19-0 shutout of Florida International sets up Lopes for showdowns with Nevada, Arizona
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team has won their first match in pool play at the USA Rugby College 7s National Championships in Denver, Colorado. The Lopes shut out Florida International University, 19-0, this morning in the first of three matches GCU will play in Friday’s pool play round. The Lopes will face the University of Nevada (Reno) at 6 pm (Arizona time) tonight, followed by a matchup with their in-state rivals from the University of Arizona at 7:20 pm to wind up the pool play round.
The Lopes’ trip to Colorado is their second foray at a national tournament this season. The Lopes secured the No. 14 seed in last month’s D1A Rugby College 15s National Championships, but lost in the Round of 16 to 3rd-seeded Cal-Berkeley in northern California. This time around, the Lopes will need at least one win in the tonight’s matches to be one of the top two teams in the pool to advance to the quarterfinals, which will commence tomorrow (Saturday) morning in Denver.
The Lopes have spent the last month preparing a different strategy for this national tournament, since the matches in 15s consist of a pair of 40-minute halves, but the 7s tournament has one 14-minute period per match. GCU came ready to get out of the gates quickly, and scored a pair of tries in the match’s first four minutes. The first one came from GCU freshman Christopher Berry in the second minute, and after Austin Taefu added the two-point conversion to make it a 7-0 Lopes’ lead, Taefu himself gave the Lopes some breathing room just two minutes later with a try of his own. Berry would add his second try of the morning in the 11th minute, and then Lopes’ senior Darien Pickett added the final try of the match with less than two minutes left. GCU was 3-for-4 in conversion attempts, with Dominick Iacovino and Brendan Curle posting the other two made conversions on the scoreboard.
The Lopes now face a Nevada Wolfpack team that faces a must-win situation against GCU after leading Arizona throughout the first half of their Friday morning match, only to see the Wildcats score 19 unanswered points in a three-minute stretch to battle back for a 26-19 win. U of A will square off against Florida International in a match that will start shortly before GCU’s 6 pm match, and then the Lopes and Wildcats finish off pool play against each other at 7:20 pm.
The Lopes are seeking a berth in their first-ever championship match, which will be held at 7:40 pm Saturday night.