Defense ruled the men’s bracket in Buffalo Friday, as both of the Round of 16 matches were low-scoring affairs. Wet conditions and a narrow pitch, which was caused by the wet conditions, also contributed.
In the day’s first game, Harvard and Northeastern played an extremely tightly-contested match, which Harvard won 15-0. Northeastern controlled the bulk of territory all day, but a pair of breakaway tries from Jonny Cummins and Jeff Overall put the Crimson over the edge. Fullback Max De La Cal hit a conversion and a penalty to add to Harvard’s final tally.
“There were a lot of knock-ons, a lot of errors, and we were able to dot a couple down,” said Harvard coach Dave Gonzales of the match played in dreary weather. “The game was pretty much a stalemate the rest of the time.”
Harvard led 10-0 at the half, which would remain the score until very late, when Overall scored his unconverted try.
The second match wasn’t marred as much by the rain as the first, but defense was still abundant.
Southern Connecticut’s superior scrum had Buffalo on its collective back foot often, but the Bulls made enough plays, two converted tries, to win the game.
The first came around the 20-minute mark when scrumhalf Andy Lawson made a break off of a So. Conn. turnover and offloaded to charging No. 8 Matt Agugliaro, who carried it in for the score. Flyhalf Andy Dixon made the conversion, giving UB a 7-0 lead.
So. Conn’s scrum continued to pressure Buffalo, but the host’s defense was stiff. “They were pushing us around the park,” said Buffalo coach Mike Hodgins of So. Conn’s scrum, “but we actually held and our defense was excellent the whole game. That was what saved us.”
Despite being overpowered at the set piece, Buffalo’s second try came off a scrum about 15 meters outside So. Conn’s try line, when Agugliaro rumbled into pay dirt off an eight-man pick. Dixon then made his second conversion of the day.
One area where Buffalo was weak all day was discipline, as the Bulls’ penalty count climbed higher than Hodgins' liking. That wouldn’t cost them the game, but it could cost them the services of their two-try man in Sunday’s quarterfinal.
Buffalo picked up a yellow card and a red card within a couple minutes of each other near full-time for repeated team infringements at the tackle. So. Conn scored in the 79th minute, with UB down to 13 players, to prevent a shut out, but the real harm was losing Agugliaro to the red card. Typically, that red card would have him out for the next two games, but Buffalo is exploring its appeal options.
“He’s very good from the base of the scrum,” said Hodgins of his No. 8. “He’s very good in the tackle area in terms of winning ball, and he’s a great open-field runner.”
The loss of Agugliaro would be huge for Buffalo. The fact that the Buffalo bracket, unlike any other regional, has a day between men’s matches could play in UB’s favor, as it allows more time for the diplomatic process to play out.