UC San Diego Men’s Rugby took part in their final preparation games before the start of their league season next week against Cal Lutheran. This past Saturday, the Tritons were up at UCLA to play in the UC Tournament, along with No. 2 California, No. 23 UCLA, No. 28 UCD and UCSC, all division I programs.
UC San Diego opened up the day playing California. Berkeley was playing their development side, full of 1st and 2nd years, but the quality and physicality of their players were too much to handle for the Tritons. The Golden Bears’ 8-man scored twice, while their full-back took a ball deep into his field and brought it into the end zone for 5 more. With their kicker knocking in eight out of nine conversions, the Tritons fell down early and suffered a shutout defeat against the No. 2 team in the nation.
After an hour off to correct some of the mistakes committed in that first game, the Tritons were back on the field to take on the Aggies. Once again, the Division I team was too strong for the Tritons, but UC San Diego showed a better face than they had against the Golden Bears, missing less tackles and keeping the ball more. Lineouts and scrums were also improved, but the Tritons could not score and got shut out for the second consecutive game.
Against UCLA, UC San Diego came out strong, and equalized at 7-7 on a beautiful try set up by Captain Judah Word for wing Sean Martinez and converted by Andrew Dries. But a couple of mistakes allowed the Bruins to get ahead, and the No. 23 team in the country handed the Tritons their third loss of the day, 4 tries to 1.
At last, the Tritons were playing UCSC in the final game of the day. UC San Diego played them earlier in the fall quarter, and the rematch promised some sparks. A much improved Tritons team manned up against the Banana Slugs in the first half, answering every time Santa Cruz scored a try. UCSC took a 7-0 lead, but the Tritons answered quickly with another try by Martinez. The Banana Slugs then scored another try, taking a 14-5 lead. In the dying seconds of the half, Pablo Volpe of UC San Diego took the ball out of wide and just missed Christian Espinoza on a 2-on-1. UC San Diego used improved ball retention skills to continue the sequence, and another escape by Martinez tip-toeing along the goal line was good enough for a second try for the Tritons. UC San Diego’s Andrew Dries converted the kick, making it 12-14 at halftime. However, UCSC put in some fresh players in the second half and UCSD was overwhelmed after a long day of rugby. The Tritons eventually lost the game 4 tries to 2, but not without showing a much better face than just a couple of months ago.
Despite the losses, the Tritons came out strong and combative throughout the day against some of the top teams in the nation. UC San Diego opens up the season next week at Cal Lutheran with the home opener coming just a week later.