CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. — The University of Rio Grande men’s rugby team posted a 3-1 record in their second outing of the Spring and posted a runner-up finish in a 7’s tournament hosted by Wabash College.
With conditions that could only be described as near perfect, the RedStorm kicked off their day against Miami (Ohio) University.
Within the first minute, a knock-on from the RedHawks led to what appeared to be an aimless kick ahead from Rio sophomore Nomaan Ahmad (Torrance, CA). However, with great pace shown by freshman Che Spiotti (Charlotte, NC), he was able to chase down and gather the ball and race away under the posts for the RedStorm’s first score of the game.
A successful conversion also by Spiotti had Rio 7-0 ahead.
Some clever play off a scrum two minutes later saw the ball in the hands of freshman Patrick McDonald (Madison, WI), who broke free of tacklers to touch down under the post and give Rio a 12-0 lead after three minutes of play.
Two minutes later, McDonald was in again for his second try after some great work rate on defense forced a turnover and saw him speed away to the try zone.
With Rio up 17-0, there was still time for Spiotti to grab his second score of the game. Some excellent work at the breakdown enabled him to pick up from the base of the ruck and speed away on the outside to dot down in the try zone for a 22-0 advantage.
The second half was a scrappy enough affair with both sides trying to feel each other out and conserve energy in the heat of the sunshine. A mixup in attack led to a spilled ball by Rio which percipitated Miami breaking away and scoring its only score of the game to set the final at 22-5.
Rio’s second game of the afternoon against Loyola (Chicago) started in similar fashion to the first.
Freshman Christopher Gates (Charlotte, NC) opened the scoring for the RedStorm inside the first minute after some great general play and quick hands saw him race through a gap in the Ramblers’ defense and race away under the posts to give Rio an early 7-0 lead.
Loyola sliced the lead to 7-5 with a successful try, but Rio added to its advantage a few minutes later on a successful try by freshman Lazarus Ratuniyaravu (Everett, WA) and subsequent conversion to make it 14-5.
A lapse in concentration by the Rio defense at a ruck saw the Rambler attack exploit a gap in the defense and race away for a successful try and conversion to close the gap to 14-12 at the intermission.
The second half again was a scrappy affair with both sides keen to get substitutions on the pitch and get players rested due to the warm temperatures.
Great handling after a quick ball at the ruck led to Rio’s third converted try, as freshman Devon Scriber (Colorado Springs, CO) profited from the work of his teammates and raced away to touch down under the sticks.
Loyola scored again immediately after the restart to leave the score at 21-17, but the Redstorm held on in the final few minutes to ensure their second victory of the day.
Rio Grande received a forfeit win over Alderson-Broaddus (WV) due to excessive injuries on the part of the Battlers, setting up the tournament decider with host Wabash in a battle of unbeatens.
It was the Little Giants who got out of the blocks early when they took advantage of a massive gap in the Rio defense to race away and score under the posts.
Rio tied the game at 5-5 in the fourth minute when brilliant work by Scriber saw him offload to Spiotti who, in turn, raced away to dot the ball down in the try zone.
Again, a mistake in defense was to prove costly for the RedStorm from the kickoff with Wabash getting in to score again under the posts.
With a 10-5 deficit, Rio tried to level things up, but a mislaid pass led to an intercept and a race away try for the Little Giants and a 15-5 advantage.
The deficit reached 20-5 before the RedStorm made their way back on the scoreboard.
A brilliant offload found its way into the hands of McDonald, who raced away from the Wabash defense only to be to brought down 10 meters out from the tryline. As he hit the ground, a solid running line from Spiotti enabled McDonald to offload from the ground to him and see him race under the post to convert his fourth try of the tournament.
That’s as close as Rio would get, though. With two more tries to come the hosts’ way, the Little Giants denied Rio a tournament win with a 30-12 final.
“I can’t fault the effort of the entire squad over the last few weeks, and to finish second today just shows how far we have come as a group in the short space of time we have had to prepare,” said Rio interim head coach Adrian Pilkington. “I’m proud of the effort they’ve put in and their never-say-die attitude. While we were not perfect and still have things to work on, we can take this result as a massive confidence booster going forward into next week as we get ourselves primed and ready for next Saturday at Clarion.”
The RedStorm will be part of the Allegheny Rugby Union 7’s Championship at Clarion University in Clarion, Pa.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.