Texas A&M defeats Longhorns at Aveva Stadium to close out RRRC XVs regular season

by Travis Normand
February 24, 2020

NOTE: I need to preface that this site encompasses posts containing information about Texas A&M rugby games. The information posted here comes from a variety of sources including my own personal observations while attending the games. Having said that, the opinions expressed herein are my own and are not the opinions of any other group, including but not limited to the Texas Aggie Rugby Club and/or the Old Maroon Rugby Football Club. In the interest of full-disclosure, I am an Old Maroon member and supporter, and I also re-post some of this information on Old Maroon’s website/blog for their membership to read and enjoy. I do not want my opinions to be considered a reflection of the Old Maroon organization, or any other group, as they are expressly my own.

USMLR Houston Sabercats’ Aveva Stadium

I was able to attend Texas A&M’s final Red River Rugby Conference XVs game of the 2019-2020 season on Saturday, February 22, 2020 (their final regular season game). The game was played at the USMLR’s Houston Sabercats’ Aveva Stadium. I could write an entire post on how fantastic the new Aveva stadium is and how amazing it is to have a rugby venue of this magnitude in Texas. If you get a chance to attend a game at Aveva stadium, I would highly recommend it.

The Aggies played the Longhorns at 3 p.m. as the “curtain raiser” before the Sabercats vs. Washington D.C. “Old Glory” USMLR game (at 7 p.m.).

The Aggies won their final regular season contest rather easily; and to be as blunt as possible, the Longhorns did not put up much of a fight. This is not to say the Aggies played a perfect game. In fact, had the Aggies been as sharp as they have been in the past, they could have easily broken the new Aveva stadium scoreboard by hanging triple-digits on their opponent. Instead, the Aggies only scored 92 points, while allowing the Longhorns to have 21 (and again, to be perfectly honest, the Longhorns were lucky to have scored the 21 points that they did).

Despite claims to the contrary (see here, here, and here), the Longhorn rugby club is just not on the same level as Texas A&M and they are not prepared to face competition of this type. After all, the past five match-ups between the two clubs (A-sides) have gone as follows:

  • Feb. 22, 2020: Texas A&M – Win: 92-21 (in Houston);
  • Nov. 2, 2019: Texas A&M – Win: 34-13 (in Austin);
  • Jan. 26, 2019: Texas A&M – Win: 98-3 (in Austin);
  • Sept. 22, 2018: Texas A&M – Win: 69-0 (in College Station); and
  • Mar. 24, 2018: Texas A&M – Win: 19-5 (in College Station).

That is a scoring advantage by A&M of 312-42!

This past Saturday’s game featured uncontested scrums starting at around the 5 minute mark (5 minutes into the game) as the Longhorns’ hooker (No. 2, Jack Hurley) unfortunately broke his hand or wrist, and they only had three players qualified for the front row. While I truly hope Hurley’s hand is not actually broken, and I wish him a speedy recovery (regardless of the injury), the fact that the Longhorns could not field a proper pack of forwards is telling as to their level of competitiveness.

As I watched the game unfold, I couldn’t help but realize how awful the Longhorns’ forward play was, as they not only had an insufficient front row but they were also totally incapable of performing an effective ruck of any kind. I am not sure what they need to do in order to fix that problem, as they did appear to have some guys playing forward positions that are of decent size. However, they clearly are in need of a forwards coach that can instill some amount of skill and/or aggressiveness in those orange clad forwards. As I was leaving the game, I happen to walk past the Longhorns’ coach whom I overheard talking about how ineffective they were at the breakdown (I felt it necessary to tell him how much I agreed.)

On the other hand, the Aggies finished their RRRC season in impressive fashion and picked up 5 points towards the conference standings (finishing with a total of 30 points out of 30 possible; 5 points earned in all six conference games). The Aggies will now have to wait and see if Oklahoma can do the same, as the Sooners currently have 25 and only need to earn 5 points in their final game against UNT on February 29th.

Game Recap

The following is a recap of the Aggies vs. Longhorns game from February 22, 2020 (with time kept starting at 00:00 counting upwards to 40:00 for the first-half, and from 40:00 to 80:00 for the second-half). Further, I took notes using the players’ jersey number, and later matched names from the starting line-up that was posted on the Aggie Rugby Facebook page.

First Half

A&M kicks off at 00:00. The Aggie defense successfully keeps the Longhorns from crossing midfield during their opening possession, setting the tone for the rest of the game. A&M gains possession of the ball, and at the 3:30 mark, A&M’s No. 3, Greg Dorgant, scores a try putting A&M up 5-0. (The conversion attempt by A&M’s No. 10, Manuel Zapata, is unsuccessful.)

Note: A&M’s starting lineup has No. 3 as Greg Dorgant; however, D1ARugby’s game re-cap page has this first try being scored by No. 6, Benjamin Hoffman.

Longhorns kick off around 5:00 min mark, with A&M receiving the kick at about their 22 meter line. A&M loses the ball via an off-sides penalty, resulting in a Longhorn scrum. Shortly thereafter, another penalty is called on A&M and the Longhorns opt to go for post (Penalty Kick or “PK”). Longhorn No. 9 Max Palmer’s PK attempt is no good and the score remains 5-0.

Photo Credit – Dave Snook of 8th Man Photography: https://www.8thmanphotography.com/

A&M’s No. 8, Jack Clayton, scores a try around the 13:11 mark, making it 10-0 in favor of A&M; and A&M’s No. 10, Zapata, makes good on his conversion attempt, bringing the score to 12-0.

The following Longhorn kick off fails to go 10 meters; as a result A&M opts for a center field scrum. A few minutes later, at about the 16:20 mark, A&M’s No. 9. Joseph Keblis, scores a try making it 17-0 in favor of A&M (the conversion attempt by No. 10, Zapata, is unsuccessful).

The Longhorns kick off again at around the 18:10 mark. A&M moves the ball to the goal line where A&M’s No. 3, Dorgant, appeared to score (or at least, he appeared to have scored from where I was sitting). However, while he apparently did not score a try, there was a penalty called on the Longhorns which resulted in an A&M scrum at the 5 meter line. Following the scrum, A&M’s No. 2, Tommy Batterson, was able to put it down for a try at about the 20:29 minute mark, taking the score to 22-0. (No. 10, Zapata, misses the conversion attempt.)

Note: Batterson has scored a try in each of A&M’s final four games (as he had one against BYU, LSU, Texas Tech, and now the Longhorns).

No. 2 Tommy Batterson: Photo Credit – Dave Snook, 8th Man Photography: https://www.8thmanphotography.com/

Longhorns kick off at the 22:59 mark, gain possession of the ball, and commit a knock on; and the penalty results in an A&M scrum. The Aggies take the ball out of the scrum, dash 30 meters, cross midfield, and go into touch just past the opposite 10 meter line. The result is therefore a line-out / throw-in by the Longhorns at around 23:55. However, the throw-in is not straight, resulting in another A&M scrum. At about 26:36, A&M’s No. 1, James Lardner, is able to take the ball 40 meters down the sideline for a try (which he is able to place behind the goal posts), making the score 27-0. A&M’s No. 10, Zapata, then adds a successful conversion kick and the score is 29-0.

Note: For some reason, Zapata’s conversion kick which brings the score to 29-0 was not reported on the D1ARugby.com game re-cap page. Therefore, from this point forward, the point total as reported here conflicts with the game re-cap page on D1ARugby.com. To find the re-cap page, go to Texas A&M’s page on D1ARugyb.com at D1ARugby.com/team/texas-am/. Once there, use the side bar navigation tool to click on the “Schedule;” and once you are on the schedule page, click on the word “Texas” as it appears on February 22.

Score: 29-0 (my count).
Score: 27-0 (D1ARugby.com re-cap page)

The Longhorns kick off again at 28:00, and immediately gain possession of the ball. The Longhorns keep the ball inside the A&M 22 meter line for the next 6 minutes of play, and it is the first time that the Longhorns truly threaten to score.

However, the A&M defense dug-in and was able to prevent the Longhorns from scoring. During this 6 minutes of play there was plenty of “back-and-forth,” with both teams gaining and losing possession of the ball. At one point it appeared that the referee gave warnings to both teams regarding play, but around the 33 minute mark the referee did give one of A&M’s players a yellow card for repeat infringements. (I actually could not see who got the yellow card, but Grant Cole posted on his Facebook page that it was No. 7, Will Green; while the D1ARugby.com page reported that it was A&M’s No. 6, Benjamin Hoffman.)

Grant Cole also posted that the conceded penalty count at that time was: A&M: 10 & Longhorns 3.

Following the yellow card to A&M, the Longhorns had a 5 meter scrum, and it appeared as if they were finally going to get on the board; however, at about the 34:00 minute mark, while the Longhorns crossed the goal line, they were held-up by the Aggie defenders. This resulted in another Longhorn 5 meter scrum, but the Aggies were able to gain possession of the ball following the scrum and they kicked it from their own try zone to the 22 meter line.

The Longhorns stated their advance again, but eventually turned the ball over via a penalty, and the Aggies kicked the ball into touch around midfield. Shortly thereafter, at around the 40:29 mark and following an A&M 5 meter scrum, A&M’s No. 11, Dustin Holta, scored a try making it 34-0. (A&M’s No. 10, Zapata, missed his conversion leaving the score at 34-0).

HT: 34-0 (by my count).
HT: 34-0 (according to Grant Cole’s Facebook page).
HT: 39-0 (according to D1ARugby.com’s page) (I believe their scoring is “off” due to the fact that they have an extra try listed at 29 minutes, scored by No. 7 William Green, and a CV scored by No. 10 Manuel Zapata, for a total of 7 points added to the previous total of 27, for a total of 34 points BEFORE A&M’s No. 11, Holta, scores his try; which makes their total 39.)

Half Time

As you can hopefully tell, the first-half was dominated by the A&M defense with a huge stop in the last 10 minutes of the half.

Also, in fairness to A&M’s No. 10, Manuel Zapata, who was 2 for 6 on conversion attempts in the first-half; it must be noted that conditions were not ideal for long range kicks. Most, if not all, of his four missed conversion kicks were due to the rather heavy wind and/or the fact that Zapata was kicking from the far sideline (as many of the try’s were scored in the corners).

Photo Credit – Dave Snook of 8th Man Photography – https://www.8thmanphotography.com/

Second Half

The Longhorns kick off at 40:00, and A&M gains immediate possession inside their own 22 meter line. A&M starts to move the ball forward and at about the 40:30 mark, a Longhorn defender intercepts the pass, taking it a short 22 meters, and finally putting points on the board for the Orange and White. The score is now 34-5, with the try having been scored right under the goal posts, setting up a conversion attempt that was a straight forward shot.

Longhorn No. 9, Max Palmer, kicked the conversion attempt which was apparently successful (leading to my first score discrepancy).

While I saw Palmer kick the ball, I could not tell with 100% accuracy whether it went through the posts or not. However, it was such a straight shot that my automatic assumption was that he made it. On the other hand, I was surprised when I did not see the refs indicate that the kick was successful and I therefore assumed he had somehow missed the conversion (and that the score was 34-5). Further, the scoreboard read 34-5 and I assumed the operator had it correct as well.

A moment later when the stadium announcer stated that the score was 34-5, the Longhorn faithful who were sitting behind me began screaming at the referee that the kick was good and the scoreboard should read 34-7! They continued to yell until the head referee shouted back at them from the field saying “Okay, I got it” (while pointing to his notes). I took this to mean that he knew the conversion kick had actually been good and that the scoreboard should read 34-7 (and the mistake was due to the scoreboard operator having missed the conversion kick).

Therefore, while my count was 34-5, I marked it as 34-7.

Further, the D1ARugby.com re-cap page also lists the Longhorns’ try at 41 minutes and the successful conversion at 42 minutes (for 7 points); however, while it has the Longhorns with 7 points at that moment, it also lists the Aggies as having 39 points (instead of 34) due to the “phantom” try and conversion at 29 minutes, and the non-reported conversion at 25 minutes (so I am not sure if the D1ARugby.com re-cap page is sufficient or reliable evidence to prove that the conversion by the Longhorns was actually made).

In any event, unless otherwise noted, the D1ARugby.com re-cap page has A&M’s score as 5 points more than my count from this point forward; and I have resolved that considering the final score, 2 points for the Longhorns is a small concession to give.

A&M kicked off at around 42:00, and at 42:57, A&M’s No. 5, Kade Ball, ran the ball 40 meters for a try, extending A&M’s lead to 39-7. A&M’s No. 10, Zapata, made good on his conversion and the score was then 41-7. (However, D1ARugby.com lists the score as 46-7.)

The Longhorns kicked off at 44:20, and at 45:08, a Longhorn player was issued a yellow card (however, I could not tell what the infraction was, nor could I see with 100% accuracy which player received the yellow card but I believe it was No. 12). In any event, the D1ARugby.com re-cap page makes no mention of any Longhorn player having received a yellow card, so if anyone reading this knows differently, or if you can confirm that a yellow card was given, please contact me and let me know.

To further complicate things, the scoreboard clock appeared to be having some issues in the second half. However, before the 50:00 mark was reached, A&M’s No. 15, Jeremy Brown, scored a try making it 46-7 in favor of A&M. (A&M’s No. 10, Zapata, missed his conversion attempt.) (D1ARugby.com has the score as 51-7.)

The Longhorns kicked off with the clock reading 51:30; and A&M’s No. 10, Manuel Zapata, scored a try less than a minute later at around 52:26, making it 51-7. A&M’s No. 12, Nick Pursell, came on to attempt the conversion but his attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 51-7. (D1ARugby.com has the score at 56-7.)

The Longhorns kicked off again at around the 53:56 mark; and at 55:47, A&M’s No. 10, Manuel Zapata, scores another try by diving across the goal line, making it 56-7. A&M’s No. 12, Pursell, successfully converted this second attempt, making the score 58-7.(D1ARugby.com does not list Pursell’s CV as successful and therefore now has the score as 61-7; only 3 points ahead of my count as opposed to 5.)

The Longhorns kicked off at the 57:00 mark and end up getting possession of the ball. Less than a minute later, the Longhorns scored a try right around the 57:30 mark, making the score 58-12. Longhorn No. 9, Max Palmer, made good on his conversion attempt and the score was 58-14. (D1ARugby.com has the score as 61-14.)

With the Longhorns finally scoring again, A&M finally get another chance to kick off, and does so at around 60:50. About one minute later, at about 61:59, A&M’s No. 15, Jeremy Brown, scores a try making the score 63-14 in favor of A&M. A&M’s No. 12, Pursell, then converts another kick to extend the lead out to 65-14. (D1ARugby.com has the score as 68-14.)

The Aggies score again at the 65:36 mark when No. 5, Kade Ball, scores his second try of the day, making the score 70-14; followed by another successful conversion by No. 12, Pursell, 72-14. (D1ARugby.com has the score as 75-14.)

At 68:29, A&M’s No. 14, Hayden Martin, scores a try making the score 77-14.

Martin’s try is followed by another conversion attempt by A&M’s No. 12, Pursell; and the result is another discrepancy in the final score. At the time, I was fairly certain Pursell missed the kick and I marked it as such in my notes; further the announcer stated that the kick was unsuccessful, confirming what I had noted.

If Pursell had, in fact, missed his kick, the score should have remained at 77-14; however, the scoreboard read 79-14 (indicating the kick was good). However, the D1ARugby.com game re-cap page does not show that Pursell’s kick was good and only increases the Aggies’ score by 5 points following Martin’s try at the 69 minute mark. Therefore, the score at this time is as follows:

Score: 77-14 (by my count; as I granted the Longhorn kicker his 2 point CV).
Score: 79-12 (according to the scoreboard at stadium; as they did not count the Longhorn 2 point CV).
Score: 80-14 (according to D1ARugby.com; as they had 75-14 and only increased it by 5 points to 80-14).
Score: 77-12 (Reported by Grant Cole at the 67 minute mark of the game; which is in-line with my count of 77-14, but without counting the first Longhorn 2 point CV).

However, for the purposes herein, I will assume the scoreboard was inaccurate; and that the score is now 77-14.

At 71:27, A&M scores another try and the score is now 82-14. I could not see the jersey number of the player who scored and I originally thought it was No. 15, Jeremy Brown; however, the D1ARugby.com site says it was No. 19, Emil Tejml. (A&M’s No. 10, Zapata, attempted the conversion which was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 82-14.) (The D1ARugby.com page says the score is 85-14.)

The Aggies managed to score one more try at around the 77:43 mark, when No. 18, Sarim Sultan, put one down for the Aggies making the score 87-14. Further, No. 10, Zapata, was able to convert one more time; making the score 89-14. (D1ARugby.com says the score is 92-14.)

The Longhorns kicked off one final time at around 79:11. The clock stopped at 80:00, and later began running again, making the timing of the Longhorns’ final score a little uncertain, but it definitely came after 80:00. In any event, the Longhorns were able to score one more try following a line-out, making the score 89-19, before a final conversion kick by Longhorn No 9, Palmer, made the final score 89-21.

FT: A&M 91 – t.u. 19

FT: 89-21 (by my count).
FT: 91-19 (according to the scoreboard at the stadium).
FT: 92-21 (according to D1ARugby.com)

A special thank you to Dave Snook of 8th Man Photography for letting me use some of his photos in this post. Make sure to check out his website at: https://www.8thmanphotography.com/

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