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The 2015 season for the Red River Rugby Conference kicked off over the weekend, and the Dallas Reds faced the Griffins in the first match of the year. After a closely contested 80 minutes, the Reds came out the victors with a score of 36-10.
This weekend’s match was the first competitive one this year for the Griffins and the first for the Reds since the initial round of Gold Cup. This was evident in the slow start, with only three points being scored in the first half. While the Reds had some letdowns on offense in terms of execution, the team put up some major points in the second half and secured the win.
“Offense worked relatively well. Our wings, Spencer Cameron and Zack Klump, had a few strong striking opportunities and were able to capitalize when space was created for them,” said Reds manager Filip Keuppens. “We missed a few shots at goal but the wind, while not overly strong, was a bit gusty and could have been a factor. That area should improve.”
Cameron took advantage of his time with the ball and ran in a pair of tries. The Reds’ captain, Dale Russ, had a try, as did Zack Klump. Despite the uncooperative wind, the Reds put up a high ball that resulted in Kelly Kolberg crossing over for a try. Blake Baulton converted four times and successfully hit a penalty kick to pad his team’s score even further.
When the two teams came together at the breakdown and in the set pieces, the competition became even more intense. The Griffins put pressure on the Reds’ forwards in the scrums and made a mess of the breakdowns if the Reds arrived late to the tackle. According to Keuppens, the Griffins’ scrum and lineout play was very proficient. The Griffins put the Reds under pressure throughout the opening half of play and forced the Reds to make some changes.
“Griffins scrum was outstanding,” he said. “We were able to make a few halftime adjustments that seemed to stabilize our scrums. The Griffins are very good at the point of contact, which was a good challenge from us. The Griffins were outstanding in the breakdown and gave us trouble if we arrived late. Fortunately, our halfback, Pete Santos, was outstanding at keeping the ball moving quickly.”
Saturday’s result had both positive and negative points for the Reds. On one hand, the team opened the season with a bonus-point victory and saw that the team’s game plan could operate even with new people in play. Though the result went the way of the Reds, there is still work to be done, improvements to be made.
“We were happy with the bonus point win but the match served as a bit of a wake-up call,” Keuppens said. “The Griffins reminded us that the level of competition is going to be higher this year, and if we intend to build on the success we've had in the past few years, everyone needs to work on the little things all year long.”
The first area of focus for the Reds is the offense. According to Keuppens, his players need to make the best of the opportunities that are presented and get more comfortable with the combinations on the field. That will come as the season continues. The Reds have New Orleans in two weeks so the extra time between matches should provide enough time to start building up the desired chemistry.