“It never happens, and if it does, it's not common,” said an elated NeMani Delaibatiki, A-State head coach. “To compare this to football, I guess you could say it's like Arkansas State University football beating the New England Patriots. The Glendale Raptors is considered a professional team in the USA in comparison to other men's teams, and they currently boast a handful of players who represent the USA Eagles national rugby team. This was a great day for Arkansas State University and its rugby program.
“We wanted to get tested to see where we were are at this point, and this was the best way to do it before we compete in the Varsity Cup next spring 2015, which is America's top college rugby premiere competition.”
Fullback Tom Haussrer of Auckland, New Zealand captained the Red Wolves. Kirk Pretorius, a loose forward from Pretoria, South Africa, who can also play wing, was one of the forwards. Winger, Dale Bates of Waimea, Hawaii, opened up the game with a try from a turnover ball and sprinted down to score the game's first try.
Glendale made a couple of mistakes that A-State was able to capitalize upon behind the speed of Michael Baska of Overland, Kan., and USA 7s All-American Zinzan Elan-Puttick at fly half, who blocked a Raptor runner at inside center.
Delaibatiki praised the efforts of his young squad. After losing 11 seniors, including five All-Americans, from last season to graduation, three freshmen are currently in the Red Wolves' starting lineup, including Tanner Pope of Katy, Texas, Garrett Soileau of The Woodlands, Texas and Jaime Togores of Madrid, Spain.
“For us this is one of the most important trips this fall season. We knew what we were up against when we penciled in Glendale as an opponent this fall. There are others who have stepped into the roles left vacant by our seniors,” continued the second-year head coach.
With A-State's Gavin Brown of Indianapolis, Ind., Bates on the wing and Haussrer at fullback, the Red Wolves had the speed to attack, particularly from turnovers and loose play. 2013 USA 7s nationals MVP Dylan Carrion of Plano, Texas, scored two tries and set up one when he came on in the second half.
Glendale did show some line breaks and runs from Chad London in the early parts of the game, including the forwards who were able to draw in defenders and offload to gain a lot of ground during the first 30 minutes of the match. However, Arkansas State managed to contain that by doubling up and blitzing on defense and closing down the spaces of Glendale's offensive strength.
A-State half Elan-Puttick was the man of the match for leading up front with the highest amount of tackles made throughout the whole game by any Red Wolf player.
USA Eagles hooker Zach Fenoglio led Glendale up front, with USA Eagles center London of South Africa, providing fire power in the backline for Glendale.