Is there a third team to be reckoned with in the Midwest? Wisconsin and Minnesota are the usual contenders, but Iowa has quietly won its way to a 2-0 start.
Both wins have come by a thin margin, 26-24 against Iowa State Sept. 10 and 18-10 against UW-Stout Saturday.
“Well, they were pretty close wins,” said Iowa coach Jim Lloyd. “We’re going to have to be competing. I would say (Wisconsin) might be the favorites and they’re coming in next week, so that’ll be a challenge for us. Stout was a young side.”
The Hawkeyes jumped out to a 15-0 first half lead off of two tries, a conversion and a penalty. Stout outscored Iowa 10-3 in the second stanza, but Iowa held on for the win.
“Our set piece improved versus what we did against Iowa State and we maintained possession,” said Lloyd, “but they made some adjustments at half and came out strong in the scrum and were a little bit fitter than we were.”
The Hawkeyes have tasted success before, says Lloyd, but attaining consistency has been a struggle.
“We finished second last spring at a men’s tournament in St. Louis to DIII national champs Metropolis, so we’ve shown potential, I would say, but we always seem to struggle in playoffs at the DII level.”
The Hawkeyes won’t be able to play the humble card much longer if they beat the Badgers Saturday in Iowa City.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, it was business as usual for Minnesota, 34-12 winners over Iowa State. The Gophers broke in a new scrumhalf, who is among four freshmen starters.
“He hasn’t found his voice yet. He can’t quarterback the team until he finds his voice,” said Minnesota coach Loren Lemke of his new No. 9.
“(The freshmen) hadn’t really seen college rugby. Just made some silly mistakes that hopefully we don’t mistake when the season’s a little bit older. We must have had five three-on-ones that we just squandered. You can’t do that on the next level, but things are looking alright.”
Minnesota travels to Stout next weekend, and UNI and Nebraska kick off their seasons in Lincoln, Neb. as well.