On a sunny Saturday in Norman, OK on the Tim 'Tarzan' Wilson pitch of the Al Velie Rugby Complex, the Texas Tech Men's Rugby Club met the Oklahoma University Men's Rugby Club for a match that had been rescheduled from early Spring due to terrible weather. Little did they realize in January that this match would decide the conference championship. Nevertheless, the conference championship was at stake and neither team disappointed in their quest for that prize.
The Sooners struck first as wing Isaac Koh crossed the line and converted his own try a couple of minutes into the match. The drive was so dominant that it looked like Oklahoma would run away with the match. Ten minutes later, senior captain Michael al-Jiboori dotted in the corner to bring the score to 12-0. Again, the Sooners were looking to put their stamp on the game.
Then the Red Raiders decided to wake up as their big loosehead prop, Jordan Talley, banged in for a try after Tech had spent a few minutes camped out on the Sooners' goal-line. Flyhalf Wes Mitchell could not convert, but Tech was on the board. A quick minute later, Tech lost their feet in a breakdown in front of their own posts and referee Scott Green began to warn his charges about repeated breakdown infringements. Isaac Koh slotted the penalty kick easily to bring Oklahoma's lead to 15-5.
Texas Tech answered back with a flawless backline move inside Oklahoma territory. The ball found the hands of Tech utility back (wearing the 14 jersey on the day), Kyle Kulka who darted in-goal to close the gap. Minutes later, Tech's forwards were camped out on Oklahoma's goal-line again. Eventually, the multi-phase possession resulted in a converted try for the Red Raiders. Tech was up 17-15. Moments later, Tech returned to that end of Tarzan Pitch for five more points as Kulka grubbed ahead and beat his teammate/target to the ball for the try. With three tries in a row, Tech seemed to enjoy a bit of momentum that even al-Jiboori's unconverted try at the end of the half could not subdue.
At the halftime whistle, Tech had the lead, 22-20.
Oklahoma started the second half determined to break Tech's momentum. They drove a nice maul in from ten meters out only to have Tech's much bigger forwards hold it up. Oklahoma then gave up possession and Tech found their other winger, Zach McKinney, in space. McKinney dotted down. Mitchell could not convert. Tech held the lead 27-20.
It was at this point that all seemed lost for Oklahoma. Green finally tired of the breakdown infringements and issued a yellow card to a Sooner lock. The same play had seen Oklahoma's captain leave the playing area with an injury. Inside Center David Nixon was already playing with a heavily taped up ankle and the Sooner front row was out-weighed by about 200 pounds. Winning this match seemed a tough ask.
However, the Sooners persevered and held the Red Raiders scoreless while they defended the Tech attack with a man in the bin.
With 13 minutes left, it was Oklahoma's turn to camp out on the Tech line before Toby Harden drove in to score an unconverted try. The Sooners had pulled within two points of Tech. Moments later Blake Hutzler and Cale Witter added converted Sooner tries to bring the score to 39-27 in favor of the home team. With only two minutes left, victory seemed assured.
Tech gave it one last 'college try', though. Zach McKinney garnered a brace of tries for the day. Mitchell converted. Green whistled Full Time. Oklahoma 39, Texas Tech 34. The Oklahoma Sooners are the 2014 Allied Rugby Conference XVs Champions! They proved they are "ALL IN!"
After the game, Oklahoma Coach Jason Horowitz had this to say about his team and the game:
I could not be more proud of the boys today. Started off completely dominating Tech in all facets. Got ahead. Gave up the momentum. Then the Tech team stepped up huge and owned the middle of the match. Mike on the sideline, Blake in the sin bin... 2nd game players on the field... And the second half was on.Once again taking the momentum, OU climbed back out of the hole and took the lead 39-27. Then, off a line of penalties, Tech scored with time expired ending the match 39-34 OU.
The Sooners have won back to back 7s and 15s conference championships.Great birth day present for me. Could not be happier for all of the boys.