Anthony Avila, Sports Information
THOUSAND OAKS – Last year, the Occidental Men’s Rugby team entered Cal Lutheran with hopes of reaching the national championship. Eighty minutes later those hopes were dashed as Oxy fell to the Knights for their lone loss of the season. This year Oxy entered with the same hopes, and this time those goals can still be achieved. Occidental started strong and never let up playing solid rugby throughout the entire game leading to a 29-10 victory over Cal Lutheran.
Cal Lu (1-2) capitalized early as they stole a ball from an Occidental ruck following the opening kick-off. Oxy (4-0) then committed an offside penalty which set-up the Knights for an easy penalty kick to take the first lead of the game 3-0. This would be the extent of Cal Lu’s offensive success for the entire first half, as Oxy’s stubborn defense would bend but never break.
“I am extremely proud of the entire squad for a clinical display of rugby on Saturday,” remarked Oxy Head Coach Dallen Stanford.
It did not take long for Oxy to respond as two minutes later, in a déjá-vu performance from last week, freshman wing Jacob Sertich found and opening and scrambled down the sideline to score Oxy’s first try. Barnaby Audsley added the conversion to place Oxy ahead, 7-3. The next 15 minutes passed without either team gaining a strong advantage. The back and forth play ended when Oxy found themselves within Cal Lu’s ten-meter line. Once there, Oxy’s forwards advanced the ball following several phases of pick-and-go play until prop Oscar Flores pushed his way across the try-line for his first of two tries of the day, expanding the lead 12-3.
“I have to give it to my pack,” Flores stated. “Every time I scored it was because we made it within ten meters of the try-line, and just kept smashing the ball [forward]. I just so happened to be the last guy to touch the ball down in the try-zone.”
Fly-half Barnaby Audsley proved to be instrumental in Oxy’s win, kicking four penalty kicks along with one conversion. His first penalty kick came late in the first period to give Oxy a 15-3 going into the break. Starting the second half, Oxy threatened inside the Knight’s ten-meter line, and almost identical to the first half, Oxy’s pack inched the ball forward until Flores put the finishing touches on the drive scoring his second try. Soon after, following a Cal Lu penalty, Audsley’s kick stretched the lead 23-3. Cal Lu showed some life later in the half, driving toward Oxy territory and scoring near the center of the field, allowing their fly half to convert an easy kick to cut the deficit to 23-10. But the hope of a comeback ended quickly as less than one minute later, Oxy took advantage of another Knight penalty and used Audsley’s boot to place the score at 26-10. One more kick by Audsley late in the game put the final score at 29-10.
“Last year we went 10-1, with Cal Lu ending our playoff hopes,” Stanford added. “That motivation was very evident, with the difference between the teams, being that desire to win.”
The story of the game may have been the play of Oxy’s defense which at times allowed a few breakaways by strong Cal Lu runners but used solid open field tackling to stop the advances, ultimately holding the Knights to only one try.
“The defense from Occidental was outstanding,” Stanford continued. “It was a massive performance, and one that will always be remembered.” The 10 points accounted for Oxy’s second lowest points allowed total of the season. “Now our attention turns to our final regular season fixture on Friday night,” Stanford concluded. “It's a great opportunity to show our supporters the progress we have made since the pre-season, and will decide how the playoffs unfold.”
Oxy hosts North County Colleges in their final regular season game Friday night at Jack Kemp Stadium. Kick-off is set for 9:15 P.M. Visit Occidental's Facebook Page here.