ASU rugby falls to Utah in home opener

The Sun Devil defense was strong, but not enough to slow down Utes.

The ASU rugby team opened up home action against Utah Saturday night at ASU Soccer Stadium.

ASU started strong, but couldn’t put the early momentum through to the second half, falling to Utah 31-10.

The Sun Devils stayed solid, not letting Utah get past the try line until about eight minutes to the half, when the Utes were finally able to get past the ASU defense to put up the first points of the game.

“I thought we played much better than we did against UCLA,” ASU head coach Gary Lane said. “You could see the guys’ defensive structure was pretty good.”

Despite the tough defense, mistakes with ball control were a problem for ASU in the first half, preventing the Sun Devils from getting across their own line, Lane said.

The start of the second half went against ASU, with Utah scoring twice within the first 10 minutes.

“That’s the most crucial part of a rugby game, the first 10 minutes into the second half,” Lane said. “I told the guys, ‘look, you’ve got to come out in the next 10 minutes and put them under pressure.’ and I don’t think they understood what that meant.”

ASU put points on the board with a kick from sophomore fly-half Alex Walsh shortly after Utah’s power runs.

Lane said Walsh was put in a pressure situations in order to put Utah in a place that they would potentially have to return ball possession to ASU.

“In a way, it’s kind of nerve-wracking because the pressure is on,” Walsh said. “But he has faith in us and we have faith in them [coaching staff].”

With about 10 minutes left in the game, ASU sophomore Dallas Sauer was finally able to get through Utah’s defense into the try zone.

Throughout the game, the Sun Devils struggled with gaining possession from lineouts.

“Lineouts are speed and we have to work on our speed,” Lane said. “That’s all there is to it.”

Communication is also something that will be worked on in practices, Walsh said.

“Going over defensive drills by practicing having a defense against us, and running certain things and how we react to it will helps us,” he said.

Utah came into the match ranked eighth, while ASU was ranked thirteenth.

“The results showed why we’re not eighth, but we're competitive,” Lane said. "I'm proud of their effort."

ASU will host Cal Monday, Feb. 15 at ASU Soccer Stadium at 4:00 p.m.

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