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For the second consecutive year, Texas eliminated Notre Dame to advance to the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. In Austin, Texas, the Longhorns used two second half scores and solid defense to defeat the Fighting Irish, 22-17.
Texas started strong and started the scoring with a try in the opening minutes. Tommy Gilmore bashed through the Notre Dame defense for a score under the posts and a 7-0 lead.
The Fighting Irish controlled much of the play for the next 15 minutes, earning several penalties at the breakdown. Texas struggled to control a bigger and stronger Irish pack and was penalized as a result. Notre Dame capitalized on the penalties when it drove a maul over the line for a score. Notre Dame missed the conversion and Texas retained a 7-5 lead.
"They were really big, really strong and really heavy,” Texas coach Chris Hopps said of Notre Dame. "They were a load at the set pieces.”
Notre Dame continued to dominate the ruck area, garnering several more penalties. The referee’s patience wore thin, and he sent a Texas flanker to the sin bin. The Irish spent much of the bin time in Texas’ territory, but a knock-on on the goal stymied the Notre Dame attack.
Things settled down for Texas, however, and the Longhorns garnered the only three points earned during the penalty.
“I thought we faced some adversity,” said Hopps. “”We had to make some adjustments to the way that the breakdown was being called. We had to throttle back our aggression. It became more about pressuring them into mistakes rather than winning the ball back.”
At 10-5, Notre Dame fought its way back into the game with a score off a quick tap. The Irish caught the Texas defense napping and darted over to tie the game. The conversion was missed, and the game went to halftime knotted at 10 apiece.
Texas controlled the early stages of the second half. Taking a page out of the Notre Dame book, the Longhorns drove down the field by attacking the fringes. The home side established sustained pressure inside the 22-meter line and twice earned penalties five meters out. A knock on and a penalty against Texas, however, ended both attacks and Notre dame was able to clear its line.
The defensive pressure from Texas was very strong in the second half, and a strip earned at a ruck resulted in the first score of the second stanza. Off the turnover, the ball found Felix Olazaran, who outflanked the Notre Dame defense and fended off two tacklers to score a 50-meter try. With the conversion, the Longhorns led 17-10.
They added to their lead several minutes later with a well executed try off a scrum. Texas drew the Notre Dame defensive line in and the blindside wing, Matt Young, split a gap to score down the right sideline.
For the remainder of the second half, Notre Dame attempted to cut into the Texas lead but a strong defensive effort kept the Irish at bay for almost the remainder of the game.
“I thought our guys played great from beginning to end in loose play,” added Hopps. “I thought we swarmed in the tackle and we read it well and were able to cover it well. We really forced them to work down the field. Obviously, I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Notre Dame once again caught the Texas defense napping on a quick tap, however, cutting the lead to 22-17. With very little time left, Texas forced Notre Dame into touch on the ensuing kickoff. The Longhorns maintained possession in the dying moments to punch their ticket to the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, where they'll host Cal.