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Wild Games in DIAA Quarters

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Wild Games in DIAA Quarters

West Virginia holds on. Rhonda Lockwood photo.

The Men’s DIAA college playoffs are down to four teams as the quarterfinals produced some intriguing results.

 

The biggest result was Arkansas beating Cal State Long Beach 24-14. 

Razorbacks Head Coach Warren Fyfe said he was almost as surprised as everyone else in the result.

The 49ers ran out to halftime lead of 11-3, but the Arkansas fitness showed in the second half, as did their strong defense.

“Long Beach State is a really good team,” said Fyfe. “They have some big centers and it was tough for us. But in the second half we got some go-forward and put them under pressure.”

With the back row of Brett Blockhus, Giuseppe Ferese, and Heath Gurley playing solid on defense, Arkansas was able to create some turnovers and win 24-14.

“We’re banged up, but the guys are pumped,” said Fyfe. “I’m pumped, too. If we play the way we played today, I like our chances.”

 

Arkansas takes on UC Davis, which defeated Western Washington 51-10 in an impressive display, although it was a game that took a while to fall the Aggies’ way.

“They were tough,” said UC Davis Head Coach Mike Purcell. “They were a hard bunch of guys and it was a closer game than the score shows. We just have a good cohesiveness between the backs and the forwards, and we can puns it up from and we can move the ball and score from our goal line.”

A simple approach, running straight, supporting, and scrumming well. It all started to come together for UC Davis, and the Aggies also got a big game from fullback Auria Torshizi. The #15 knew he would be kicked to a lot and he handled it well, slicing through the WWU chasers and getting his team back on the front foot. He set up several key attacks with his offloads, and scored a couple of tries, too.

“Our guys have worked hard all season,” said Purcell. “They’re just real focused. They’ve done their conditioning, they just really like to learn, and the kids have really responded.”

 

In Pittsburgh in the East Coast games, Central Florida defeated Kings Point 50-15 in a result that was expected, but the other game was difficult to call, as West Virginia had not been playing a lot of 15s of late, and were facing an in-form Yale.

Yale scored early and looked the stronger in the initial going.

“The first 15 minutes was all Yale,” said West Virginia Head Coach Richard Glover. “I thought an upset was definitely in the cards. They had a backline that was very threatening and they were slinging these 10-15-meter passes around.”

But WVU fronted up, and their scrum started to function well. WVU scored after stealing a Yale scrum put-in, and then when Manny Debra broke out of a pileup and raced in, the tide began to turn.

 “The main change was the scrums,” said Glover. “By the 4th or 5th scrums we really started to exert some dominance. That was a big help.”

Before the game the Mountaineers had discussed how to handle difficulties in playoff rugby. Last year, they felt they had panicked early against San Diego, thinking they had to chase the game. 

“This time we talked about sticking to our game plan and doing what we know,” said Glover.

Centers Austin Hoover and Eric Villiani were excellent in the midfield, and Derek Antonucci was a ferocious tackler at flanker. Ryan Blythe was strong at No. 8, although he did receive a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, one of two WVU received.

“Our discipline around the breakdown was atrocious,” said Glover. \