Down 26-0, the University of Wisconsin rugby team came back to win a thriller over Big Ten rivals Ohio State 30-29 Saturday in DI-A Big Ten conference play.
"I think it was the most exciting game I've been a part of," said Wisconsin Head Coach Adam Kuenn. "We played defense all during that first half and we were missing tackles. We didn't see the ball and knew we had to turn it around."
Ohio State held sway in the first half and led 21-0 at halftime. The Buckeyes then scored first in the second half to lead 26-0, but the game changed after that.
"We didn't get a lot of ball in the first half, and in the second half we got the ball, maintained possession, and were moving forward all the time," said Kuenn. "It was just a matter of keeping possession and being clean with it. At halftime the consensus was we needed to chill out, get the ball, and play the way we need to play."
With hooker (and later prop) Tony Esealuka leading the surge forward and flyhalf Jordan Heginbottom kicking key goals, the Badgers inched their way closer and closer.
Wisconsin scored four tries to Ohio State's one penalty to make it 29-24. Then Wisconsin opted for goal on a penalty with seven minutes to go, which Heginbottom slotted, and then right after that the Badgers got another penalty in Ohio State territory and Heginbottom kicked that one, also.
Still there was time. Wisconsin dropped the ensuing restart and Ohio State took it and mounted one last attack. They got to within five meters of the Badger tryline, but a knock-on ended the game.
"They pressed us right to the end," said Kuenn.
With the victory, Wisconsin improves to 2-0, and Ohio State drops to 1-1, but gets bonus points for four tries and for a close loss.
Also moving to 2-0 was Indiana, 36-24 winners over Illinois, and Michigan, which beat Iowa 38-10.