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Both Titans of the Atlantic Coast Rugby League flexed their muscles this week, but in slightly different fashions. Clemson played a hard-nosed 27-20 game in Blacksburg, Va. with the ever-improving Virginia Tech, and Maryland thrashed Virginia to the tune of 66-5.

In Blacksburg, for the first 16 minutes the Tigers and Hokies traded penalties. Jimmy Rippert gave Clemson the lead with a short-range try, but the Hokies responded with a try leveling the game at eight a piece. Tommy Rippert made the game 15-8 off a stolen scrum before prop Max Simons added another score. The Tigers went into the intermission up 20-8.

With a strong wind at the pitch, Clemson elected to take it at its back in the first half. “We knew going in that the conditions and the wind would play into like they always do in Blacksburg. With the high elevation, the winds always seems to be a factor,” Clemson coach Justin Hickey said.

The second half saw Clemson play the first 20 minutes or so in the Virginia Tech end, but Virginia Tech continued to put pressure on the Tigers and was not willing to go away easily. The Hokies added a try in the corner and trailed 20-13. Clemson settled back in and, after a series of passes through the hands, scored a converted try to lead 27-13.

Virginia Tech came within a score in the 70th minute, thanks to a quick tap and go off a scrum penalty. “The last five-to-ten minutes were severely contested and incredibly physical at the breakdown,” Hickey added. Despite committing several penalties, Clemson was able to withstand the late Virginia Tech attack.

 “It wasn’t a pretty performance. A lot of the tries were scored from short range. It was a very forward-oriented game that you just kind of have to grind out,” said Hickey. Last week’s ACRL player of the week, Jimmy Rippert, led a strong Clemson pack, proving to be a presence at the breakdown and incredibly effective at disrupting Virginia Tech lineouts.

The lone league game left for the Tigers will be a battle with Maryland on Nov. 8 for what should be a meeting of two undefeated teams.

“It’s been in the back of our mind and has been brought up a number of times throughout the season, but we have stayed really committed to every game each week. It is nice to now be able to shift our attention to it and put our focus and preparation into that game,” Hickey concluded.

Across Virginia in Charlottesville, Maryland easily handled Virginia, 66-5. After a tough loss to Kutztown last weekend, the Terps got a nice confidence booster with the win. Maryland learned from some mistakes against Kutztown.

”What we failed to do last week was we didn’t get off the bus and start playing right away,” Maryland coach Steve Laake told Rugby Today. “We made a lot of really simple handling errors that Kutztown was able to capitalize on and punish us for. We talked a lot about that this week, playing like we are already down. We didn’t start playing against Kutztown until we were already down by 30.”

Despite Laake’s pleas for a strong start, Maryland came out of the gate slow again Saturday. The first 20 minutes of the game were really slow, with poor execution from both sides. Maryland turned up the heat in the final 60 minutes.

“After 20 minutes we were able to put some patterns in play, put some sustained possession and put some points on the board. In the final 60 minutes of the game we played some good rugby,” said Laake.

Maryland will play another out-of-conference game against Navy next Saturday under the lights at the Maryland Soccer Complex before hosting an ACRL game against UNC Sunday. These two games will be the final tune up before the matchup with Clemson.

“We are looking at the rest of the schedule as two weeks to prepare for what should be a all important match versus Clemson,” Laake added.