Turnovers derail spirited effort in rugby season opener
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
The rugby football club has been one of the most successful club sports at UB over recent years. In its home opener on Friday, the team was in the national spotlight – one it may not have been ready for.
In front of a home audience, the Bulls (0-1) welcomed Big Four rival St. Bonaventure (1-0) to Kunz Stadium to open the season. The Bonnies started their season ranked as the 18th best team in the nation by the Empire Rugby Conference. Buffalo was looking to beat the Bonnies for the third time in the past three years, but failure to execute on scoring opportunities proved costly for the Bulls, as they fell 26-5.
The Bulls dictated the action early in the match, putting pressure on the Bonaventure defense. However, Buffalo turned the ball over close to the goal line and Bonaventure had no problem making Buffalo pay for its mistake, driving down deep into Buffalo territory. The Bonnies used their forwards and powered through several Bull players before Buffalo stiffened near its own goal line, forcing Bonaventure to settle for a conversion attempt. The attempt was good and Bonaventure took a lead it would not relinquish throughout the contest.
The Bulls attempted to answer instantly after the Bonnies’ conversion. In the eighth minute, freshman wing Elijah Cole got the team in position after a long run down the middle of the field. Cole was electric, making several forwards, props and backs grapple as he got the ball to the nine-yard line. The effort was wasted, as the Bulls missed the conversion attempt and turned the ball right back over to the Bonnies.
Failure to finish on scoring chances was a recurring theme for Buffalo. The team finished with 15 turnovers on the night.
“[It was the] first game for both teams, a little bit stop and go for us because of the penalties and mistakes,” said head coach Mike Hodgins. “But it’s early in the season and we can straighten that out.”
Bonaventure added to its lead in the 32nd minute, scoring a try and successfully converting the conversion after the try, making the lead 11-0 heading into halftime.
Although there was not much scoring, there was plenty of action in the first half. When Buffalo’s junior scrum-half Sam Kim tackled a Bonaventure forward, the Bonnie walked back to Kim and repeatedly stomped on the back of his head, but the referee did not see the foul. The Bulls, along with the entire stadium, were outraged by the referee’s no-call.
The Bulls looked to cut into the deficit at the start of the second half. They came out aggressive with their passes and penetrated deep into Bonaventure’s territory, before eventually turning the ball over to the Bonnies before they could reach the goal zone.
“Our strategy was to try and to win up front physically,” Hodgins said.“In the first half they gave us quite a bit of pressure on our forwards. They did a good job of getting us out of the game.”
In the 50th minute, Buffalo turned the ball over in a ruck after driving to midfield. It proved costly, as Bonaventure scored off the turnover. Within the same minute, Bonaventure added another try and successful conversion, pushing its lead to 18-0.
Shortly after the score, the Bulls finally found an answer. After kicking off, the Bulls forced a Bonaventure turnover. Buffalo then used several passes to drive the length of the field and power through for a successful try in the 52nd minute.
Bonaventure’s scrum-half was pivotal. He was constantly around the ball, locating it in scrums and putting his team in good field position with his punts. Bonaventure would go on to score in the 67th and 75th minute and would possess the ball for the final two minutes of the game before kicking the ball out of bounds to end the contest.
This is the first of three ranked opponents that the Bulls will face to start the season. Their next game will be at Rutgers next Friday.