Chico State men’s rugby going to nationals

The Chico State rugby team hoist up head coach Lucas Bradbury after the win against Cal State Long Beach on Sunday. Photo credit: Ricardo Tovar

For the first time in Chico State history, the men’s rugby club has earned a spot in the national championship game.

“The boys were clearly prepared to put their bodies on the line for a victory, we started to chase the win this weekend,” head coach Lucas Bradbury said.

The Wildcats were faced with an intense weekend that would determine if their undefeated season would come to a halt. On Saturday, they played against Kansas University and defended their home field with an explosive 24-7 victory.

A scrum between Chico State and Cal State Long Beach that the Wildcats got the upper hand in. Photo credit: Ricardo Tovar

Chico State continued on into Sunday to battle it out with Cal State Long Beach with a spot at nationals on the line.

As the referee blew the whistle the Wildcats did not wait long to show Long Beach what they were about.

“Our team has always been known to be physical it started since I came here five years ago and Chico is known as that team,” fly-half Thomas Gust said.

In the first half, Chico State demonstrated why they made it to the top four in the country as Matthew Mulholland powered through Long Beach’s defensive efforts to score three tries.

Cal State Long Beach was struggling to get past the unbreakable Wildcats defense and settled for a conversion to get them on the scoreboard. Chico State was in a very convincing spot at 19-3 when the first half came to an end.

“The kids really stepped up and worked really hard over spring break, working really hard early mornings in the weight room,” forward coach Brendan Purcell said.

Both teams came into the second half hungry, with a trip to North Carolina a half away.

After a repeating sequence of scrums and lineouts, the Wildcats managed a successful maul that got them near the try zone. Long Beach tightened up their defense and put a long hard fight before Anthony Riley broke through for the Wildcat’s fourth try of the game.

“It can’t be done on a single person, it is top down, bottom up and everyone in the middle needs to do something,” Bradbury said.

Chico State kept rising the intensity and used their physicality that had gotten them this far. But the official did not let that slide and benched two Wildcats.

Long Beach used the missing players to their advantage as they gained momentum offensively and were on the verge of scoring their first try.

Those gaps in defense were costly as Long Beach continued on their aggressive offense and got their first try of the game with 20 minutes still left on the clock.

“We have to tighten things up, offensively we did well but defensively we started leaving more holes in the second half,” Gust said.

There was no time wasted from Long Beach as they capitalized on Chico State’s defensive flaws and after another 10 minutes they were scoring at the try zone once more. Cal State Long Beach closed the large gap and the score was now 24-15.

This frustrated the Wildcats and they came back to defend the lead they worked so hard for. But even through Chico’s best effort Long Beach slipped by for another try in the final minute of the game.

The kick conversion was successfully made but even with such a stunning comeback, Chico State stayed in the lead with a final score of 24-22.

“It’s humbling we put in a lot of work this season and it can all just come together now, “ Forward Brandon Roscoe said.

The Wildcats have a couple of weeks to train as they face Dartmouth University on May 4 to determine the 2019 National Champion in North Carolina. Chico State goes into the championship undefeated thus far, Dartmouth is returning to defend their national title from last year.

“We are going to play against their strengths and exploit their weaknesses,” Bradbury said.

Lucero Del Rayo-Nava can be reached at [email protected] or @del_rayo98 on Twitter.