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In a battle between two Varsity Cup squads, Navy outlasted Clemson 39-25 at the Charlotte Rugby Complex. It was the second meeting of the season between the two sides, with Navy taking the first matchup in the fall with a more lopsided score line.
Clemson started strong and was knocking on the door in the opening minute but a knock on near the goal line thwarted an early attacking chance. In the ensuing scrum, however, the Tigers charged down the Navy kick and jumped on the lose ball for an early 5-0 lead.
After some back and forth play, Navy outflanked the Clemson defense and with the conversion led 7-5. Navy Quickly added to its lead two minutes later scoring an unconverted try. The Tigers responded nicely, driving a Navy scrum in goal and with the resulting five meter scrum drove a maul towards the Navy goal line. ACRL player of the fall, Max Simons dove over to even the score at 12 in the 17th minute.
The Midshipmen broke the deadlock with a penalty and then added another try after some sloppy play by both sides. Some uncharacteristic ill discipline from the service academy resulted in Navy receiving a yellow card in the 30th minute. Clemson capitalized on the man advantage adding a penalty and a late try to even the score at 20 going into the break.
Navy controlled most of the play in the second half, and a high penalty count from Clemson did not help the Tigers. After some sustained possession, Navy scored a try to take a 25-20 lead. Some sloppy defense and a missed assignment led to another converted try for Navy and a 32-20 lead.
“They are your typical Navy side,” Clemson coach Justin Hickey told Rugby Today. “They are big, they are tough, and they play a forwards heavy game every time we play them. Navy is relentless and we had a difficult time defending them in the second half.”
Clemson fought back into the game with a try after multiple phases of play in the 60th minute. Navy controlled most of the possession in the final 20 minutes but was unable to add points until the final two minutes. On a possible double move, the referee deferred to his AR, who deemed the try to be good, sealing the victory for the Midshipmen. The final score was 39-25.
Being a friendly with rolling subs allowed, it was a very good start to the spring campaign for both sides.
“For being the first game and only having really trained for this past week, it was really encouraging,” said Clemson coach Justin Hickey. “I think Coach Flanagan would be pretty happy with the way they (Navy) played yesterday, and it hopefully suited their needs.”
Both teams are preparing for the Varsity Cup and will be playing some stiff competition in preparation for the opening round in April. Navy also played Life University this weekend and Clemson will be traveling to Georgia to take on the defending runner up in DIA, Life next weekend.