NOTRE DAME FALLS TO TEXAS IN 1ST ROUND OF VARSITY CUP
Irish come up short in Austin 22-17
The Notre Dame men’s rugby team travelled to Austin on Friday to take on the Texas Longhorns in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, the nation’s premier XV rugby tournament. In a hard-fought game on UT’s Whitaker fields, the Irish fell short one try. The game was streamed live over the internet with commentary and play-by-play by Texas Student TV.
On a warm but windy Good Friday, the Longhorns kicked off to the Irish at 7:00 central time. The first half was turnover-heavy; much of the action was focused on the middle of the field with the forwards. Texas and Notre Dame traded possession not only in rucks but also in the scrums and lineouts, of which there were many. It was Texas who scored first, recovering the ball early and driving from deep in their own territory. The Texas scrumhalf stole the ball from Notre Dame’s scrum and passed it to a prop, who powered in under the posts for the try. The conversion was good.
Notre Dame answered back after recovering the ball on a Texas turnover. A kick to touch set up a maul, which drove down the field and pushed senior Richard Kessler in for the try in the corner. Mauls were a strong point of Notre Dame’s play on Friday, as they had been all season. The conversion was low and Texas retained the lead 7-5. Just a few minutes later, the Longhorns added another score on a penalty kick from thirty meters out to bolster their lead 10-5.
Not to be denied, however, the Irish took possession at midfield from a scrum. Power running from props allowed scrumhalf Andy Preising time to swing the ball left to the backline. Notre Dame played advantage from a Texas penalty until the whistle, when Luc Joseph took a tap-and-go in for the try from five meters out. The conversion sailed wide right and the score remained tied 10-10 going into the second half.
The Longhorns opened the second half with aggressive offense. From halftime well into the second half, the ball stayed in Irish territory. The Irish stopped the Texas attack inside the five meter line twice after exchanging possession several times. The Longhorns sent the ball wide to their backs out of a scrum in the corner, but the Irish recovered and kicked the ball deep downfield. The Texas fullback then took the ball in for a quick try on a run to the weak side. About four minutes later, UT took the ball wide off a lineout and sent it to their wing, who put it down in the right corner for another try.
The Irish still had plenty of fight, however. Hooker Luc Joseph took the ball deep into Texas territory on a line break. More power running by the forwards set up good field position for Notre Dame. An Irish lineout to maul drove inside the five meter line, where a tap-and-go by Joseph punched in for the try. The conversion was good, and Texas’s lead fell to five with just under two minutes left in the game. The Irish couldn’t score again, however, and Texas emerged victorious 22-17.
Notre Dame now looks towards the remainder of sevens season, which will culminate in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships in Philadelphia during the last week of May.