It was Arizona’s game to win but a mental lapse on defense with no time remaining allowed a game-ending try from Dartmouth. Hughes’ sure foot gave the Big Green the 21-19 victory and 3-0 record through pool play.
This game occurred earlier in the tournament than it should have, as the quality of play was final’s caliber. Hughes got the scoring going a couple of minutes in, skirting around the weakside of a ruck in Dartmouth’s end and motoring down the sideline. Pursuit prevented the team’s points leader from centering the try, but no matter – the flyhalf slotted the sideline conversion easily, 7-0.
Dartmouth had some issues dragging down Ryan Matyas out wide, and he allowed the Arizona attack to stay on their feet and working the width quickly. Sticking to that strategy, the Wildcats systematically built their first try, getting that break out of Jim Arnold 10 meters out. Arnold found Brett Thompson for the offload, then jumped back to his feet for the final offload and try. Arnold hit the conversion to tie it up, 7-7.
Arizona made good use of the momentum and before the break, Thompson skirted into the corner for the 12-7 lead.
Dartmouth kept testing the sideline, but they weren’t gaining anything significant out wide. Cody Naber had a lot to do with that, reigning in anyone who came close. Some desperation start to infuse play, as mishandlings became more frequent, and it looked like a scrum would be called any second as Dartmouth worked toward Arizona’s 22 meter. But then the ball popped into unguarded territory and Hughes was the first upon it. A little nudge forward and Hughes dotted down the ball in the try zone. A soft try, which Hughes converted, but it gave Dartmouth the lead, 14-12.
Arizona replicated their response to Dartmouth’s first try; they settled into their tried and true pattern and worked hands down the field. The Big Green found themselves on Arizona’s five meter, when Craig Samoy dummied the outlet pass and skirted through the channel, easily dotting down. Less than two minutes to go, and Arnold’s conversion gave Arizona a 19-14 lead.
Dartmouth was penalized on the restart, and Arizona took their time in the kick to touch and the lineout – which Dartmouth stole. As time ticked away, Hughes made a risky call to kick to space but the ball landed in Matyas’ hands. Fortunately a couple of penalties kept the ball in Dartmouth’s hands – which was very lucky.
No time on the clock, Dartmouth is still alive in Arizona’s end, and the Wildcat defense misfires. A half gap appeared as Arizona’s line staggered, giving enough go-forward to collapse the defense, offload to Hughes, then hit Kevin Clark for the pop pass. Ten meters out, Naber was closing in fast, but he left just enough distance in the attempted dive-tackle to let Clark into the try zone.
That tied it up, but Hughes’ sure foot didn’t waiver, hitting the easy conversion for the 21-19 win.
Tries: Hughes 2, Clark
Convs: Hughes 3
Tries: Thompson, Arnold, Samoy
Convs: Arnold 2