By Alex Goff
Arizona State University packed over 1,000 fans into the ASU soccer stadium to take on Arizona under the lights Saturday night.
Arizona was playing without their USA 7s player and star fullback Peter Tiberio. ASU was without their two football recruits Trevor Kohl and Chris Coyle and starting fullback Matt Bulkley. Both teams gave it everything they had in a perfect example of what will make the College Premier Division work - traditional rivalries, rabid fans, good coaching, good facilities, and drama.
The game had it all, and in the end ASU came out on top 38-15. Not bad for a team that was in DII a season ago.
"Every game we've had,crowds have been going nuts," said Arizona State Head Coach Gary Lane. "We pre-sold 600 tickets and sold another 500 at the door. It became a rugby community event, and it has helped ASU rugby get a bigger profile."
Winning also helps.
"I’m very proud of the team," said Lane. "I can’t say it was our full-strength team but the same was true of Arizona. It was good not only for getting the newer players playing time, but I’m very proud of how they performed."
Lane said he's spent a few years building the squad, and said the entire program should take credit for the win.
"It was a complete team contribution; I told them it was a squad win," he said. "Everyone deserved to be a part of it."
Lane, however, gave special condieration to his tight five, which had a good day in the set pieces, and in the loose.
"We denied Arizona possession," he said. "The score was close at halftime but I felt the game was within our control. We have been scrummaging well all year and we worked hard to contest their lineouts."
The league policy of filming all games and uploading them for coaches to see turned out to be a good thing for the Sun Devils, as they identified that Arizona doesn't maul much, and therefore ASU could throw two jumpers up to contend the Wildcat throw-in, and still put pressure on their flyhalf.
Players stepped up out wide, too. Adam Sandstrom stepped in for Bulkley and did well, kicking for 15 points and playing solidly in the #15 shirt.
"He had a huge evening, found space, played unselfishly," said Lane. "We knew he could play fullback but this time he exceeded everyone's expectations."
The win showcases how much fun the CPD can be, and how the arrival of the league has helped rugby programs get better notice on campus. Arizona State also showed they've arrived. However, they will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs. ASU has already lost to Utah, and realistically cannot be expected to beat BYU in Provo next month.
So to finish 2nd they will need Arizona to beat Utah, and then hope the points difference falls their way.
Lane said he's not worried about that.
"This has been great," Lane said of just being in the CPD. "The College Premier Division has brought our standard up and I think we've shown we deserve to be here."
Arizona State 38
Tries: Steinbeck, Utley, Sleem, Zurek
Convs: Sandstrom 3
Pens: Sandstrom 3
Tries: Getzler, Lundahl