Lopes’ allow 18 unanswered 2nd-half points to Colorado
By: Zach Melcher/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
The momentum swung like a pendulum.
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team went blow-for-blow with the University of Colorado before falling, 26-20, in their season opener at the GCU Practice Soccer Field on campus.
“We felt great going into the match,” said GCU redshirt senior Damon McCaskill. “There’s always first-game jitters, but overall, we felt confident.”
The first 40 minutes of the contest was evenly split between the Lopes and the Buffaloes. Colorado was first on the board with a penalty kick, but GCU’s freshman fly-half Ethan Van Tonder quickly matched it with a three-point kick of his own. The Lopes’ back center Lotu Pulu scored the first try of the match, but Grand Canyon wouldn’t hold the lead for long as Colorado tied it up late in the first half with a try of its own.
With the minutes winding down before halftime, McCaskill found the try zone to give GCU a 13-8 lead. However, the celebration was muted as Colorado freshman Eddie Maxfield was severely injured on the play. A 35-minute delay ensued as Maxfield was transported to the hospital, and officials decided to call the first half early, with 2:14 remaining on the clock.
“We knew going into our first game of the season that it would be chaotic,” said McCaskill. “Going into the half with the lead was a pretty big deal for us.”
Once the second half began, the Lopes picked up where they left off as Van Tonder scored a try in the first five minutes. Lopes’ sophomore Asher Davidson’s ensuring two-point conversion would be the last points on GCU’s side of the scoreboard.
The Lopes spent the remaining 35 minutes trying to slow down the offensive onslaught of Colorado. The Buffaloes retook the momentum – thanks in part to a GCU yellow card that gave CU a man advantage for 10 minutes of play – scoring two penalty kicks, followed by back-to-back tries to take a 26-20 lead with 13 minutes left.
“A delay of that duration would affect anyone or any team,” said McCaskill. “Colorado did a nice job using that delay to their advantage and rallying behind their injured teammate.”
GCU fought to regain the momentum but came up a few yards short of the try zone three separate times before the referee blew his final whistle.
“Our team played very well for our first match of the season, and I’m proud of the resilience and the fight we brought to our opponent,” said McCaskill. “Moving forward, improving the minor details will be the success of our team.”
The Lopes will now turn their attentions to their match against Northern Arizona University on October 16 at the GCU Practice Soccer Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 am.
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