ASU rugby season of transition, difficulty nears an end with final weekend of play

The Sun Devils will take on the Mexican National Team Saturday in the Fiesta Bowl Rugby and Balloon Classic.

ASU rugby's season will come to an end this weekend as they take on the Mexican National team Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium in the Fiesta Bowl Rugby and Balloon Classic.

The team hasn't had the season they wanted, battling hard, but succumbing to teams with more experience than them.

In their home opener in February, ASU lost to Utah 31-10, struggling with ball control and lineouts. A week later, Cal's size and talent was too much for the young ASU team to compete with as they fell 79-0.

At the end of February, ASU travelled to Tucson to take on rival Arizona. The Sun Devils showed immense improvement in lineouts and ball control, holding the Wildcats to just a one-point lead going into the half, but their early momentum was lost in the second half resulting in a 29-17 loss. 

In the first round of Varsity Cup action April 9, ASU was unable to compete with rugby powerhouse BYU, losing 113-8.

The Cougars squad includes many players from New Zealand, where rugby is one of the most popular sports. BYU beat the Sun Devils with experience and size, ASU head coach Gary Lane said.

"I think they would have beaten most men's teams in America, most pro teams in America," he said.

This season, ASU only has two returning seniors. The rest of the squad is young and still developing, Lane said.

Club president Eric Brown is one of the seniors who has been leading the young group this year. He acknowledged the lack of experience for ASU, but is impressed with where the team has come since the beginning of the season.

"Our team is pretty young, but they punch a lot harder than their size, and I really respect them for that," Brown said. "We had moments of brilliance where we could have won the games, but we didn't, and that's just immaturity on the field because those games were earlier in the season. We weren't really experienced playing together, our team chemistry wasn't there. ... It's been a building year."

Despite the losses the Sun Devils have experienced, Lane continues to look to the positive impact of the way this season turned out. 

"The thing that we got this year is we have a core group now that are very hungry and very determined to better the season," Lane said. "We knew going in that it was going to be a hard season, just by players we have, the age of the players, but what we have done is improve our culture and improve the team."

Lane used one word to summarize the 2016 season: "transition." Lane will have most of this year's team back, and is looking forward to things moving forward with experience and further development, he said.

Brown echoed Lane's summation of the year, explaining that the young team is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming seasons.

"I can't wait to watch them play in the next two to three years," Brown said. "They are going to be phenomenal."

Related links:

ASU rugby battles, but can't pull off the win against Arizona

No. 2 Cal's strength and speed too much for ASU rugby


Reach the reporter at haley.stesiak@asu.edu or follow @haley_stesiak on Twitter.

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