With one final home game to decide the Weber State University men’s rugby club’s playoff fate, the Wildcats ran away with a 41-5 victory over the visiting Montana State University Bobcats on Saturday.
“It feels great,” said WSU rugby team captain Johnathan Francis. “We clinched the win which gives us a position in the national championship.”
Despite being down three of their usual starters due to conflicting schedules, the Wildcats stepped up to fill in the void and performed well against Montana State.
“I was a little worried about the second side guys,” said rugby coach Mike Wunderli. “But our replacements played extremely well and they did a great job of filling in for them.”
The Wildcats had little trouble against the Bobcats, as a strong passing game combined with their speed helped WSU improve its season record to 3-2-1.
“We have a lot of guys that are new, but the athleticism in them takes over,” Wunderli said about the key to the team’s success. “We all play together as a team, and we all did a great job of working together and spreading the ball fast. The key to rugby is getting the ball out as fast as it can be played.”
Francis also said that he thinks the importance of Saturday’s game played a big role in the team’s performance.
“I think the threat of being done (was key),” Francis said. “If we lost this game we would be done with the season, so that made us play to the best of our abilities.
“Plus we’ve got a strong team. This is a family, we’ve got each other’s back.”
Francis said that the first round of the playoffs would begin on April 11, but he added that he thinks the team could finish in the top five in seeding and earn a first round bye. From there, Francis said the Wildcats could host a quarterfinal match on April 18 before potentially advancing to the semifinals on April 25. The USA Rugby Division I-AA championship match will take place on May 2 in Sandy, Utah at the Rio Tinto Stadium.
After winning their final home game of the regular season, Francis felt confident about the team’s chances in the playoffs.
“Going up against teams we’ve already played, I think we should do pretty good,” he said. “If we play like we did today, I think we can take it all.”