Friday, April 1, 2011

Match Report: University of Oklahoma 3 - 41 Arkansas State

Courtesy of Tyson Meek, Oklahoma Rugby

Number 4 ranked Arkansas State was too much for the Sooners Saturday March 26th, ultimately prevailing 41 – 3. The game was much closer than the score line reads and was still a contest until the Sooners Captain and Number 10 Arrynn Wilkinson was yellow carded in the 65th minute for a dangerous tackle.  Arkansas State took advantage of their opportunity with the Sooner playmaker off the field and ran in four trys in short order while Wilkinson was in the bin.

OU’s set piece continues to struggle with the pressure exerted by its College Premier Division opponents.  Arkansas State benefited early from an Oklahoma miscue at the second scrum of the game on the OU 5 meter line.  The Oklahoma backrow allowed the ball to escape the scrum between the number 6 and number 8 while OU scrumhalf Mike Diver was out of position; the Arkansas State halfback Yoshiyasu Abe took advantage of the mistake scooped the ball up and scored the easiest try of his career.  Pat Sullivan converted for the extras.

Oklahoma struck back when a penalty was awarded for a late tackle on Wilkinson after a nifty line break and kick ahead – OU aptly took the kick up and Zac Givens converted the opportunity making the score 7 – 3 advantage Arkansas State.  Arkansas State and Oklahoma traded free kick infractions at scrums and played rugby between the 22s without a serious advantage of territory or time of possession for the next 10 minutes.  Between the 20th and 40th minute Arkansas State, with the wind behind them, gained a time of possession and territory advantage camping out in the Sooners end.  Oklahoma’s defense stiffened at the Oklahoma line and resisted a number of promising Arkansas State attacking opportunities.  However, from an attacking center field 10 meter Arkansas State scrum the visitors showed their skills and put wing Caleb Gragg away for a 5 pointer at 37 minutes making the score 12 – 3.  Playing into a stiff wind Oklahoma would have been happy to get out of the half with that score, Arkansas State had other thoughts.  Oklahoma played a few phases from the kick off and got some go forward.  Wilkinson made a smart play to kick ahead into the visitors 22, but the OU chasing defenders were left grasping by a nice piece of running by the Arkansas State wing who then kicked ahead deep into Oklahoma territory forcing OU to kick to touch, giving Arkansas State a lineout inside the OU 22.  Arkansas State maintained possession for a few phases and eventually prop Jake Mizell scored a forwards try on the last play of the half to stretch the lead to 17 – 3.

OU and Arkansas State played to a stalemate for the first 15 minutes of the second half.  The Sooners best attacking opportunity came when Wilkinson put fullback Zac Givens through a hole, Givens sidestepped two Arkansas State defenders before being pulled down 2 meters short of the try line.  During the ensuing ruck Arkansas State got their hands on the ball, but knocked it on giving the Sooners a 5 meter attacking scrum in front of the posts.  The Sooners let Arkansas State off the hook by feeding at the scrum, awarding a free kick to Arkansas State.  As was the case most of the day Arkansas State capitalized on OU’s mistake moved the ball wide for an outside break followed by a kick deep into the Sooners half.  Not long after Wilkinson received the yellow card that proved to be the Sooners undoing.

Arkansas State put their foot on the gas and really started to spread the ball from sideline to sideline.  Arkansas State’s Fullback Donnie Swanepoel put his stamp on the game with a number of outside line breaks during the last 20 minutes of the second half.  In a matter of minutes Arkansas State scored a converted try by replacement center Dale.  Arkansas State flyhalf Pat Sullivan controlled the game well and was rewarded with his first try at 70 minutes.  Swanepoel quickly followed that up with a touchdown of his own.  At 75 minutes Sullivan scored and converted another try to round out Arkansas State’s onslaught.

Arkansas State showed why they are a highly ranked team.  The Arkansas State backrow, half back combination and fullback were all difference makers.  Oklahoma played with Arkansas State for 65 minutes, but were completely outmatched for the last 15 minutes of the contest.  Wilkinson played well at 10 for the Sooners and newcomers Zac Givens, Rich Immel and Joe Bach all made their presence felt.

Arkansas State will be playing the game of the week in the College Premier Division against Life April 2nd.  The Sooners host Tennessee Saturday, April 2nd. Tennessee upset Texas A&M and will come into Norman with some confidence based on that result. 

Arkansas State Trys: Yoshiyasu, Gragg, Mizell, Dale, Sullivan (2), Swanepoel

Conversions: Sullivan (3)

Oklahoma Penalty: Givens


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