|BGSU Flanker Dan Grime
attacking from ruck vs Florida (Photos provided by Roger Mazzarella)
Give Bowling Green credit — the Falcon rugby team can play defense when it’s needed.
When it came down to stopping Florida’s size and strength, especially in the scrums, the Falcons
responded Sunday afternoon in the NCAA regional final at Cochrane Field and came away with a 21-18
victory. With the win, the No. 1-rated Falcons advance to the Final Four May 13-14 at Stanford
“The defense was just absolutely tremendous," said Roger Mazzarella, the former BG head coach, who
is now the director of rugby.
Bowling Green has played in the Final Four before, but that was by invitation. This time the Falcons won
their way into the national semifinals.
“We really played our way into it … They earned it,” said Roger Mazzarella.
Sunday’s final was in sharp contrast to Saturday’s semifinals where BG scored 65 points in a rout of
Temple and Florida put 57 points on the board against Maryland.
Florida, rated No. 4 in the nation, was pretty much a straight ahead team, trying to bully its way
through the Falcons. The Gators did manage two trys, but one was on a long run after an intercepted pass
and the other came late in the game after BG held them at bay for almost six minutes.
“We just had to hang on, they were really killing us in the scrums,” current BG head coach Tony
Mazzarella said. “They’ve got some big guys. I thought our guys did an excellent job of putting them on
the deck as much as possible. They didn’t get a whole lot of yards after contact.
“We were able to just do enough where they didn’t get that much momentum.”
Plus the Falcons made good use of the leg of fly half Nick Viviani, an All-America in 2010. Viviani had
two successful penalty kicks, a drop kick from 30 meters out, and a conversion, accounting for 11 of
BG’s 21 points. Viviani also made a nice pass to Dominic Mauer on the way to BG’s first try.
|BGSU Fly Half Nick
Viviani vs Florida
“I’ve been here quite a number of years, so I’m used to these winds. I know how to play. Plus I got some
good bounces," Viviani said.
“I just kind of saw it (in) the middle of the field and I was like ‘I’m going to try it,’’’ Viviani said
about his drop kick. “I knew it was in, right when I kicked it.”
Viviani also did a good job of putting the ball in places where BG could have a chance to maintain
“When you do have the wind, you still really have to place it very well,” Tony Mazzarella said. “You have
to be tactical. You have to put it into spaces. He did a pretty good job of that today, considering the
Viviani gave BG a 3-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
The Gators countered when Cory Penca intercepted a pass and went 70 meters for a try. With the conversion
by Matias Groetaers, Florida was up 7-3.
The Falcons responded with 15 minutes remaining in the first half on Mauer’s try and Viviani’s conversion
to take a 10-7 lead.
Florida scored on a penalty kick after time had expired at the end of the first half to make it 10-10.
“We did the hard work in the first half to keep it level going against the wind,” Tony Mazzarella said.
Bowling Green gained a quick advantage less than two minute into the second half. After a long kick, BG’s
Kyle Bonek scored from the five-meter scrum to make it 15-10 after missing the conversion.
Florida’s Groetaers countered with a penalty kick eight minutes later to cut BG’s lead to 15-13.
Three minutes later, Viviani connected on the drop kick to give BG an 18-13 lead.
“Nick’s drop ball made a big difference,” Tony Mazzarella said.
Viviani then gave BG a two-score lead with a penalty kick with approximately 13 minutes to play.
Florida then worked the ball down inside the 20-meter line and Jordan Manning finally scored with five
minutes remaining. The conversion attempt failed and the Falcons were able to hang on for the win.
“Nick made a great kick downfield, isolated them and we played enough defense to win the game in the last
seconds,” Tony Mazzarella said about the late stages of the game.
Both Mazzarellas and the players credited the fan support as a big part of the victory. The fans were
invited onto the field after the game to be in the team photo celebrating the victory. Approximately 700
people attended Sunday’s match.
“It was definitely very emotional today,” Viviani said. “I think what helped us pull through was our
fans. They helped get us a little bit of momentum.
“We just really didn’t want to let them down today.”