IRISH RUGBY IN ARIZONA: TUCSON RECAP
ND falls to Arizona 21-19 in 3rd Annual Parseghian Cup
On the second leg of their Arizona spring break tour, the Notre Dame rugby team travelled to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats in the Parseghian Cup. This annual bowl game, played in South Bend last year, is a charity event that benefits the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation.
Upon arriving in Tucson Tuesday afternoon, the Irish took a recovery day to rest up from Monday night’s game at Grand Canyon University. Tuesday night the boys held an intersquad soccer game as part of the recovery program. Following the soccer game, the Irish had a hot tub/pool session and team dinner at a Mexican restaurant. On Wednesday, they resumed practice at Arizona’s rugby practice fields to get ready for the big match.
Also on Wednesday, the team took a visit to St. John the Evangelist elementary school in Tucson. St. John the Evangelist is a school closely affiliated with Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, a campus organization that helps strengthen catholic schools across the nation. The players answered questions about college and rugby, signed autographs, and demonstrated rugby techniques with the kids. They also presented a signed jersey to the school’s principal.
On Wednesday evening, the Irish attended a dinner in Arizona’s football stadium. They met with the Arizona rugby players and coaches while listening to speakers talk about the history of the game and the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. The Foundation, named after the legendary Notre Dame football Coach, gathers funding and advances research to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease. NP-C is a rare children’s neurodegenerative disorder that often kills in early adolescence. The organization was founded by the Parseghian Family who live in Arizona and have had several children diagnosed with NP-C.
Profits from the annual rugby game between Notre Dame and Arizona go directly to the foundation. Cindy Parseghian, spokesperson for the foundation, said, “It's much bigger than a rugby match. This is the coming together of two teams and communities, who mean so much to our family, to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Disease.” Arizona coach Sean Duffy stressed how special the match has become. “These are two teams you wouldn't expect to pair up, but we are pairing up to raise money for a great cause,” he said.
At 7:00 PM MST on William David Sitton field in the shadow of the Arizona football stadium, the game was underway. Tough defense on both sides kept the game scoreless for over twenty minutes until Arizona finally pushed its way in for a try. The Irish answered after a long drive when senior lock Pat Wirth took a pass from scrumhalf Andy Preising into the try zone from ten meters out. The score was tied 7-7 at the half. “Defensively it was an awesome first half,” said sophomore flyhalf Cal Corr. “The aim was to kind of push out and defend across the field and make our tackles out wide which we did really well.”
In the second half, however, the Irish had some defensive trouble. A line break allowed a long Arizona run. The Irish held the ball up in the try zone twice before the Wildcats finally punched it in. Notre Dame secured the ball shortly after and powered down the field behind runs from big men Logan Plantz and Jack Mitchell. Corr then took the pass from Preising to the weak side, sold a dummy pass and dove in for the try. The score was tied at 14-14.
Another line break then let up an Arizona score. The Irish again played possession-style rugby, driving inside the five meter line where sophomore hooker Luc Joseph took a tap-and-go into the try zone after a penalty. The conversion was no good, however, and the score was left at 21-19 with four minutes left. The Irish ran phases until the end of the game but were unable to score again. Arizona sealed the victory upon recovering the ball.
“At the end everyone was upset, but then it kind of hit you that it was more than the result,” Corr said. “We would have loved to win, but at the end of the day, the meaning was bigger than the match.” Senior Matt Diehl agreed. “It was bigger than the game.”
The Irish sevens squad hosts an Atlantic Coast Rugby League tournament on March 28th. The fifteens team then travels to Austin for an April 4th meeting with the University of Texas in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.