Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cougars Rally Late But Fall to Owls

UH Rugby Club following their 12-0 win over Rice last Halloween

This past Friday the UH Rugby team competed in their final fifteen’s match of the season against the Rice Owls. On a cool afternoon under the Friday night lights the Cougars played valiantly against the Owls but fell to their opponents due to a combination of penalties and failure to take advantage of opportunities.

Freshman fly-half Lesedi Manthata led the way on offense early on, splitting the Owl;s defense with numerous line breaks. Several times throughout the match Manthata managed to gain ground for the Cougars but the players failed to gain advantage. Too often the Owls managed to regain the ball from line-outs and kick themselves out of danger. Rice managed to take first blood off of a penalty kick to take the lead 0-3.

On the defensive side of the ball, fullback Ryan “Squirrel” Becker was able to collect numerous kicks from the Owls and gain valuable meters. Junior wing Walter Topete had a great try saving tackle and poach following a massive line break from one of the Owls centers. However the Cougars kept being penalized for infractions until the Owls were able to score off of a quick tap penalty at the end of the first half. The score was 0-10 in favor of Rice at the half.

Due to the number of penalties the scrum was vital in this match.

After playing mostly on the counteroffensive in the first half, the Owl's came out on more on the offense. The Cougars ended up knocking the ball on in the try zone following a failed kick at goal by the Owl's, one of many simple mistakes that plagued the team. Rice then once again was able to score off a quick tap penalty following numerous phases on the UH end of the field. Rice led fifteen to nothing with about a quarter of time left in the game.

Realizing they only had so much time left the Cougars upped their intensity. Good ball movement by scrumhalf Nicolas Schu and hard running by the forwards led by junior hooker Abe Blanco finally got the Cougars in the Owl’s half of the field. Eight man Jessie Dominguez finally was able to cross the try line and a quick conversion kick got the Cougars right back in the game. Score was 7-15 in favor of Rice.

The Owls were clearly beginning to tire and attempted to slow the game down during every dead ball possession. Hard running by both the backs and the forwards once more got the Cougars into the Owl’s half and over the try line in the dying minutes. Nearly standing on the sideline, Becker made a tremendous drop kick conversion to put the Cougars within a point of the Owls.

The Cougars once more got the ball and worked their way into Rice’s half inch by inch. But a questionable call by the referee in the dying moments followed by a knock on to turn the ball over allowed the Owl’s to win the ball and kick it into touch to end the game. Final score 14-15 in favor of Rice.

This game was a friendly between the two teams and will not affect the standings for either. The Cougars had a valiant showing and showed their fitness and will to keep playing until the final whistle. It is unfortunate that they will not be able to travel to Lubbock for the conference championships because if they proved anything on Friday it is that they have the skill and fitness to go against any team. Now the Cougars will focus all their attention on the upcoming sevens season which will pit them against the fittest and fastest players in the entire state.

The Cougar's following their win over Rice at Halloween.

All Pictures Courtesy of University of Houston Rugby Club.

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