It was an early morning for the Arkansas Gryphons, as they began the five-hour journey northward to Columbia, Missouri, in the pre-dawn hours. With no substitute players against the Outlaws, the long drive gave players a chance to reflect on the errors of last week’s match; and their new, individual, roles. Come match time, both teams rejoiced to see clear, sunny skies, a balmy temperature in the low 70s.
The Gryphons recovered center Dan Cook’s opening kickoff after a handling error by the Outlaws. Executing well on the developed game plan, the Gryphons spent much of the first half moving the ball deep into Outlaw territory. Though, a strong defense kept Arkansas from grounding the ball for a try. Both teams committed many penalties and periods of sloppy ball handling kept the game scoreless for the first twenty minutes.
Arkansas was able to score first, putting up six points, with Dan Cook converting two penalty kicks. The Outlaws capitalized on Gryphon disorganization in the ensuing kickoff and quickly moved the ball downfield, scoring an unconverted try in the corner of the try zone. They were stopped from adding another try by an immaculate open-field tackle by rookie winger Caleb Childers. Up 6-5, the Gryphons took control of the ball, sucking in the Columbia forwards. Newly appointed scrumhalf Frank Masotto got the ball out wide to rookie winger Treshawn Harbin, who was able to score his first try. However, conflicting viewpoints from the Sir and the touch judge led to the try being disallowed.
The Gryphons started the next possession with an attacking scrum and maintained control for several minutes, but were never able to dot the ball down. Columbia eventually stole possession from Arkansas and quickly moved the ball down field, scoring another unconverted try. Still struggling on kickoffs, Arkansas turned the ball over on the subsequent kickoff. With only minutes remaining, the Outlaws were determined to score again. They quickly got the ball inside the 22, but their momentum evaporated. Scrum after scrum tired both packs; and oddly enough, the last play of the half was an Outlaw scrum, five meters from the try line. The Outlaws controlled the ball and kept pushing forward, executing well off of the fringes of rucks. A Columbia flanker was eventually able to dive the remaining two meters; but was held up, in touch, by Arkansas prop Chris Lang and 8-man David Robertson.
The Gryphons were very confident coming out of half time, feeling Columbia was only able to score on positioning mistakes in the Arkansas defense. Arkansas flanker Brian Mowery stepped up big, securing multiple kickoffs for the Gryphons. Arkansas started with the ball and quickly moved into Outlaw territory. Not able to exploit quick ball on Columbia penalties, the Gryphons lost possession of the ball. Nevertheless, Arkansas fullback Jeremy Marshall-Johnson intercepted an Outlaw pass and sped untouched for 80 meters and a converted Gryphon try.
With a 13-10 Gryphons lead, Columbia felt the added pressure of a badly needed score. They were able to make their way inside of the Arkansas 22, but a bad pass resulted in the Gryphons recovering possession. The ball was quickly sent to touch, where rookie winger Caleb Childers broke several arm tackles and sprinted 60 meters for his first every try; elevating the score to 18-10. Frustrated and disgruntled, the Outlaws became chippy and self-destructive. Arkansas spent the rest remaining fifteen minutes of the match inside the Outlaw 22. Gryphons’ flyhalf Ryan Ellison was able to block a punt and find open field on the opposite side of the 22, tackled ten meters for another score. Minutes after having his first try held-up, Arkansas 8-man, David Robertson, picked the ball and was able to ground it over the try line, with a helpful push from flanker Torrance Williams. The game ended with Dan Cook converting his second try for a final score of Arkansas -25, Columbia – 10.
“It was a tough match and I am very proud of the guys that made the trip, and how they played. They played through 80 minutes of illness and injury, with the goal of winning in mind. ALL players stepped up BIG. The majority of the second half was played in Columbia’s half after regaining the lead, making it difficult for them to gain any momentum. Everyone worked really hard, we kept the pressure on, and never let up until the final whistle.” — Coach Jason Ayers
“The boys showed a lot of character increasing their work rate in the second half, eradicating a lot of first half mistakes. We still have some way to go in perfecting the game plan, but for sheer rugby effort, skill, and doggedness, there could not have been a better performance. We played our game and were able to score 19 unanswered second half points to secure a victory.” — Coach Steve Cooper
Arkansas Gryphons vs. Columbia Outlaws Lineup:
1 – Robert Williams
2 – Matt Mathis
3 – Chris Lang
4 – Lee Raney
5 – Torrance Williams
6 – Brian Mowrey
7 – Kenny Cyr
8 – David Robertson
9 – Frank Masotto
10 – Ryan Ellison
11 – Caleb Childers
12 – Dan Cook
13 – Mote Thumbutu
14 – Treshawn Harbin
15 – Jeremy Marshall-Johnson
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