Match Report: Michigan State University

Gopher Rugby Starting 15 for Michigan State University

  1. Jay Kim
  2. Zack Henslee
  3. Sam Kimball
  4. Quinn Williams
  5. Luka Pavlakis
  6. Max Enxing
  7. Robert Licari
  8. Gabe Cesarini
  9. Darin Richardson
  10. Robert Nguru
  11. Ty Leech
  12. Ryan Wolfe
  13. Troy Gotch
  14. Isaiah Nichols-Floyd
  15. Shad Anderson

On Saturday, October 1st the University of Minnesota Gophers began a 3-game home-stand with a win over the Spartans of Michigan State University (MSU).

Both teams came into the match seeking their first conference win of the season, but for the Gophers the game had a special significance: last year, MSU dismantled Minnesota with a final score of 65-5. 

The match started with MSU kicking deep to Minnesota. The Gophers successfully gathered and retained possession,  challenging the Spartan defense for multiple phases until a poor pass led to a knock-on. MSU could not capitalize, though - heavy defense from the Minnesota forwards turned the ball over and the Gophers cleared their own lines. 

Minnesota's defensive line holds true

Minnesota's defensive line holds true

 Minutes later, a series of tactical kicks and probing runs-especially by center Ryan Wolfe- allowed phases to compile until 8-Man Gabe Cesarini took a tight pass and charged over the line for the match's first points. With the kick, the score was 7-0 Minnesota. 

A riled-up MSU came charging back, forcing Minnesota to play long stretches of defense that ultimately led to 2 penalties against the Gophers in short succession. Both were easily slotted by MSU's talented flyhalf Ryan Britain, for a score of 7-6. 

As the half wound down, the Spartans continued their attack and slowly moved into Gopher territory. Britain, a major spoke in the Spartan's attack, recognized space behind the Gopher's defensive line and was able to deliver a well placed kick for his outside center to run onto and collect, dotting down in the corner. The kick after was good, putting the halftime score at 7-13, MSU. 

The 2nd half began with a bang - MSU was able to string together phase after phase, challenging the Minnesota defense until the referee awarded the Spartans a penalty, which they used to extend their lead by an additional three points: 7-16 to Michigan. 

Minutes later, after a period of sustained attack by the Gophers, the referee judged a Michigan State player to have illegally entered a breakdown and penalized the Spartans with a yellow card.

The Gophers quickly took advantage. An attack, starting on their own 22 meter line, saw the Gophers swift the ball from one side of the field to another and back again - forwards used to batter the middle of the field while outside backs utilized their pace to make quick dabs through defensive gaps. The move culminated in a hard nosed barrage led by center Isiah Floyd, who crashed through multiple defenders to score in the corner of the try zone. The kick was not made, putting the score 12-16 Michigan. 

Isiah on the charge

Isiah on the charge

With both teams searching for a much needed first win, the pressure began to build. Minnesota looked to its systems and structure, slowly marching down field in search of a penalty or try to see them home. The Gopher's forwards went to work, throwing their bodies on the line as they challenged the Spartan defense. Cesarini, the Gopher 8-Man who scored Minnesota's opening try, spotted an opening near the Spartan breakdown and ran a tight line inwards, dotting down for another 5. 17-16 Minnesota

In the final seconds of the match, the Spartans were awarded a penalty perhaps 40 meters out from the Minnesotan uprights - giving MSU an opportunity to pull ahead. However, the kick would stray right and the referee blew his whistle, signalling the end of the match and a Gopher victory at 17-16 Minnesota