By Dave Redden
GREENVILLE, N.C. – If Kentucky was going to make it to the Final Four for the second season in a row they would have to come from behind for the second consecutive game to do so.
Kentucky opened the game by taking a 5-0 lead in the 2nd minute thanks to an unconverted try by freshman, Jacob Goeppner but Bowling Green State came back to build a 12-5 lead. The Wildcats closed the gap and kept the game close as they went into halftime just 12-10 down after Tanner Eatherly crossed for another unconverted try two minutes before the break.
Bowling Green State struck first after the interval with two quick tries, one converted, to lead 24-10 and the next score became an important one in the context of the game.
It was the Wildcats who was able to score that next try as Goeppner doubled his tally to make it 24-15 with 63 minutes played.
Flanker, Logan Butler scored next for the Wildcats to close the gap to 24-20 and give the Wildcats renewed hope. However, this year’s version of Bowling Green State is of a higher level than recent years and they dug deep to score the try that broke Kentucky’s back in the 75th minute, moving out to a 31-20 lead with just five minutes to play.
Butler was able to cross for his second try to tighten the score at 31-25 and give his team one last chance to snatch the win but time expired with Bowling Green in control and the comeback was not to be.
Fly-half and goalkicker, Brendon Esson had to leave the field with an injury after 15 minutes, re[;aced by Cooper Nash with the kicking duties and leaving the combined conversion attempts at 0-5 on the day.
Kentucky’s head coach, Gary Anderson was disappointed with the result but already looking forward to a bright future for his team. “It’s been a great season with a tough ending, hats off to BGSU,” said Anderson. “We are young … eight freshman played significant minutes in the SCRC and National playoffs. We are only losing one player on the entire roster so next fall looks very bright.”
Kentucky finished their competitive season at 7-2 and as back-to-back Southeastern Rugby Conference champions. They will now start work on improving their position as runners-up in last spring’s SCRC 7s competition.
Bowling Green State will face tournament favorites, Mary Washington in Sunday’s Final Four match as they easily dispatched West Chester by a score of 71-14.
In the other bracket St Joseph’s defeated Salisbury, 53-22 and Western Michigan overcame Lindenwood-Belleville, 31-10.