Deadbirds Rugby falls to UCF in Sunshine State showdown

Jacob Justice, Sports Reporter

The University of North Florida Deadbirds Rugby Club faced off against the University of Central Florida Knights on Saturday, with the Deadbirds losing the matchup 35-14.

This matchup was the Deadbirds season home opener, with the contest being played at the lot 17 field on Betty Holzendorf Road.

Despite the tough loss, the game was closely contested in the beginning of the first half, with the score tied up 14-14 with 13 minutes left in the half thanks to two incredible plays by Wyatt Dodd.

Dodd was unbelievable in the first half, with two tries in the period. One of these came via an intercepted lateral attempt by UCF that was run all the way back and the other came off an intercepted kickoff returned for a touchdown.

When asked about what led to his perfect timing in those moments, Dodd credited both the planning and effort of his teammates as well as his instinct as a rugby player as what allowed him to produce the scores.

 “I could see where he was about to pass it, and I happened to catch a lucky break, jumped the gun, and took off,” Dodd said. “But on the kickoffs, that’s what we practiced.”

Rugby players fight for a contested ball
The Deadbirds haven’t had the start they wanted, but will look to improve throughout the rest of the season. (Jacob Justice)

Despite the efforts of Dodd in the first half, the Knights were able to walk into the break with a 21-14 lead after an astounding three-try first half performance by UCF’s Mark Carjaval.

Things only worsened for UNF after the break, as the Deadbirds struggled defensively with both tackling as well as on the scrum, which is what allowed UCF to drive further offensively and convincingly beat North Florida by a score of 35-14.

This loss also brings an 0-3 start to the Deadbirds season, something unheard of with how well this team did last year, going to the second round of the playoffs.

When asked about what could be fixed in terms of tackling and aggressiveness on the scrum, as well as the added pressure due to a slow start on the season, club president  Christopher Friend understands the questions surrounding the uncharted territory they are in, but also believes that the season is still young and there will be plenty of time to turn things around.

“I think there’s definitely pressure to hopefully change things around and I think that we’re still in a good spot,” Friend said. “It’s still early enough in the season that we feel comfortable that we can move these things around.”

The season is still young indeed, as there are three matches left on the spring 2023 schedule. These matches are ones that fans and players alike hope will result in Deadbird victories.

As this UNF squad looks to progress and move on from Saturday’s loss, they will be once again be preparing to defend their home turf, as the Deadbirds will next be facing off against Florida Atlantic University at the nest on February 18th.


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