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In a battle of Service Academies, Air Force outlasted Army 31-25 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Zoomies overcame a 20-12 halftime deficit and scored a try in the final minutes to seal the home victory.
Air Force opened the scoring in the second minute with a try from Grigor Kerdikoshvili. Winger Braden Smith extended the lead to 12-0 before the 10-minute mark.
Army worked its way back into the match, scoring 20 unanswered points. Tim Del Pino converted to penalties to cut the lead in half and Andrew Irwin scored off a scrum to give the Black Knights a 13-12 lead. Peter Basnight extended the lead to 20-12 in the 31st minute and Army went into the break leading.
Army received a yellow card late in the first half and the Zoomies exploited the man advantage by scoring two tries. Kerdikoshvili earned his second and converted his own score to make 20-19. Three minutes later Hunter Hancock dotted down to give the Zoomies the 26-20 lead.
The Black Nights scored off a scrum in the 60th minute but Air Force kept them in check for the rest of the match. Air Force capped off the game with a try in the waning moments to win 31-26.
“The Air Force defense kept Army in check although Army tended to have more possession,” Air Force coach Denny Meredith told Rugby Today. “Army played a very passionate game with intensity and solid teamwork.”
After falling to Army 19-17 last season at West Point, it is a solid win for a team in transition. Air Force has recently undergone a coaching change with Meredith taking over shortly before the season began.
“This fall season has been transitional for the team and players. Installation of an entire new coaching staff only days before the season meant that the transition had to be accomplished throughout match play. The foundation of the season will serve to propel the team into an intense winter training program that will launch them into a spring season more ready than ever to eventually retake their place as a national powerhouse in college rugby,” exclaimed Meredith.
The Zoomies will use the winter to prepare for a spring campaign that includes the Varsity Cup, possibly the DIA playoffs and the Collegiate Rugby Championship. A win over rival Army should do well to boost the team’s confidence.
“Winning the match continues development of the team’s confidence in play against the best college teams in the nation. The players now understand their own potential as a team and the fundamentals of the style of play being instilled by the new coaching staff,” Meredith concluded.