USA drops collegiate rugby match held at Stanford

July 21, 2011, 1:47 a.m.

If you don’t know where to look, you might think that summers at Stanford are totally free of sports. But even in the dog days of July and August, the Farm is host to an eclectic bunch of sporting events that you would never find during the school year.

The latest unlikely matchup came last Saturday, when Stanford’s own Steuber Field hosted a rugby contest between all-stars from the New Zealand Universities team and USA Rugby’s Collegiate All-Americans. It was the final matchup of the California Summer Tour, a three-game series played along the California coast featuring top collegiate players from the United States and New Zealand. The current California tour was intended to showcase up-and-coming young players with hopes of either playing in the Rugby World Cup that will be held this September or being recruited to the newly reinstated Olympic rugby team.

After losing the first two games to drop the series, the Kiwis prevailed 23-20 after trailing the U.S. 10-0 in the final game.

The series began on July 9 in San Diego, where the Kiwis suffered their only defeat. “[Our] team came out ready to play and stunned them,” said All-American and Cal player Blaine Scully, reflecting on the first game.

The second game of the tournament between the New Zealand and American collegiate teams was held in Santa Barbara on July 13. Stanford rugby coach Matt Sherman said that the Kiwis had improved and were clearly working hard as a team. However, the All-Americans came out ready to play and won the second game.

Although the All-Americans had already achieved their victory in the California tour, the final match was still held at Stanford’s Steuber Field.

The game began with the American rugby team on the offensive front. After three minutes and two scrums, the All-Americans scored the first seven points of the game. Soon after, the All-Americans built on their lead, pulling ahead with three more points to make the score 10-0.

The intensity picked up after 20 minutes of play, and the Kiwis eventually received a penalty for aggressively reaching into a ruck. A few more mistakes from the New Zealanders allowed the All-Americans to gain some yards and keep up the offense.

The Kiwis pushed through the defensive line of the All-Americans with five minutes to go in the first half and scored their first five points of the game. A direct kick through the goal posts added another two points to the Kiwis’ score, leaving the score 10-7 at halftime.

At the beginning of the second half, both teams stepped up the intensity. The All-Americans quickly put 10 more points on the board, while the Kiwis added 13 to their first-half tally to tie up the game at 20-20 with 20 minutes to go.

The All-Americans received a penalty with just seven minutes left in the game, which presented the Kiwis with an opportunity to score and take the lead. The Kiwi kicker was feeling the pressure as he stepped up to take the penalty kick with a 20-20 scoreboard behind him. His kick fell directly between the posts, putting the score to its final tally of 20-23.

The teams became more aggressive in the last minute, as did the spectators. The All-Americans charged down the field in hopes of scoring to recover the lead. Making it tauntingly close to a touchdown, the All-Americans were stopped as the buzzer rang and the game ended at 20-23, giving the Kiwis their first win.

“[New Zealand] definitely got better as a team, and you can see that in the way they played in the last two games and the way they came out ready to play today,” Scully said. “They improved dramatically, and by the end, they were a very good rugby team.”

Even though the Kiwis came out victorious last Saturday, Sherman will remember the game fondly.

“It was a beautiful day, beautiful atmosphere and a lot of fun,” he said.

Contact Rachel Wolfart at wolfard “at”

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