BOULDER, Colo. – Two great matches highlighted the last weekend of conference play in the Big Ten, in which Indiana and Ohio State emerged victorious. These two will now face each other in the Nov. 14 Big Ten Universities Championship match. The Hoosiers and the Buckeyes both escaped their matches by a narrow margins – matches that will be remembered as some of the best of the season. Saturday also saw Minnesota win its first match of the season, and Michigan State wrapping up its season positively with a victory over Purdue.
Michigan 31 – 35 Ohio State
Ohio State won its match against Michigan last season to get into the Big Ten Championship match, and was able to do it again this season. This match contained multiple lead changes, and Michigan led, 31-27, with only 10 minutes left in the match, but the Buckeyes were able to come back and nab a spot in the championship match.
The Wolverines scored the first points of the match, a try by Matt Kasten after outrunning the Buckeyes to the corner. The conversion was good, but Ohio State answered with the strength of its pack, Jojo Eramo punching it in behind the push of the front line. The Buckeyes tied the score at 7-all after a successful conversion, and each side showed it is ready for a long, hard-fought match.
Ohio State’s Ronan Forrestal crossed the try line before the team added a penalty kick, and the Buckeyes looked like they were going to start opening this game up, but Michigan capitalized off of a muffed kick recovery and Kasten was able to run it in for a try to wrap up the half with a score of 17-12.
These two sides went right back to their back-and-forth scoring in the second half, Ohio State starting it with a Matt Stauder try, but the conversion was no good. The Wolverines were able to respond early with a try between the posts, but Ohio State was still leading, 22-19. It was then Michigan, then Ohio State, and another Michigan try, as neither team allowed the other to build up a strong lead.
Down, 31-27, with 10 minutes remaining, Ohio State rallied and ran the ball to the corner of the try line for score. They added a penalty kick to their total, putting the Buckeyes up, 35-31. In a last-ditch effort, the Wolverines marched down the field to the try line, but the strong Buckeye pack was able to hold off the attack and take the match.
Ohio State’s win puts them in their second championship match in as many years. Michigan will play Wisconsin in the Big Ten Universities Championship event after finishing the season fourth in the Big Ten. Both matches will be played Nov. 14.
Wisconsin 13 – 20 Indiana
This match was easier on the scoreboard compared to the high-scoring affair in Ann Arbor, Mich., but it was just as exciting. The Badgers were last year’s Big Ten Champs, and this was the match they needed to win in order to get back to that match, but the Hoosiers brought a level of rugby that the Badgers haven’t seen this season.
Jake Hidalgo was uncontainable in the early stages of this match, scoring two tries in the first half, putting him at 12 tries on the season. Wisconsin was able to score off two kicks in the first half, and the score entering halftime was 10-6.
The second half started well for the Badgers, as Sam Emerson was able to slip around the Hoosiers back line for the try. The Badgers would hold their lead until there were eight minutes left in the match, when Indiana’s Connor Marsh scored a try to give the Hoosiers a 15-13 lead. Wisconsin wasn’t able to recover, and after another Indiana try in the 77th minute, the Badgers fell to the very talented Hoosiers, 20-13.
The Badger defense played very well against Indiana, but they weren’t able to get their offense going. The loss may be disappointing, but they can walk away proud of how hard they played the unbeaten Hoosiers.
As for Indiana, they finish the season 6-0, and will face Ohio State Nov. 14 for the Big Ten Universities Championship. Ohio State is equally matched with Wisconsin, tying a match with the Badgers earlier in the season, so if the Buckeyes are able to play like the Badgers did on Saturday, this will be a very competitive match.
Michigan State 37 – 18 Purdue
Purdue started this game out with an early, 10-0, lead, but Michigan State’s Joseph Daman found the try zone in the 15th minute, closing the gap to six. The Boilermakers would kick another penalty kick and Michigan State would score a try to round out the first half, as Purdue entered halftime with a 13-10 lead.
The Spartans controlled the second half, scoring five unanswered tries. The Boilermakers were able to put up a try in the closing minute, but it was too late, as Michigan State won, 37-18. Purdue was effective in stopping the Spartans’ attack in the first half, but its defense shut down in the second. This match was Michigan State’s second win of the season, and the win puts them fifth place in the Big Ten – exactly where they finished last season. The Boilermakers finished with two wins and played much better rugby this season. Though they finished in sixth, they have building blocks to improve on for next season.
Minnesota 32 – 24 Iowa
The Golden Gophers end their rough season on a positive note, winning their first match of the year against the Iowa Hawkeyes, 32-24.
Iowa took an early, 5-0, lead, but lost that lead just five minutes later, and weren’t able to regain it. Minnesota received help from all over the pitch, as Darin Richardson, Troy Gotch, and Shadrach Anderson, scored from the back line. Its pack was able to get hands on the ball in the second half, as Quinn Williams and Benjamin Ouellette were able to find the try zone. Those five tries had the Golden Gophers up, 32-17, at the 75th minute. Iowa didn’t quit, putting up a last minute try, but it was too late.
Iowa struggled all season, a surprise after its third place finish in 2014. The Hawkeyes finished last in the Big Ten, and will need to keep learning over the spring if they want to keep up with the rest of the conference. The Golden Gophers will also need to grow, but this win will be a confidence boost going into the spring. Minnesota will get another chance at Purdue next weekend in the seven-versus-eight match of the Big Ten Championship event.