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Indiana Edges Ohio State to Win Big Ten

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Indiana Edges Ohio State to Win Big Ten

IU celebrates. Alex Goff photo.

In a tense, dramatic final worthy of the name Indiana eked by Ohio State to win the Big Ten Conference final Saturday night in South Bend, Ind.

Played at the University of Notre Dame, which hosted four games for placement from 1st to 8th in the conference, the final capped off an entertaining day of rugby.

Indiana took the conference title, Ohio State is second.

Full placement:
1st. Indiana
2nd. Ohio State
3rd. Notre Dame
4th. Illinois
5th. Wisconsin
6th. Michigan State
7th. Michigan
8th. Purdue

In cold, snowy conditions Indiana started the game playing some expansive rugby. They worked it wide left and then wide right before No. 8 Zach Marsh charged over for a nicely-constructed try.

Ohio State pressured right off the restart, got a penalty, and flyhallf Harry Colbert slotted the goal to make it 5-3. That pattern would repeat itself throughout the first half.

After a long break by center Parker Wall, the Hoosiers used their forwards to follow up and after a penalty quick tap were over. Peyton Wall’s conversion made it 12-3 Indiana.

Right off the restart once again Ohio State looked to threaten, but ended up settling for another Colbert penalty. 

The snow started to fall in earnest midway through the first half but both teams seemed to shrug that off. 

Ohio State once again came into the Indiana 22 and threatened to score their first try. But some solid work in the breakdown got the ball back for Indiana, and a superb box kick from scrumhalf Jack Rims cleared the threat. From there Indiana worked their way down the field and once again Marsh was over. Wall slotted the conversion and it was 19-6.

It was a huge momentum-shift sequence, as Indiana was in real trouble but only a couple of minutes later the Hoosiers were scoring.

As halftime approached OSU settled for another well-taken penalty by Colbert—three scores each way at the break, but Indiana had tries and the Buckeyes had penalties.

In the second half Ohio State opened up their attack. In addition, the Buckeyes had been bringing back from injury some front row players, led by Joe Phipps. The OSU coaches decided to keep them in reserve on the bench, and Phipps bolstered the scrum in the second period.

More aggression and strong scrummaging led to center Hunter Simons to break through. He was barely caught and the Indiana defenders reorganized. But yet again they were penalized and Colbert slotted his fourth to make it 19-12.

Indiana somehow prevented a potential try a few moments later, just barely preventing the touchdown in the corner. And the rest of the half was very much like that. Each ruck turnover seemed to be the most important of the game; each penalty promised to shift momentum; each scoring chance was going to break everything open.

Some good jackaling work from Indiana captain Pat Murtagh and a huge tackle from Peyton Wall seemed to set up Indiana for yet another try. But, not so fast. The Buckeyes held on and forced a penalty before turning the field around. A smart chip to the corner put Indiana under all sorts of pressure, and a wayward clearance allowed the OSU backs to counter, putting wing Chris Mason in at the corner. Colbert just missed the touchline conversion attempt and Indiana now led 19-17.

The Hoosiers had a shot to extend that lead with a penalty almost in front of the posts. They opted for a scrum instead and were shoved off the ball, giving the Buckeyes a penalty. When Ohio State moved their way down the field and then blocked a kick, the choice not to kick for goal seemed like a bad move. When the Buckeyes’ defensive pressure forced another penalty and Colbert put it over for a 20-19 lead, that decision seemed deadly.

But there was time. 

Indiana took a lineout in the OSU 22 but lost the ball forward. Ohio State took that ball and kicked clear. Referee Amelia Luciano made what is a very common ruling on such a play, and brought it back for a Ohio State scrum. Perhaps Ohio State might have been OK with Indiana having a lineout about 35 meters out, but they had been scrumming well. This time, however, the Buckeyes gave up a penalty in a ruck and that allowed Wall to kick the penalty for a 22-20 lead.

The Buckeyes did opt for a long-range penalty kick attempt, but from midfield in the cold and the wind it was not a high -percentage chance. And that was it. Indiana held on, getting a key poach from hooker Russell Lemaster and running out the clock with a series of rucks that had almost all the forwards working the breakdown. 

Overall, it was a game played in a good spirit and with plenty of intensity. Indiana’s penalty trouble made things difficult for them, but they battled all the way.

With his strong defense, leadership, and attacking runs, Peyton Wall was named Big Ten Player of the Game.