SCUTS Dominates Stanford
Thousands of fans witness Santa Clara’s easy win
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:02
A raucous crowd of over two thousand was on hand Friday night on Bellomy Field as the Santa Clara University Touring Side started its league season on the right foot, defeating Stanford University 34-7.
The Broncos improved to 3-0 against Stanford under second-year Head Coach Paul Keeler, having defeated the Cardinal twice last season, both home and away. Santa Clara will now look to repeat as Northern California Division I champions, albeit against much tougher competition this season.
After 20 minutes elapsed in the first half, Santa Clara’s Scott Johnson broke the Stanford line to score the game’s first try, worth 5 points. Winger J.J. Holmgren connected on the conversion kick to put the Broncos up 7-0.
Tommy Baldacci scored his first of two tries on the night with five minutes remaining in the half. The conversion was missed leaving the score at 12-0. That score would hold until the half, when Santa Clara’s Chris Falvey was sent off with a red card.
Despite playing 14 on 15 for the rest of the match, the Broncos weren’t deterred. Scrum-half Mark Kuppenbender picked the ball off of a scrum and ran nearly half the field’s length for a try to put Santa Clara up 19-0.
“It was a little error on their part,” Kuppenbender said. “I got a little lucky, I picked up the ball and had my guys supporting me. I just got there before they did.”
Stanford responded with a try and conversion to make it 19-7, but Kyle Dunne and Riley White both broke through shortly afterward for two tries, to widen the Bronco gap to 29-7 with 10 minutes remaining.
The final punch came once again from Baldacci, who scored with four minutes remaining to bring the score line to its final at 35-7.
“As a whole, the team played well, but I felt that Tim O’Hara played especially well,” said Keeler. “He ran the field, made a lot of tackles, as did Tommy Baldacci. Really, the game picked up when Mark Kuppenbender went to scrum-half and we attacked a bit better.”
Defeating Stanford helps set Santa Clara up for a successful season in league play. They may be defending champions of their conference, but the landscape of college rugby is changing. Powerful programs such as Saint Mary’s College, California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and San Diego State University will now compete in the same league.
“You want to win the games that you should win, and this was one of those games,” said Keeler. “We’re able to gain momentum. We were able to make mistakes and come away with a win. It helps us learn now how to win games.”
Friday night’s contest was the latest renewal of a rugby rivalry that dates back to 1908. Between 1915 and 1917, it was Stanford and Santa Clara who met in rugby for the “Big Game,” in lieu of the traditional University of California, Berkeley-Stanford football game.
In 1916, Santa Clara trounced Stanford 28-5 in front of 40,000 fans in San Francisco. That year the Santa Clara team finished 9-0 and was the best American rugby team that season. Players from Stanford and Santa Clara joined forces to represent the U.S. in the Olympics in 1920 and 1924, with the Americans winning gold medals in both games. Those representatives were Santa Clara’s first Olympians, and the gold medals hang today in the de Saisset Museum.
“This rivalry is bigger than just this game. It’s in the history of both schools,” said Keeler. “Promoted right, it could be that big game for us again. It would be great to play it in (Buck Shaw Stadium).”
With this history on their minds, SCUTS took the field before a turnout that numbered in the thousands.
“Before the game, I told one of the referees that there would be 2,000 people and he didn’t believe me,” Keeler said. “And then the band came in, and both match officials were in awe. It’s just amazing. I haven’t coached many games where we’ve had 2,000 people, even championship games. It’s huge for us on a Friday night.”
Kuppenbender said the band helped get into the heads of Stanford. “The crowd was awesome, it was so helpful having everyone there,” he said.
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