Dominant second half earns Indiana Big Ten title

D1A Rugby: Dominant second half earns Indiana Big Ten title
Photo Credit: Stephanie Duncan Photography

BOULDER, Colo. – Indiana completed its perfect Big Ten Universities season with a 34-14 win over Ohio State in the conference championship game Saturday.

Heading into the BTU Final, neither contender had lost a conference match, but the Buckeyes did have to settle for a tie in its Oct. 24 match against Wisconsin. While the Hoosiers were pegged as heavy favorites heading into the championship fixture, Ohio State effectively counterpunched Indiana’s attack over the first 40 minutes.

Just minutes into the match, Indiana full back Alex Dorrier found a crease, and went over the line for the match’s opening try. Following Teddy Terezis’ successful conversion, Ohio State would regain possession off the kickoff, and almost immediately send Scott Freitag through for a try of his own, and Taylor Hurff’s kick tied the game, 7-7.

Before long, the Hoosiers were again deep into Buckeye territory, and after setting the maul five meters out, No. 8 Tyler Graham would push the pile over the line for his sixth try of the season. Another successful kick from Terezis put Indiana up, 14-7, but Ohio State would have an answer. After a near-try was determined to be held up in the try zone, the Buckeyes won their own scrum, and flanker Matt Stauder would dot down in-goal. Hurff connected on his second conversion, and the game would go into the break knotted at 14-all.

Ohio State applied plenty of pressure in the opening moments of the second half, but Indiana held its line and eventually broke a gap to put the Buckeyes on their heels. Then, danger-man Jake Hidalgo did what he does best – take the corner and score a try. Terezis’ conversion was true, and the winger added a penalty a few minutes later for a 24-14 advantage.

Indiana continued to impose its will on Ohio State, which had no answers for the Hoosiers after successfully answering each of their first-half scores.

In what was the play of the game, Dorrier chipped a perfectly-placed ball that he was able to gather and carry over the end line to extend Indiana’s lead. Center Bryce Campbell added another try to cap Indiana’s win, 34-14.

For Indiana, the BTU Championship is two years in the making after the program was held out of the conference final in 2014 due to a suspension. The 2015 Championship win is also a sweet reward for a program that spent two weeks in August practicing twice a day to get ready for this fall’s title run.

“Our August camp set the tone for the hard work that needs to be done for the entire season,” said Indiana Assistant Coach Dan Fitterling. “Being fit is one of our goals, and our team worked hard for that. I think the hard work that they have put in obviously makes winning the hardware very gratifying.”

Hoosier standouts in the back line – Campbell, Dorrier, Hidalgo ,and Terezis – again provided the majority of scoring for the team. Their relentless attack has attracted most of the team’s attention over the past few seasons, but Indiana’s unsung heroes played a massive part in the championship season.

“Our forwards have been big for us all year – there is no question,” admired Fitterling. “They work very well as a unit, and create circumstances that allow our back line to do what they do.”

The 20-point win over Ohio State was the second championship hauled in by the Hoosiers. Earlier in the day, Indiana’s B-side beat Wisconsin’s second team, 33-5, for the Big Ten Universities B-side Championship.

The fall season isn’t quite over for Indiana’s dynamic back line and consistent forward pack. As a reward for another terrific season, the Big Ten Champions will get to test themselves against the Rugby East champs – Kutztown.

“We are excited for the opportunity to play against a great team,” added Fitterling. “The boys are happy with this past weekend, but also know we have yet another big game to play.”

In a matchup of top-10 teams, the Hoosiers will take on the Golden Bears Nov. 1 as part of the ACRC Bowl Series in Charlotte, N.C.