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San Diego State Holds Off Tenacious Utah

College Men

San Diego State Holds Off Tenacious Utah

Utah tries to move the ball as the SD State defense swarms in. Connie Hatfield photo.

San Diego State just won't go away. 

The Aztecs continued their run of impressive results, defeating Utah 41-31 to make the quarterfinals of the DIA playoffs. SD State started the spring season ranked #23 among all DI programs by Goff Rugby Report, but entered this weekend's game ranked #9, ahead of #11 Utah. And they played like it. The Aztecs worked their wide open game with confidence, 

SDSU weathered some early pressure from Utah and got a penalty to clear their lines. Then, the Aztec pack won a scrum strike against the head, and the ball was sent quickly out to center Nick Lupian, who was superb all day, especially running with the ball, and he was in for the opening try.

Fullback Ari Flink was brilliant, also, for SD State, as he always seemed to find that little gap to push Utah back.

Down 7-0, Utah continued to knock on the door and seemed to think they could do it through their forwards. They got several penalties, and opted to go with the quick tap, and eventually it worked, and the forwards surged over. Back came the Utes, and after the Aztecs stole a five-meter lineout, Utah got a scrum and scored off a set move off the scrum. That made it a 12-7 Utah lead, but back came SD State. They won a lineout, sent it to Lupian, and he glided through a half-gap before setting up Jacob Zinda for the try. With the conversion, SDSU led 14-12.

That's how it would go most of the game. SDSU scored again to lead 21-12 (a penalty try), but soon Utah was right on the SD State line and the Ute forwards took another one over.  That's how the first half ended, with the Aztecs leading 21-19. 

SDSU was th first to score in the second half, and Utah answered. At 28-24 Flink and Lupian helped break the game open. Flink sold an outrageous dummy and was through for 30 meters, and Lupian was there for the pass and to finish it off. And then a huge run from Harrison Barkham from the restart looked to be the backbreaker, making the score 38-24.

But Utah didn't go away. They went right down the gut and scored under the posts. 38-31. With time winding down, SD State iced it with a penalty goal, but it was a close game all the way.

"On attack we were able to poke and prod and find some opportunities out wide early, and we were able to exploit that space throughout the game," said San Diego State Head Coach Alx Lichtig. "On defense we eventually figured out what to do to hold them. Every time we looked like we'd pull away Utah managed to pull it back, and our guys just fought until the end."

Among the stars of the day were brothers and lock forwards Pat and Ryan Walls. They worked hard in tight, and put in several massive tackles that gave their side a much-needed boost. Utah hooker Chad Gough was their all-everything, but the Utes will rue not being able to contain Lupian and Flink, who sliced them up at crucial moments.

For SDSU, they now play at Saint Mary's in the quarterfinals.


See the entire game here.