Sunday, February 14, 2010
Guilford gets back to winning ways in 2010 opener
Despite accruing an embarrassing total of 18 penalties - most coming around the ruck - Guilford managed to seize victory in the opening game of the 2010 matrix season against the visiting Elon Pheonix on Saturday. In what might be remembered here out as the "mud match," a game that was thought to be just another in a string of cancellations (dating back to Halloween day for Guilford) but was ultimately allowed to commence, both teams came out of the gate with intensity.
Elon captured the momentum early with the first try of the game off of a mishandled kickoff by the home team. Within minutes most members of both sides were covered in a thick layer of brown mud as all of the snow from the night before melted on the already-devastated Guilford rugby pitch.
Guilford regained composure and took over the lead with two tries before the break as winger wing Walt Barber and inside center Randall Aldana each earned their first career scores; Walt touching down in the corner and Randall charging through from five meters out after the pack secured an important scrum. A controversial offsides high tackle by Aldana in front of his own try-zone would probably have earned him a ten-minute breather and a penalty try for the Phoenix under most officials whistles, but instead was deemed just a penalty, which Elon could not use to their advantage.
After the half Guilford's forwards began to control the game with a dominating scrum and some impressive jumping in the line-outs by lock Crosby Blair. Guilford found themselves unable to find pay dirt after winger Dave Kloss got the ball close on a weak-side attack. The forwards ran a succession of crashes around the five-meter line until getting penalized and losing a potential game-sealing opportunity.
However, the tired Guilford side was aided by a string of substitutions and a large crowd of home supporters and off of a line-out in their own end fullback Max George caught a long pass from flyhalf Sean McNally, found a hole in the Elon line and was able to shake the lone 15 and take it 60 meters until falling awkwardly a few feet in front of the try-zone and squirming forward to touch the ball down across the line just before an Elon defender got there.
But the Phoenix fought back and after yet another penalty in the ruck against the home team and the subsequent sin-binning of captain Andrew Slater an Elon forward scored on a hard tap-and-go drive from five meters out. The remainder of the game was defined by sloppy play from both sides in the increasingly muddy conditions. The teams traded penalties and Guilford benefited from some crucial Elon knock-ons until flyhalf Sean McNally managed to break a succession of tackles and run in the game's final try with minutes remaining, securing a bonus point for the Quakers.
With a final score of 22-10 Guilford earned their first win since September and find themselves in a decent position approaching this weekend's home match against UNC Charlotte. Spirited play from flanker Kevin Cumberland, who was so thoroughly covered in mud by game's end that his number seven was indiscernible, earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.
At days end it was clear that everyone is happy to be playing rugby again and the unheard of streak of seven straight games canceled due to weather is finally over. Guilford will host Charlotte, who have yet to play this year, at 1 PM on Saturday.
(photos by Cloud Gamble)