After a cloudy week of ice and snow, the early afternoon sunshine of Saturday, Feb. 5 lit up a fiery rugby slugfest between the University of Dallas and visiting Southern Methodist University.
The conditions of the past week had turned the rugby pitch into a wet and muddy marshland, but the spirit of Groundhog Week lit a fire in UD’s belly and inspired them to a hard fought and well deserved 48-5 victory.
At kick-off, the still-pristine blue-and-white stripes of UD and the white-red of SMU were greeted with throaty cheers from a large and supportive crowd. While the crowd’s enthusiasm remained recognizable throughout the game, the uniforms of both teams quickly did not, splattered and stained with mud after the first couple plays.
The game got off to a scrappy start, with frequent penalties and mis-handlings interrupting the pattern of the game. The forwards clashed in the trenches early on as the game got into its flow, and by the end of the first 20-minute quarter, the Hoggies held a two-try lead over the Mustangs.
SMU boasted talent up and down the pitch, with big, heavy forwards and lightning fast wings. The second quarter started off with an unexpected SMU breakaway. UD kicked off to the SMU far-side, where the Mustang wing snagged the ball out of the air and immediately attacked.
He slipped through and around several UD tacklers until only snow and mud was between him and the try line in an incredible display of individual agility, strength and balance. After a missed kick, the score stood at 14-5, but the Mustangs were fired up. They thought the game was on, but UD isn’t quite so easily fazed.
The rest of the quarter was a slog, with UD slowly integrating more and more experienced players into a lineup that sported appearances from the entire roster. Freshman Dominic Kelly was a notable rock in the UD forward line, consistently making hard-fought gains with his pod, putting pressure right in the middle of the SMU line.
By the third quarter, the stamina and grit of UD started to wear down the visitors. Incredible individual performances were paired with fantastic team play.
One harrowing run in particular came from sophomore economics major Joe Rolwes, slashing through the center of the SMU defense and bringing his team nearly 40 yards into enemy territory.
Additionally, while backed up against their own try line, a series of sharp passes from sophomore history major Max Valentine to freshman Joe Wilcox resulted in Wilcox driving into contact and creatively off-loading the ball to senior English major Jack Davis, who streaked down the sideline for a score.
Davis also showed his defensive prowess, coming up with a crunching tackle midway through the third to save a try, and Valentine showed his trickery with a slick fake pass that allowed him to knife through the SMU line for his first try of the day.
Many players put up admirable performances, but it was the UD spirit of brotherhood and teamwork that carried them to victory.
As the clock ticked down, the scoreline was 48-5, and after the shaking of hands, the team locked arms, sank to one knee, and thanked Our Lady, Queen of Victory, for a memorable game in a heartfelt show of camaraderie that in many ways epitomized the fervent UD spirit of excellence and faith. The team was received with rounds of applause, cheers, and in some lucky cases, mugs of warm tea after the Slogfest in the Slush.
UD hopes to repeat their incredible performance next game on Feb. 12 against Stephen F. Austin at 1:00 p.m.