Friday, September 26, 2008

Elon Match Report

Guilford - 18 Elon - 14

Guilford Rugby traveled to Elon University on Friday night to face an always formidable Phoenix rugby club. The game kicked off at 6:30p.m. in drenched conditions. Heavy rain from the night before had continued until just before the match, leaving the ground saturated with standing water in places and making dry ball an impossibility for the rest of the night. Guilford was able to field many of their regular players, unlike the match at Triad, and lacked only starting hooker Kevin Smithey and hard-charging inside center Evan Flanders.
First half's kickoff saw Guilford immediately pressing the Elon tryline. A very tough defense from the Phoenix saw repeated attempts to cross unsuccessful, but eagerness to claim the ball netted Elon only a large number of penalties to Guilford. Prop Abel Montes de Oca finally mustered the resolve to punch through, grabbing an unconverted 5 points.
Elon woke up quickly, however, and exploited holes in the Guilford back line to immediately answer and convert, putting them up 7-5. The rest of the half bore no score, but a hamstring injury and poor adaptation to the wet conditions saw most starting backs replaced with freshmen players before the break. The rain picked back up again in the second half, making the match very sloppily played all around, but with Elon delivering better handled ball more consistently in the back line. A high kick from the hosts was mishandled by the inexperienced visiting back three, resulting in another breakaway try to Elon, which was converted again, leaving the match at 14-5 and looking dire for Guilford.
Leadership from the pack became a driving force in the following moments, as sophomore flanker Andrew Slater and forward captain Abel Montes de Oca saw fit to savagely engage every breakdown. Possession was kept much more and turnover ball was created as the rest of the pack carried the rise in intensity. Guilford again began pressuring the Elon tryline and dominating most of the possession. Sophomore fly-half David McKindley-Ward and Junior fullback Max George each had near tries spoiled by the wet conditions. Guilford began exploiting a flat Elon back-line defense with chip and grubber kicks that threatened throughout the rest of the game. Another rally from the pack put Montes de Oca in for a second try, bringing the score to 14-10 and putting Guilford back in the game.

As the final minutes arrived Guilford looked to outlast the Elon team and showed better overall fitness, especially in the forwards, once again bringing pressure deep within opposition territory. Technical play off a late drive put rookie winger Dave Kloss into the try zone to give the visitors a one point lead. McKindley-Ward struggled to put the ball through the posts in the wet all night, and the third unconverted try put the game at a tense 15-14. Stellar performance from the pack continued in the scrums and line-outs, and the won ball combined with better gas again put Guilford close to the Phoenix tryline. A very aggressive last stand from Elon forced McKindley-Ward to settle for a drop goal, extending the lead to the final 18-14.
While Guilford's backs struggled to maintain form in the sloppy conditions, there were moments to be proud of and great performances by veterans and new talent alike. The pack showed surprising strength, winning almost all of their own ball in set pieces and stealing much of the opposition's, despite being heavily outweighed. Rookies came through and held their own, keeping Elon honest and scoreless in the last thirty minutes. The still very young Guilford squad hopes to be in action again at home on October 4th against UNC-Charlotte.

Match Report by Coach Hunter
Photo Credit: Bailey A.

No comments: