Arkansas turns back Tech, wins Red River debut

D1A Rugby: Arkansas turns back Tech, wins Red River debut
Photo Credit: JD Black (left)

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – The Red River Conference began its 2016-17 season in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 24, and marked the University of Arkansas’ first match as a member of the conference after another deep run in the D1AA Playoffs last spring.

The Red River debut was a successful one for the Razorbacks, as the team scored eight tries during its 51-22 win over Texas Tech.

“Overall I was happy with our start in the Red River,” said Arkansas Head Coach Warren Fyfe. “Coming away with a good win against a big, solid team was definitely pleasing. I thought we did well offensively, but tended to play into their strengths rather than exploit the space out wide where we could have come away with more points.”

Standout Arkansas fly half Alex Rees scored the game’s first 10 points by converting his own try in the sixth minute and followed the seven points with a penalty kick soon after.

The Razorbacks appeared to be on their way to a strictly one-sided ballgame when eight man Liam Carothers dotted down in the 15th minute to go up 15-0. However, Texas Tech reeled off 10 straight points, five coming from scrum half Gonzalo Eizmendi’s boot, to cut the Arkansas lead to just five.

The best teams tend to find ways to score just before and soon after the halftime whistle, and that’s exactly what the Razorbacks did over the weekend. First, Luke Carothers got beyond the end line in the closing minutes of the first half before electric full back Corey Jones bagged his first Red River try five minutes into the second period.

Arkansas’ second wave of points did little to stop the Red Raiders’ intentions of staying in the game, and Texas Tech got back within 10 points when Eizmendi converted George Michael III’s 50th-minute try.

“I thought Tech played hard rugby throughout the game and never gave up,” Fyfe said of his opponent. “They were big and physical, but errors and penalties let us in the door and we where able to take advantage of that.”

As they did previously, the Razorbacks answered back on attack – this time through the hands of Chris Ross and Carter Brown before Rees closed the game by, again, converting his own try to give him 21 total points on the day.

“Alex is a very talented player who is able to read the game really well,” Fyfe had to say of his fly half. “His tactical kicking was exceptional and allowed us to win the field-position battle throughout the game that put Tech under pressure. He is solid on defense and knows when to attack with width and when to keep attacking the advantage line.”

Interestingly enough, both teams’ next contests are against Baylor. Texas Tech will have an opportunity to play in front of its home fans for the first time this season when they face the Bears Oct. 1, while Arkansas is off until it takes on Baylor Oct. 22 in Waco, Texas.