IRISH RUGBY IN ARIZONA: MID-TOUR RECAP
Notre Dame tops Grand Canyon 38-22 in Phoenix
By Casey Nash
On the first stop of Notre Dame’s spring break tour in Arizona, the Irish landed in Phoenix to take on the Antelopes of Grand Canyon University. Arriving early Saturday morning, the team put in several hard practices on GCU’s campus to prepare for their first XVI game of the spring season. Temperatures were in the low 80s, a welcome change from the cold and snow in South Bend.
Kickoff was at 5PM Monday on the rugby pitch at the center of GCU’s campus. The GCU band and cheerleaders were there along with a large home crowd. The game was also live streamed on the GCU rugby website for viewers across the nation.
The Irish struck first and poured it on throughout the first half with clean offense and dominant play by the forwards in the maul. Senior Richard Kessler scored the first two tries for the Irish, both preceded by long gains in the maul. Freshman winger Bobby Hogan scored the third try of the game on a nice run after a series of sharp passes in the backline. The fourth Irish try came from senior Pat Wirth in another strong maul. Notre Dame led 26-0 until a well-contested GCU drive ended in a penalty kick. The score at halftime was 26-3.
Kessler had nothing but praise for the Irish forwards’ performance. “We’ve got a pretty dominant forward pack and we saw it definitely in the game against GCU,” he said. “The guys did everything right, really well, were very composed in the mauls.”
GCU did not give up in the second half, however. Several penalties on the Irish and strong running by GCU props led to two tries for the ‘Lopes. The Irish answered with a long drive capped by a quick post-penalty try from the half-meter line by sophomore captain Luc Joseph. After another score from a GCU prop, Notre Dame returned to its go-to all night: the maul. Senior Joe Grathwohl took the Irish in for the game-sealing try. “The try was super huge. It was great teamwork,” Grathwohl said. “We were mauling all game long, and it was great to be able to finish it off the way we started with a nice maul and with a try.”
Subs made a big impact for the Irish as the team sustained several injuries throughout the game. “I’ve played on this team for 4 years and this year the squad has been as deep as I’ve ever seen it,” says Grathwohl, who entered midway through the second half.
Junior Andy Preising added the conversions all night for the Irish. Final score was 38-22. Notre Dame’s final stop on the tour is the annual Ara Parseghian Cup against the University of Arizona. The game will be held in Tucson on Thursday a 7:00 PM MST.