North Texas Wins SWC
North Texas Wins SWC
The University of North Texas won the Southwest Conference title Saturday, beating Texas State in San Marcos, Texas.
The SWC wasn't supposed to have a championship game, but with UNT and Texas State splitting the two regular-season games (both winning on the road), and a couple of forfeit wins for UNT complicating how the standings were organized, a final was set for this Saturday to decide the conference champions.
In a very back-and-forth first half, UNT scored first, Texas State replied, and the teams traded points throughout. Up 20-10 just before halftime, North Texas looked to twist the dagger a little more as they attacked into the Texas State zone. But an interception produced a converted try for Texas State and a 20-17 scoreline at the break.
Going into the game, Head Coach Michael Engelbrecht said he and his team had three main goals: pay rugby in the opposition half ("we would be willing to give up possession for good field position," Engelbrecht said); ruck dynamically, avoiding a physical battle at the breakdown that slows ball; and when the defense is sucked in, attack the outside channels.
Overall, it worked.
"We made some mistakes but the halftime talk was to stick to the tactics," said Engelbrecht.
The quick ruck style worked nicely. The idea was on counter-rucks to use the body, not the hands, thus avoiding penalties in the breakdown, and with the ball to pick it up and just keep going. New scrumhalf Asa Rivera was a huge influence here, marshaling the forwards and making sure they knew when to pick and run, and when to clear out. Rivera is new to the team, playing in only his third 15s game. Asked to fill in for an injury, he has picked up the game and did superbly on Saturday.
With flankers Patrick Moccia and Walter Saravia leading the defense - which needed a long defensive stand in the second half to keep Texas State out - and also running the ball well, North Texas also enjoyed a vastly-improved scrum performance.
Saravia was a nice addition. With some veteran players out due to injury, Saravia strapped his still-recovering knee and put in an MVP performance to lead UNT to a 20-0 second-half shutout, and a 37-17 victory.
North Texas could petition for a spot in the DIAA playoffs, but finances are tight. Engelbrecht said his program also wants to go to the USA Rugby 7s nationals, and basically had to decide which one to compete in. A full tournament over what might be one away playoff game was the decision.