, as they could not get it down the first time. This time the forwards push strongly and score for the Irish 38 - 10. With 25 minutes to go surely this is all over.
The Buckeyes are not ready to call it a day though, as it is an 80-minute game. Ohio State kick off goes way out of bounds with the wind and the play is back to a midfield scrum. The ball is stolen by the Buckeyes and they make a tremendous kick that takes a great bounce and into touch a few yards out from the ND line. ND gets pulled up for not in straight, and you can bet ND is not happy, but that's Rugby. Ohio State wins the scrum, maul it, and get another penalty and win another 5 yarder. They quickly swing it out with a long pass to the wing. He is tackled hard, but somehow gets the ball down in the corner. 38 – 15 Notre Dame.
Ohio State was picking up some momentum and ND began to feel the pressure of playing on there 22 so much. Their defense was still stellar, but the penalties were not making it easy. ND replaces two more players, as fitness was beginning to play a role. It’s lucky that Notre Dame has great depth this year.
Ohio State presses again and a number of ND clearing kicks are held up with the wind and do not make it into touch putting pressure back on them and Ohio State seize on the opportunity to counter attack and score a quick try. 38 – 22 Notre Dame. The game is getting interesting, but the Notre Dame lead is still pretty hard to better with less than 10 minutes to go. The next Ohio State drive is much the same play, and again ND find themselves in trouble back at their try line. They win a scrum, but over throw the fly half and it’s almost a try, eventually ND try clearing the ball but it goes into touch at the 3 yard line. Ohio State scores again with two minutes to go. 38 – 27 Notre Dame.
After a tough going for the first 60 minutes, Ohio State came away with a respectable score and congratulations to them for staying with it when many would not. The Irish showed some spectacular play tonight. Their defense was impressive, their back line had some brilliant play, and the forwards really made it an all team performance. The set plays were well handled and the kicking by both teams remarkable in the wind.
Ohio State made better use of the wind and their strategic kicking put continued pressure on ND particular in the last 20 minutes. However they had few opportunities and scored on all they had.
Notre Dame played well at all levels and was balanced, and that told the story tonight. They had many opportunities to score and probably left at least 3 or 4 go. Against the top 10 teams they will have to make all opportunities count. A great game for the Irish to bring them to two wins so far this season.