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Arizona Comes Back to Win Barnburner over UCLA

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Arizona Comes Back to Win Barnburner over UCLA

Try time Arizona. J. Dalton Photography.

Arizona beat UCLA 39-36 in a barnburner of a PAC Rugby Conference opener Saturday in Tucson.

Played before a boisterous Wildcats crowd—the first such crowd for the UofA rugby team in two years—the teams traded scores and the lead throughout. UCLA led 24-22 at halftime and extended that lead to 36-22 in the second half after Josh Cox sped down the sideline.  But Arizona clawed back with a scrum move that set up reserve wing Tad Champion—Figley converted from the sideline—and then a big break from Lucas Agasse set up a pick-and-dive. Figley, once again, hit a tough-angle conversion. 

So now the teams were tied 36-36 with time winding down, and with Arizona threatening, UCLA was pinged for offside right in front of the posts. Robert Figley lined it up and put it through with interest.

For UCLA, which has some rebuilding work to do, the result, despite the loss, was reason for confidence. 

"I am extremely proud of our performance," said new UCLA Head Coach Harry Bennett. "I can comfortably say this was one of the most exciting and intense rugby matches I've seen in a while."

Bennett, who likened the atmosphere to the big schoolboy matches he remembers in Australia, said he was happy with his team's attack shape and their ability to punish Arizona mistakes.

"We had great success with our maul—three tries!" said Bennett. "Where we let ourselves down late in the game was we lost three scrums and in giving away soft penalties for offside."

Meanwhile, for Arizona, scrumhalf George O'Brien scored two key tries in the first half and was a dynamo, while prop Seamus McCarthy and lock James Rivers led an underclassmen tight five effort that was big. 

"This was our first hitout and we made a lot of early-season mistakes," said Arizona head Coach Sean Duffy. "We had knock-ons and missed touch, and not just the newer players, veterans. So at halftime we talked about how we were making early-season mistakes, and just not worry too much about it and keep playing. Harry and I looked at each other afterward and just said 'what a game.' It was just a great game to watch."

Figley's goalkicking, with two penalty goals and four out of five conversions, along with important contributions from the bench, was also key for Arizona, but they were also inspired by the big crowd, and Arizona alum and former Eagle Brett Thompson (pictured above left), who presented the team with their jerseys on Friday night. 

The game was filmed and can be seen here>>