UCSB’s rugby team stopped in title game

By Sheila Mikailli

UCSB’s men’s rugby team traveled to Palo Alto, CA this past Thursday to compete in the Final Four USA Rugby Championships hosted at Stanford University.

No. 3 UCSB defeated top ranked Bowling Green 30-3 on Friday before losing the championship game against No. 4 Davenport University on Saturday, 38-19. Gauchos finished second in the nation.

Bowling Green’s size and defensive efforts kept UCSB in their defensive half for the majority of the first twenty minutes of the game.

“Their defense was really good for the first half, they were not letting us go wide which is what we like to do,” said junior wing Johnny Gallo. “We eventually just wore them down, and that’s what won this game.

Gallo was a standout player in this match, scoring two trys and 13 points for the team.

“Gallo is spectacular isn’t he?” Head Coach Kevin Battle said. “He’s always making big plays, every weekend he’s the one making big plays he’s got so much pace so much explosion and the rest of the guys do a great job of getting him good clean balls with lots of space.”

It was an aggressive game. Punches were thrown by a couple of Bowling Green players, one of which was caught by the officials, sending Bowling Green’s hooker out of the game towards the end of the first half.

The teams were tied 3-3 at the half. Scrumhalf James Burroughs opened the scoring for the Gauchos with a try six minutes into the second half, with Bowling Green still one player short on the field.

According to Battle, the momentum and defense were fundamental in this game. The team played balanced, taking Bowling Green up front with the forwards, giving the Gauchos opportunity to get some space with their backs.

“Our defense just smothered ‘em. They had some really great quality players, and we did a great job of keeping them out of the try zone. That’s all defensive work and defense wins championships” Battle said.

The team was confident going into Saturday’s championship game.

Careless mistakes caused the Gauchos to give up possession to Davenport early in the first half, allowing them to score the first try six minutes into the game. UCSB scored some points late in the first half giving them a 2-point lead at halftime (19-17).

Senior President Ryan O’Leary was injured 26 minutes into the game. O’Leary had sat out 5 games prior to the championships due to an ACL injury earlier in the season.

Battle talked up the team at half time, noting that their own mistakes were taking them out of the game.

“We gotta win our scrums. We have to win our line ups. When we have points on offer, we gotta take ‘em” Battle said in the huddle.

Despite the halftime lead, Davenport stepped up their defense keeping UCSB at 19 points
for the remainder of the game and stepping up their offense to score 19 points in the
second half, sealing the 38-19 win.

“We didn’t come away with the result we wanted but we had one hell of a season” senior
Captain Mitchell Raisch said.

The team was in good spirits in the face of a loss, reminding one another that they were
the first rugby team in UCSB history to make it this far.

“This has been the greatest year of rugby of my life. Know that all though we didn’t win
today, Santa Barbara is one of the best teams in the country” Battle said.