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UCLA Pulls Away from GCU in Wild One

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UCLA Pulls Away from GCU in Wild One

Photo Sofia McMasters and Herman Gun for UCLA Rugby.

A wild, back-and-forth game saw UCLA run away from Grand Canyon Saturday in Phoenix.

The Bruins were in a dogfight for much of the game as the teams traded tries, but a red card in the forwards late in the first half proved too difficult to overcome in the long run for the 'Lopes.

UCLA enjoyed some space on the edges and scored their first tries out wide. Both teams stopped the other right at their tryline before any points were put on the board.

But eventually a nice cutback run from left wing Sam Reade seemed to catch GCU a bit unawares and he weaved his way under the posts. Grand Canyon looked to answer with a smart kick ahead from fullback Luke Neely. UCLA got out of that only for hooker Charlie Marshall, who was active all day, to intercept a Bruin pass and rumble in to make it 7-5.

Another big break from Reade notched the wing's second and UCLA regained the lead at 12-7.

As the teams battled hard in the breakdown there was a little unnecessary extra pushing around. This eventually resulted in one GCU flanker (we're confirming which one) taking exception to his treatment, and his response resulted in a red card. UCLA wasn't able to capitalize immediately as it was GCU tat ran a nice move off a scrum before Neely sliced through and fed Juan Felan for the try. Ben Saunders converted and it was 14-12 GCU.

In the second half, however, UCLA started to press their advantage. The Bruins stole a scrum five minutes in and after running a series of phases, they sent it to the edge where No. 8 and captain Alex Cortessis put his foot down and ran in from 30. That made it 19-14 and soon it was 26-14 after a kick ahead was mishandled by GCU and eventually a player in an offside position picked up the loose ball. Penalty to UCLA; scrumhalf Nico Dimatteo tapped and put lock Will Sherman over.

Grand Canyon responded with a big, weaving run from center Jackson Gray. He was stopped just short of the line but from the ensuing scrum No. 8 Lachlan Jackson took an angle and was over.

That made it a one-score game at 26-21, but the rest of the story was written in UCLA blue. UCLA retained the restart and quick hands put wing Jake Thene over. Center Niko Cortessis then capped off a nice movement, and UCLA capped it off with an interception try.

For GCU, playing shorthanded for more than half the game hurt. But they showed they can be very dangerous. Gray was a difficult runner to contain and Neely varied up the attack nicely. UCLA's strength out wide is set up by their forwards and their second-row combination of Sherman and Jack Pargetter were excellent in the basic needs of set piece and defense, and got plenty of go-forward.

UCLA now enters a bit of a buzzsaw as they face Saint Mary's, Arizona, and Central Washington (with a week off during that space). All three games are on the road. For their part, GCU hosts Cal a week from Monday.