BOULDER, Colo. – After three weeks of Big Ten Universities rugby, three undefeated teams remain. This past Saturday, Indiana drubbed Iowa, Minnesota defeated Illinois, and Michigan won a back-and-forth battle against Wisconsin.
During Indiana’s visit to Iowa, the Hawkeyes stayed within striking distance of the only 3-0 team in the Conference. Fly half Taylor Young scored Iowa’s second try of the match midway through the first half to make the score 14-12 in favor of the Hoosiers.
Indiana would tighten its grip on Iowa’s attack and refused to allow another point following Young’s try and conversion. Two-try efforts by number eight Tyler Graham and outside center Teddy Terezis, who totaled 22 points on the day, led Indiana’s offensive output.
Following a come-from-behind victory against Michigan State, Minnesota rode the boot of Nicholas Herrmann to a 33-25 triumph over Illinois. Herrmann’s three penalty goals helped build a lead for the Gophers, only to see the Fighting Illini cut the lead to three with a Martin Giannetti try. However, Minnesota’s defense would hold strong and impact sub Jerome Paul dotted down a try with no time remaining for good measure.
“We had times when we executed our game plan and it really showed during those instances,” said Minnesota captain Jack Butterfield. “Unfortunately, we still have some kinks we are working out that led to scramble tries for Illinois, but outside of those moments we held possession and territory most of the game.”
Minnesota’s two victories have come against teams in the bottom half of the Big Ten Universities standings, but the Gophers’ Oct. 11 meeting against Ohio State should be more telling as to their legitimacy in the Big Ten Championship conversation.
“I definitely think we can give some of the upper-tier Big Ten teams a run for their money,” the fly half continued. “We’re improving exponentially every match, and look like we could peak at the perfect time for some of our tougher matches.”
The most exciting match out of the Big Ten came from Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines slipped past previously-undefeated Wisconsin on a soggy afternoon.
“I think the weather negated a major strength of each team which is playing fast, and the match became of much more physical match,” explained Michigan Head Coach Brandon Sparks.
The brutal encounter saw five lead changes in the first half before Michigan was able to surge to a 32-20 lead with less than 30 minutes remaining.
Prop Jordan Ulmer was ferocious on defense for the Wolverines, while powerful lock Drew Vecchio was able to keep Michigan’s attack moving forward on a day where the backlines for both sides were not able to make huge impacts.
As for the Wolverines captain Joel Conzelmann, it was just another day at the office. The fly half and field general slotted two crucial penalty kicks and made good on three out of four conversion opportunities.
“It’s hard to put into words what Joel means to our team,” said Sparks. “I don’t like to throw around the term ‘heart and soul’ of a team, but if there is anybody that is the heart and soul of this team it’s Joel. His work rate is through the roof, and the reason he plays so well on Saturday is because of the work he puts in during the week.”
The one-loss Badgers still remain slightly ahead of Michigan and Minnesota in the BTU standings as they have played three matches to the Wolverines and Gophers’ two. Sparks and his coaching staff feel fortunate to pull off the win versus Wisconsin, and know they have as good a chance as any to play in the BTU Championship.
“Wisconsin is one heck of a good side,” Sparks exclaimed. “I would not be surprised if we see them again in the middle of November.”