By: K.J. Wylie/GCU Staff
In their fourth game of the season against a ranked opponent, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team pulled off their second upset of the year. The No. 18 Lopes beat the No. 16 University of Utah Utes, 48-34, bringing their overall record to 4-2. It’s the second straight game GCU has scored over 40 points after struggling on offense in the first few weeks of the season. Lopes’ junior Center Maceo Brown was a huge contributor with a game-high four tries.
GCU started the game on fire with two tries and a commanding 12-0 lead in the opening minutes, but Utah refused to simply roll over. The Utes capitalized on a trio of Grand Canyon penalties to bounce back and take a 22-19 lead at halftime.
“We let our feet off the gas against way too good of a team,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Cam Wyper. “We had to calm down and cut out the errors. It was important for us to get into our systems so that we could finish strong.”
The second half featured three lead changes, the first after a Brown try to give the Lopes a 24-22 edge. After Utah reclaimed the advantage at 34-29, Lopes’ freshman halfback Christian Bucklin scored on an impressive try to give his team the lead for good, 36-34.
In the Lopes’ first upset against San Diego State, it was defense that helped GCU secure the win. To be in an offensive battle and come out on top at this point in the season led to encouraging words from Wyper.
“We have some of the best attackers in college rugby,” said Wyper. “We just need to keep finding ways to give them space. This is a good confidence booster for our boys, and it shows we belong here with the big name teams.”
Grand Canyon will have a three-week break before traveling to play against the University of California-Davis- the team who knocked them out of the playoffs last year- on March 14. With playoff selections right around the corner, GCU will look to add to their resume’ down the stretch. The Lopes don’t return home until the final match of the season versus California Polytechnic State University on March 26.
Men’s rugby is off to a great start! Learn more about how to get involved in club sports at GCU.