The UW-Eau Claire men’s rugby club expected a tough match against the UW-Madison on Saturday, to break the three-way tie for division champion, but junior Aaron Mayhall was confident they could pull out a win.
“I was expecting an extremely difficult game,” Mayhall said, “but I knew if our team played the game we knew, we could come away with a victory.”
The Blugolds ultimately did not succeed is securing the title of division champion. Eau Claire, Madison and UW-Parkside were the teams tied for first place on Saturday, and even with the Blugolds’ win, the points Parkside scored throughout the season were enough to push Eau Claire into second place in the division.
However, the men remained satisfied with their win against the Blacks, Mayhall said.
Mayhall credits their win on Saturday to a focused week at practice and a strong desire to win because first place in the division was on the line. The team plays well under pressure, Olson said.
At the end of the first half, Eau Claire and Madison were tied 5-5, and the Blugolds knew they had to eliminate errors if they wanted the win.
“Everyone knew what we had to do, so there was a bit more seriousness,” Olson said.
They would liked to have been confident in a win the whole game, he said, but it wasn’t until their second try, scored by wing Wesley Seay that they gained the confidence they needed to bring home the win.
“Once we got our second try, our confidence went up and then after the third try is when we realized we had it,” Olson said.
Madison had the lead twice, once in the first half and again in the second. To secure the win, Eau Claire had to clean up their passes and keep focused on keeping position of the ball in the second half, Olson said.
The team did especially well in scrums, pushing Madison back and stealing balls, Olson said. In addition, the backs played hard — being creative and finding gaps in the defense, which is where the Blugolds scored most of their tries.
“I think that our team has done extremely well — overall in the game and in the entire year. It’s night and day from last year. It’s a completely different club,” Mayhall said.
In their next game, which is non-conference against Elmhurst (Ill.), the Blugolds aren’t as concerned with winning as they are will keeping everyone involved.
Olson said the plan is to get some rookies and players that don’t usually play into the game to get some experience before playoffs because regardless of the results, the Blugolds are moving on.