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On an blustery day in Baton Rouge, La., the #25 Louisiana State University Tigers gave the #7 Arkansas State University Red Wolves everything they had for 80 minutes of rugby. At the UREC Field Complex, the wind played a heavy part of the game as the majority of the scoring was on the side of the field. With the wind at its back, LSU controlled most of the possession in the first half and found itself up 10-0 at the half. When the teams switched sides, ASU ripped off five tries to one in the second half for the 27-17 victory.
“There was a 20-25 mph wind directly north and south of the field,” ASU head coach Shaun Potgieter said. “We were against the wind in the first half which we couldn’t kick the ball to exit and our lineouts were atrocious. In the second half with the wind behind our backs, it helped us with passes or just kicking it downfield to get some territory. When we put on our subs, they injected a lot of energy in the game.”
The first half was almost all Tiger rugby with LSU retaining ball and territorial control. LSU’s first try was set up by a deep kick to touch, ten meters out. On the ensuing lineout, ASU knocked it on. Recognizing the opportunity, scrumhalf Mike Lloyd quick tapped the ball and dove towards the line. The referee awarded a penalty try against ASU and sent a Red Wolf player packing to the sin bin. Hunter Breit converted the try and added a penalty kick later in the period for a 10-0 halftime lead.
The Red Wolves refocused at halftime and concentrated on clean rugby. “Around the ruck area, we cleaned it up quite a lot which avoided all the penalties we had in the first half,” Potgieter said. It worked as clean ball led to tries.
Starting in the 47th minute from a lineout, the ball was spun wide to the backs. Working down the sideline into the 22, flanker Pedro Alvarez got ASU closer to the line. Scrumhalf Brock Roper saw the defense slow to react and passed to outside center Nick Abreus on the short side to score.
The Red Wolves tied the game at 10-10 in the 60th minute with tough physical phase play. In the end, a dummy pass by reserve prop Brandon van Niekerk faked out the defender for the try.
LSU regained the lead at 64’ with 60 meter run by wing Mike Houston into ASU’s 22. The offense then passed ball to the backs where fullback Cameron Troxler fooled the opposing flyhalf with an inside step for the try. Breit’s conversion was good and LSU led, 17-10.
Four minutes later, ASU answered back when flyhalf Zach Young quick tapped at midfield and carved up the LSU defense. Once into the 22, Young was ripped down with a dangerous tackle and the referee called for a penalty try. In addition, the LSU wing was carded for the infraction.
With the man advantage, the Red Wolves saw weakness and pounced three minutes later. Exploiting an overload on the wing, ASU once again infiltrated the 22. The Tigers looked to have caused a turnover, but the ball squirted out and bounced into the try zone. Reacting fast, wing Preston Weigel out-dived the defender to dot down the try. Fullback Valentin Balande added the conversion to take the 22-17 lead.
ASU’s final try came at the end when it took a scrum against the head at the LSU five-meter line. The Red Wolf pack stole the scrum and a quick ball out to Weigel saw a try in the corner. Even down 27-17 with a few minutes left, LSU kept fighting but time ran out. It was a powerful second half that proved to be the deciding factor for ASU and the victory.
Speaking on the match, LSU captain Brennan Falcon said, “We started the game off playing sound rugby. We did not capitalize on opportunities when we were deep in their territory... Our lack of depth was exploited in the second half. They were able to substitute many positions, and we had to have many guys play the full 80 minutes.”
ASU begins its Mid-South Conference schedule next week at Life University in Marietta, Ga. Potgieter expects a physical game with the Running Eagles and will have his troops ready. “It’s always been a good rivalry. We haven’t won in a few years. We’re going to give it a good shot and prepare accordingly. We’ll see what we can do up there.”