Head Coach Jimmy Hanson’s second season at the helm of University of Minnesota Men’s Rugby started with a come-from-behind victory over the University of Kansas and concluded this past Sunday as the Gophers were named champions of the All Minnesota Tournament.
The match against the University of Kansas was played at the Gophers’ new-look home field on the Saint Paul campus, where the Alumni Association unveiled new field dressings including custom goal post pads and flags. It was the first ever meeting between the teams, but it quickly became clear that it was an equitable matching.
Although Minnesota scored first via Robert Licari, Kansas would take advantage of the Gophers’ mistakes and put their mark on the game, running to a 25-point lead with a quarter of the game left to play. However, Minnesota’s nerve held true as the team clawed its way back, ultimately winning the match 31 points to 28.
With their first match under their belt, the team turned their attention to the upcoming All Minnesota Tournament, of which the Gophers are returning champions. Practice was high-intensity all week, and on Friday morning’s 6 AM practice nearly 40 athletes were on hand with one goal in mind: being the best team in Minnesota.
Day 1 of the tournament went as planned: victories against Bemidji State University (28-7), Moorhead (31-5) and Saint Cloud (22-8) meant that Minnesota would advance to the semi-final match on Sunday. More importantly, every single player was given substantial playing time as the Gophers rolled their reserve bench at half time of each game.
Day 2 brought together the best collegiate teams and would provide a sterner test for the Gophers. Minnesota began the day with a semi-final match against Winona State, handily winning 19-7 while providing new players an opportunity to test themselves against strong competition. North Dakota State University would be the opponent for the weekend’s final match, and provided the most challenging test of the Gophers’ abilities. Tied 0-0 at half, both teams engaged in a war of attrition as massive tackles were made and rucks were competed for aggressively. Ultimately, Minnesota would score two tries to NDSU’s 1, winning by a score of 12-5 and earning their 2nd consecutive All Minnesota title.
The Gophers will now enjoy a bye-week before their first league match of the season, followed by hosting Wisconsin on September 30th.