Ruggers fight off Miami, avoid upset in rivalry

With nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes of play, the BG men’s rugby team wasn’t looking quite like their usual speedy, high-scoring selves last Saturday at Miami (Ohio).

The Redhawks had a number of good athletes and played hard against the Falcons all game long. By halftime, BG trailed 8-7, marking the first time all year that the team didn’t hold the lead in a game.

But it was also at halftime that BG caught an important break. Miami’s best player separated his shoulder and sat out the rest of the game and in a contest that was rough from the get-go, BG scored the next 18 points of the game to take a 25-8 lead that they would never relinquish, scratching out a 25-15 win.

The Falcons and Redhawks have been archrivals since BG’s rugby program began and the most recent loss on Saturday improved BG to 60-1 in the rivalry over a 15-year span. According to BG coach Roger Mazzarella, Miami was ready to play.

“[The Redhawks] were up for the game,” Mazzarella said. “It’s a huge rivalry. Their former coach and I used to play against each other, and since he died a couple years ago, his son is the coach down there. We’re friends but we always want to beat each other.”

For a team that was previously used to picking apart their opposition and winning by large margins, the first close game of the season was a bit of a change from the norm. Mazzarella thought perhaps the pressure of going undefeated for the year got to them early on.

“The guys got the fear of God put into them,” he said.

Over the course of the game, Miami refused to let BG do whatever they wanted. They played a style of defense that set up traps and let plays develop before attacking. But in the second half, BG never lost their composure and took the lead back for good.

“The one thing [the team] never did was panic,” Mazzarella said. “They kept their composure. It was almost like they said ‘we’re going to win this game, but it won’t be like the previous games.’ It’s tough to teach that composure.”

In other rugby action, the B team also downed Miami, 39-0. The C traveled to Oberlin College and won 50-10.

This Saturday will mark the end of the spring season, as the A and B teams will square off against Cleveland’s Eastern Suburbs Rugby Football Club at 1 p.m., and the C team will face the Findlay Rugby Football Club at 3:30. All three games are at home.