It only took two hours overnight and Pullman, Wash. had snow on the ground once again, making for a classic winter matchup for Washington State and Idaho Saturday.
To top off the cold weather it was windy; add those up and it can lead to a lot of mistakes. Both teams had them, but in the end it was Washington State getting its first league win over Idaho 14-0.
The start of the game consisted of a knock-on leading to a scrum on each team’s first possessions. When the ball was fed to the backlines, passes went crazy directions with the wind. And when the ball did get to the outside centers and wings, players had trouble handling the ball.
The first strike came from WSU No. 8 Rowan Ringer, who took the ball off a scrum and scampered up the sideline breaking two tackles and putting ball down for 7-0 lead after lock Casey Smith’s conversion.
From there, things went back to normal with both teams playing great pressure defense to fight for field position. When WSU was under pressure from Idaho inside their 22-meter line, flyhalf Jeff Turner’s leg paid premiums with some well-guided kicks in gusty conditions. Same for Idaho, with recently named player-of-the-week flyhalf Phillip Vrontamitis doing what he does best.
At halftime, WSU was holding onto their slim 7-0 margin with a lot of rugby left to play. “I told them we had to stop waiting for them to come to us, we had to meet them on defense,” WSU coach Matt Hudson said. “Idaho is a dangerous team and knows how to take advantage of people’s mistakes.”
In the second half, both teams stepped up their defense and possessions were now shifting to the forwards to keep the errors to a minimum. Off the rucks, both teams were crisp in their support running, making it easy for the forwards to run with ferocity and maintain the ball.
The big turning point came with under 10 minutes in the game. Idaho’s scrum was turned when they lost their footing on the slippery pitch. WSU fullback James Giesman kicked the ball into some vacant space behind the 22-meter line. From there, a knock-on forced a scrum.
A couple of clean passes through the WSU backline set up winger Fenton Rybka to break through two tackles en route to WSU’s score and put it out of reach of the Vandals for their first league win.
“Good to get the win, but still a lot to work on,” Hudson said. “Our physicality at the point of contact needs to get better and ball handling going to the ground.”
WSU will face a fresh Oregon team in Eugene next weekend, while Idaho must go down to Corvallis to face power Oregon State coming off a win against Western.
Tries: Rybka, Ringer
Convs: Smith 2