The league title had already been wrapped up with a win against Washington. Still, Oregon State and Coach Anthony Lally wanted to finish their Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference (NCRC) season on a strong note on the road. They did, with a convincing 43-12 win over Washington State.
Washington State, although down from a loss last weekend, came out fired up and determined to put a stop to Oregon State’s undefeated season. For the first 25 minutes, determination and aggression loomed on the shoulders of the Cougars as though the league title was on the line.
Some early errors to go along with tight defense at the breakdowns and solid rucking saw the scoreboard empty. The first score came in the 26th minute from the foot of fullback Carl Pitzer with a penalty kick for an early 3-0 lead and a jump start to the ever potent Beaver offense.
OSU would score again at around the 34th minute when the support formed a maul for hooker Alex McElfish who dotted down to make the score 10-0.
After inside center Robert Kennedy was shown an early exit from the game for a penalty, the Beavers played inspired rugby with sequential set pieces. The Beavers worked their way down to the five-meter line before being awarded a scrum.
With a great set piece play from the backline, flyhalf Nick Cutrell used soft and nimble hands to feed Pono Haitsuka for the first OSU score and a 17-0 lead. OSU would take that lead into the half with some confidence and momentum, but also knowing WSU could attack from any angle in the second half.
“I told the boys that we needed to limit our mental mistakes because penalties were slowing us down,” Lally said. “Our set pieces looked to be making some progress, but we needed a bit more fire in the second half.”
With outside center Clancy Smith feeling a bit loopy, Nate Kimmel would be brought in at wing and Haitsuka would be moved to Smith’s position. From there, the Beavers wasted no time putting on the burners and taking control of the match.
A total of three OSU players added themselves to the scoring books. The first coming from Kennedy, the second from McElfish, for his second, off a set piece from the ruck using multiple phase patterns, and finally Kimmel scoring the last off of a physical run up the sideline, to take a 36-0 lead after two Pitzer kicks.
That lead would be deflating to a lot of squads, but WSU didn’t want to go down without a fight. OSU would be penalized for their high tackling late and lost a few scrums which would eventually lead to two WSU scores. The first, by no. 8 Alex Kaser and the second going to reserve fullback Will Christopher to trim the lead to 36-12
After the second, OSU would rally around Captain Mike Gamm to make sure the score would, at the very least, stay neutral until the final whistle. They would do one better than that as Kennedy would make a strong run late for his second score. Pitzer would kick the extra goal for a flattering 43-12 final.
“To go undefeated with the travel and competition in this conference is a very significant accomplishment to this club,” Lally added. “We shored up a lot of mistakes from the first half and that will be a big plus for us with momentum of facing strong teams in the Sweet 16. Score aside; give WSU a lot of credit for their aggressive approach, they will be making a lot of noise next year.”
“Our boys were a bit deflated but still showed up with tenacity in this match and played very well,” WSU coach Matt Hudson said. “We gave them a fight defensively and got some good set pieces in our backline, but OSU was a bit more organized and talented than we were. We wish them nothing but the best of luck from here on, they’ve earned the right to represent our league.”
The Cougars will welcome arch and cross-state rival University of Washington Huskies next weekend for the rugby Apple Cup to finish off the season. Oregon State gets about two weeks off before traveling down to Palo Alto, CA to take on U.C. Santa Barbara and San Diego State.