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In west coast collegiate action, Santa Clara narrowly defeated Stanford, 22-19, in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday evening. Both Santa Clara, who plays in DIA, and Stanford, who competes in DIAA, used the friendly match as a warm up for upcoming conference action.
Although the match is listed as a friendly, the Santa Clara-Stanford rugby rivalry goes back over 100 years. The early 1900s ban on football led to an increased rivalry as rugby began to dominate in gridiron's absence. “The original it game between Stanford and Santa Clara was the rugby match," said Keller. "While most people outside the universities do not understand this, it is a big deal to play and beat Stanford.
Stanford jumped out to a strong start, securing 19-3 lead over Santa Clara. After an early turnover, scrumhalf Alejandro Sanchez nipped over the line to give the Cardinal a 7-0 lead with two minutes gone. Santa Clara responded with a penalty but was unable to muster any more points in the first half.
Despite Santa Clara retaining much of the possession and territory, Stanford scored another try thanks to a brilliant individual effort from junior winger Wesley Greiner. Greiner broke several tackles on his way to pay dirt. Stanford coach Matt Sherman praised the winger’s effort, adding that he played an overall sound game. Along with a solid effort from flyhalf Oscar Sandoval, the Cardinal backline was able to put points on the board.
“We struggled through most of the first half failing to get over the gain line and execute our game plan,” Keller told Rugby Today. “Much of that had to do with Stanford, they are a much improved team this year.”
Stanford added to its lead early in the second half with an unconverted try to make the game 19-3. However, Santa Clara began turning the momentum and earned a try in the 49th minute to cut the lead to 19-10. Two Santa Clara tries, in the 63rd and 72nd minutes respectively, gave the home side a narrow 22-19 victory.
“For us, we found a way to win,” said Keller. “The players recognized that when we do the things we are supposed to do, well score the tries that we are supposed to score.”
In the second half, captain and scrumhalf Mark Kuppenbender and inside center Kyle Dunn came alive to help Santa Clara. Winger J.J. Holmgren, who is having a tremendous year with the boot, helped seal the Santa Clara victory.
Despite blowing a second half lead, Stanford coach Matt Sherman was very satisfied with his team’s game.
“I was pretty happy with our performance. I thought we were very physical and had some good foundations to build upon. While overall it was a good performance for us, we are really excited that we can improve markedly in the next few weeks.”
Both Stanford and Santa Clara aim to improve as the season plays out. Playing in difficult conferences, both squads will be tested as they move into league play in the upcoming weeks.