A-State Rugby Drops Close One Against Life
JONESBORO, Ark. — Arkansas State University’s rugby team fought hard to the final seconds, but was unable to come away with a win as Life University edged the Red Wolves, 23-17, Saturday afternoon at the A-State Rugby Field.
The loss gave A-State the second of only two MidSouth Conference defeats, both coming at the hands of Life this season. With the victory, Life captured the conference championship and the Red Wolves have a chance to finish in second place with a win or a tie against Lindenwood, Saturday, April 12, in St. Charles, Mo. Play begins at 5 p.m.
“It was a great day for rugby, two formidable opponents with everything on the line and for us, for home field pride, and the last regular home season game for some of our seniors,” commented A-State head coach NeMani Delaibatiki. “We would have loved to send off all our seniors with a win, but I guarantee that regardless of the final score, every Red Wolf player out there gave his heart and soul into the game.”
Arkansas State went into the match without the services of several players because of injuries. Delaibatiki made several personnel changes, including fullback Emilio Betanzo in a starting role. Betanzo, a 5-9, 190-pound freshman from Chillan, Chile, got the home team on the scoreboard first with a penalty kick.
“With the way injuries have been going, we had to make changes and move some guys around,” continued Delaibatiki. “Emilio is one of the guys we trusted to start at fullback, which is a crucial position, and he proved he was ready. With Dale Bates and Gavin Brown injured from last weekend’s game against Davenport, the pressure was on us as a whole team to step up and play well and I think we did that today.”
The Running Eagles answered with their own kick and then scored on a try with about eight minutes remaining in the first half. A conversion added three points and Life took a 13-3 lead in at the half.
“Life came out strong and we defended well, and even launched a few of our attacks and they defended that well too,” added Delaibatiki. “The Arkansas State and Life game is a great matchup with a lot of similarities in regard to our physical approach at the breakdown and how we approach the game. But key penalties and minor decision making errors allowed them to score all their points with several penalty kicks and two tries.”
Arkansas State came out in the early minutes of the second half with a try from Kudakwashe Makuvire, a freshman from Harare, Zimbabwe, and brought the Red Wolves closer with a score of 13-10. Life added another six points and A-State followed quickly to put the Red Wolves ahead by one, 17-16. Both teams spent the rest of the match trading possession of the ball before the Running Eagles had another try and conversion to leave the final score, 23-17.
“The score does not properly reflect how well we played in that game, and by far, this has been the best game we have played this season, and it's getting better every week,” the first-year head coach said. “Crucial mistakes and us not executing effectively when having the ball in hand at times were our downfalls today. But, the gutsy performance of everyone on the team is the best we have seen all season and it’s a step in the right direction.
“We will take the loss and accept it for what it is. Now, we will work and act to make changes so that when we are faced with the similar situation in the future, we will know how to effectively approach it,” concluded Delaibatiki. “I have a great group of young men, and it's promising to see that regardless of several starters not being able to play due to injuries and what not, everyone still rises to the occasion regardless of who is wearing the jersey and filling in, and that in itself is a success, a step in the right direction, and heading forward that's exactly what we are trying to build prior to going to the playoffs.”