Road wins keep Rams, Zoomies atop West standings

D1A Rugby: Road wins keep Rams, Zoomies atop West standings
Photo Credit: Kalli Wilkins Photography

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – The West Conference’s top two teams, Air Force and Colorado State, were able to go on the road and win important contests. The Zoomies went to Boulder, where they defeated Colorado, 24-17, while the Rams ventured to Laramie, Wyo., and shrugged off the Cowboys, 42-16.

Wyoming was desperate to win its final West match of the season, and made its intentions known by earning a quick, 6-0, lead thanks to a pair of penalty kicks by fly half Connor Rezzonico.

Colorado State’s No. 10, Joel Conzelmann, gave his team its first lead soon after by converting his own try at the 16-minute mark, and did the same to eight man Josh Collins’ try less than 10 minutes later.

A yellow card sent Cowboy center William Tutein off 30 minutes into the first half, and allowed the Rams to end the opening half with a bang. Collins went in for a second soon after Tutein was shown yellow, and Oliver Jenkins scored his fourth of the season to close the half, 28-6, in advantage of Colorado State.

Wyoming was able to make some inroads in the second half, and sent prop Michael Lewis over for the Cowboys’ first try. Full back Dominic Rufran managed to bring Wyoming’s point total to 16 with a late score, but that was after Jenkins adding two more tries. The hat trick for Colorado State’s dynamic flanker was his second consecutive multi-try game after scoring a pair in a win against Utah State. Conzelmann slotted his final two conversion attempts making him a perfect six-for-six on the day and brought his season point-scoring total to 47.

Staying true to tradition, Air Force and Colorado partook in a hard-fought 80 minutes that separated the two rivals by just seven points.

Playing at home, the Buffaloes get on the scoreboard first through the hands of flanker Zach Niro. Flyer Braden Smith returned the favor for Air Force 10 minutes later, but Kip Nilson put the Buffs back on top when the full back dotted down at the 30-minute mark. None of the three conversion attempts were made, and Colorado led, 10-5.

It appeared the Buffs were on their towards heading to the sheds with a halftime lead, but that’s before Air Force moved the ball wide where hooker Brady Miner took the final pass and raced down the touch line to tie the game at 10. The Zoomies weren’t content after Casey Rothstein’s conversion gave them their first lead, 12-10, and re-gathered the ensuing restart. One missed tackle in the midfield later and Johnny Griffith found the try zone on the half’s final play. Rothstein, again, connected on the conversion to put his side up, 19-10, at the break.

Mitch Cochell, who took over captaincy duties due to an injury to All-Conference center Ben Burmester, made it three consecutive Air Force tries when he found the try zone in the 48th minute.

Down but not out, Colorado made it a seven-point contest when hooker Gavin Moscone plunged over the try line and scrum half Even Clark successfully connected on the conversion. The Buffs did have plenty of possession inside Air Force’s 22-meter line in the game’s final 15 minutes, but a combination of handling errors and a determined Air Force effort on defense preserved the narrow lead.

The wins by Air Force and Colorado State keep the two D1A Rugby ranked teams ahead on the West Conference standings, but the Zoomies own a slight lead over the Rams despite Colorado State besting Air Force earlier in October. The Rams were found to have unintentionally used an ineligible player during their comeback win against Colorado. The mishap cost Colorado State six standings points.

Air Force effectively controls its own destiny in the West. Both the Zoomies and Rams close the season with a home game against winless New Mexico. If Air Force wins its Nov. 19 match against the Lobos, it will win the conference title and an automatic spot in the 2017 D1A Rugby Playoffs regardless of the outcome of Colorado State’s Nov. 5 fixture with New Mexico.