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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Come and take it

A&M rugby teams play in back-to-back matches
Freshman+Ethan+Scott+%286%29+lines+up+during+A%26amp%3BMs+game+against+Arkansas+State+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+24%2C+2024%2C+at+Penberthy+Field.+%28CJ+Smith%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Photo by CJ Smith
Freshman Ethan Scott (6) lines up during A&M’s game against Arkansas State on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Penberthy Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

Maroon side

After winning the University Cup against UT, the Aggie rugby teams, Maroon and Grey sides, played back-to-back at Penberthy Fields on Feb. 24.

Under coach Conor Mills, No. 23 Texas A&M Maroon side, 2-1, took on the No. 5 Arkansas Red Wolves and lost 8-88. Arkansas, known for its defensive fortitude, just came off a win against Lindenwood despite extreme winds.

The Aggies had a trick up their sleeve as they came prepared to take on Arkansas with a blitz defense. This tactic is known to take away attackers’ time and space with the ball in hand.

With the temperature in the 70s and wind gusts only up to 7 mph, this away game was a breeze for the Red Wolves. In the first 10 minutes of the match, Arkansas spread out its offense, made a kick and scored a try, making the score 10-0. The white and black had possession of the ball more often than the Maroon and White. The Aggies still covered the opposing team with their prior knowledge of Arkansas’ dominant defense.

“One of the hardest things in terms of a defensive line, especially against a team like Arkansas State, is making sure to have that effort and be very aware of where you are,” junior scrum-half Rodrigo Muñoz-Ledo said. “You always have to ensure your spacing is perfectly aligned because if you don’t have that line they will use that gap and run it.”

Muñoz joined the team this semester after playing Rugby for CEU Rugby Barcelona in Spain for a semester. During the game, Muñoz made a huge difference being present as he was good with his passing and picked his pace of play up and ran from ruck to ruck, giving the Aggies an advantage to have more players on the field to end up scoring.

By the second half, Arkansas gained a significant amount of yards by either rushing the ball through spaces left open or turnovers. The Aggies played great defense in the first half of the game and played great offensively toward the end.

“Our attack and our defense can be dominant against a top team in the country, and we haven’t been tested to that level up to this point,” 8-man senior Eric Hawkins said. “I think that the new defense and the way we play our attacking structure gave us a lot of confidence to be able to take the good moments from the first 10 and our last 10.”

Senior inside center Cody McLerran picked up the pace by scoring their first try for A&M, but it was not enough. McLerran was a real physical player throughout the match, and his shorter stature was an advantage to the team as he ran the ball and hit on multiple occasions.

Despite the loss, the defense seemed to achieve its goal as multiple players showed their skills throughout the tough game. Senior open-side flanker William Hofstetter, who recently came back from an injury, had over 20 tackles and played great defensively. Hofstetter continuously worked off the ball to make tackles. Sophomore wing Conner Cantrell was able to find gaps throughout the game where Cantrell broke.

“I’m big on fundamentals, and I think these guys are picking up on that right now,” Mills said. “Going into this week we’re gonna get back again to basics, our individual tackling technique and tracking and executing under pressure, and if we continue to work on what we have been doing well, we will see a shift.”

The Maroon side is set to play Grand Canyon at home on March 2.

Grey side

The A&M Grey side played Texas Tech at Penberthy Fields on Feb. 24. The Grey side is 3-0 for its 2024 spring season. Snatching the victory, it won 29-0. The Raiders went against two teams before playing the Aggies and lost both games.

Grey side, under coach Manuel Zapata, played a defense-heavy match, as every time Tech had the ball the Aggies quickly reacted to the turnover and gained back possession. The crowd was pumped for this conference game and cheered on the Grey side as freshman inside center Ruben Ribeiro scored the first try, followed by a missed kick from sophomore fly-half Andres Lasala, who played for Maroon and Grey on Sunday.

Tech’s full-back senior Reagan Ragsdale swiftly responded by picking up the ball and running with it and got shut down by the A&M defense. The try that followed sometime after was by freshman scrum-half Jake Do. The Raiders capitalized on the Aggies for the first half as the ball was dropped by the Aggies and picked up by them.

“We lost our standard,” Zapata said. “We dropped down to what they wanted to play, which was a more physical game of rugby. Luckily, we had water breaks, and at those breaks, we got to play back to our standards, just move the ball quickly, and we shut them up and played well.”

Halftime for the team was a little different than usual as it was the 50th anniversary of the National 1974 Champion Week. In the third national collegiate game, A&M rugby went up against LSU and won 112-8. The crowd applauded and cheered on the men who played for the team during that time as they stepped on the field Saturday. The foundation for the team was laid by these men who won the first rugby championship for A&M.

By the second half, the Raider’s defense made good tackles throughout the game, but what was lacking was their immediate response to the Aggies pushing the ball up hard and fast. Freshman FB Conor Clancy and senior winger Tyler Ochs were a dynamic duo during the second half as Clancy rushed the ball and passed it to Ochs which led to a try, followed by another try by the duo after. The two celebrated by knocking heads and moved forward to finish off the game.

“After about 30 minutes in we started picking up the pace a little bit,” lock Travis Turnbull said. “We were making some beautiful passes and nice carries and it was great. Tech was making good problems, but their main problem was that they were not shifting effectively.”

Tech’s freshman second-row Isaac Cuchens was walked off the field with an injury as was A&M’s sophomore half-back Mahi Umakanth. Toward the end, freshman center Tyler Worthington ran the ball and almost made a try, but the Aggie’s quick response led to Ribiero and Ochs going for a high and low tackle.

Following that group tackle was a try from FH Lasala, and the slow walk off the field followed by the pearly white smile indicated that the Grey side had won the game. The Aggies rejoiced and finished off the game hand in hand, singing the fight song.

Grey side is set to play Texas A&M Corpus Christi at Penberthy at 2 p.m. on March 2.

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About the Contributor
Shalina Sabih
Shalina Sabih, Sports writer
Shalina is a Pakistani-American journalism major from Dallas, TX. She is also minoring in communications. Shalina's favorite sport is football and she loves the Dallas Cowboys. She wants to pursue a career in journalism after college and also plans on attending law school.
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  • W

    Wajahat mirzaMar 1, 2024 at 3:36 pm

    You are an amazing writer

    Reply
  • L

    LinaMar 1, 2024 at 12:36 pm

    Let’s gooo Maroon side 🙂 Rooting for Grey tomorrow Gig ‘em Aggies!! Another great article Shalina

    Reply