Sticking together as a team and playing with confidence were the two adjustments the USI rugby team made when trailing by just three points at halftime.
“From a team standpoint, this win speaks wonders,” senior scrum-half Tyler Pipes said. “I don’t mean to bash other sports from our school, but when was the last time any sport beat a D-I side? I think sticking together as a team and pulling this victory out speaks wonders to the dedication and time we’ve put in.”
Pipes gave USI the final lead in the second half coming out of a scrum in Eagles territory. The first UK defender was playing wide and Pipes hit the inside gap as sophomore Doug Rose pulled away another defender by distracting him. That left Pipes with a hole inside the goal posts as he dove in for a try. The conversion kick made the score 7-3 Eagles.
Rose extended the lead roughly fifteen minutes later on a similar play.
“Pipes hit me out of the scrum and we were really trying to push out so their defense was spread out even more,” Rose said. “As soon as I went in to fake a pass, I saw the guy leaning outside and went in.”
In the first half, the Eagles admitted to paying more attention to what UK was doing rather than concentrating on their own play. As the game went on, this mentality reversed. USI buckled down defensively by setting up post and picks to neutralize the UK offense.
USI head coach Kurt Murrell was in the center of the action as the referee but was not allowed to coach during the game. He said if there was a close call, he was tougher on his own players.
“We started off a bit slow, but they just don’t have the confidence they should yet,” Murrell said. “Once they found the confidence in the second half is when they started to play a little better.”
Though it was an exhibition game and won’t count in the win-loss column, the team said UK was the most athletic and fundamentally strong team it has faced. The win gives USI much needed-confidence as they prepare to make a run at the Indiana Small College Rugby Playoffs.
USI will travel to DePauw University for its first league game on Saturday.