The #8 UCSB men’s rugby team tore through the desert last weekend, defeating Arizona 46-18 on Friday before routing Arizona State 63-7 on Sunday to complete a two-game sweep on the road. With the wins, the Gauchos improved their league record to 4-0 and their overall record to 6-2.
“I’d say it was control, we knew we could play well going into the game, but we wanted to focus on controlling the game and controlling the tempo of the game,” junior outside wing Kyle McBride said.
Senior fullback Adam Mitchell and junior flyhalf Simon Doherty each scored twice to pace the Gauchos against Arizona. Senior Andrew King, sophomore Jonathan Schaefer and McBride all added tries as the Gauchos jumped ahead early and never looked back.
“It’s a very different team from last year. Whereas last year our backs were very good at attacking, this year our front line is really good at marching up the field,” McBride said. “Instead of trying to attack out wide and make big breakaways, we’re getting five and ten meter runs until their defense breaks down and we get the try.”
Against Arizona State, the Gauchos controlled the game from start to finish. King scored three tries, and junior Justin Roberts added three tries of his own for his first hat trick of the season. Five other Gauchos scored as Santa Barbara refused to let Arizona State get anything going when they had the ball.
“They scored seven points, but that doesn’t reflect the fact that it was the last play of the game,” McBride said. “Our goal-line defense was really good; we had them shut out until the last minute. Our offense has also been really good; we haven’t scored less than 28 points in a league match this year and usually we’re around 40 or 50.”
With the difficult part of their league schedule coming up, the Gauchos are glad to be playing at this level now.
“We’re playing Cal Poly in about three weeks, and we’re playing at their home this time,” McBride said. “The last four years, we’ve been trading off victories where the team that has it at home has won it. Hopefully this year we can go in there and break that streak.”
The Gauchos will play an exhibition game against cross-town rival Westmont on Friday before beginning a difficult stretch that includes games against Cal Poly, the University of San Diego and UCLA – all teams that have traditionally played tough against the Gauchos. Cal Poly made the same road trip as the Gauchos and dominated the Arizona teams in similar fashion.
“It’s a long weekend, but it’s important to be able to play these two-game weekends,” Head Coach Kevin Battle said. “Cal Poly looked good too, and we’re looking forward to playing them in a few weeks.”