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St. Bonaventure vs Davenport. Ron Raff Photography.

Late fall D1A rugby gives you some intriguing matchups with some equally surprising results. On Saturday, two Rugby East squads ended their seasons with uplifting wins as St. Bonaventure nipped Davenport by a point, 33-32, and Notre Dame College defeated Kutztown, 44-38. In Mid-South prelims, Lindenwood slammed Lindenwood-Belleville, 71-5, and Arkansas State beat Arkansas, 31-19.

Davenport at St. Bonaventure

The Davenport Panthers and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies have had their share of ups and downs this fall. Davenport came into the game in St. Bonaventure, N.Y. on a two-game winning streak and the Bonnies lost to NDC to close out their Rugby East season. The Panthers were favored to win, but in a tale of two halves, St. Bonaventure showed up in the second half to come from behind in the final minutes to win 33-32.

According to head coach Tui Osborne, “It was a second-half surge coming back from a 24-7 deficit after halftime. Having played the way [the Bonnies] played in their previous match against NDC, this time they held on and pulled through to get the victory. The second half attitude on coming back was crucial for us and played a part in winning the game.”

Davenport began the test focused and was clicking on both sides of the ball. Three tries in the first 30 minutes gave the Panthers a 19-0 lead before the Bonnies entered the fray in the 34th minute. St. Bonaventure scored its first points on a Kyle Ciquera quick tap penalty, but Davenport answered with a try in the corner to end the half to lead 24-7.

The Bonnies emerged from the break energized and Ciquera scored his second try just two minutes in. The Panthers added a score off an unlucky bounce in the 50th minute, but back-to-back tries from Nick Dillon and Ciquera cut the deficit to just three points at 29-26 with 15 minutes left. A penalty at 65’ gave Davenport a bit of breathing room setting up the final minutes of play.

In the last minutes, Davenport’s defense stood strong, but the Bonnies wanted it more. The three try-scorer Ciquera made a dynamic play to pass to North Westall who dotted the ball down in the corner. Fullback Josh Smith lined up the conversion from the sideline and nailed it through the uprights for the one point lead. The Bonnies controlled the ball after the kickoff and kicked into touch for the victory.

Osborne gave all the credit to the forwards for winning the match. “The forwards have done a great job this season getting good carries in and getting us go forward ball. Credit to them, they played well in the second half with pick and goes inside their 22. That caused us to score points and our five-man lineout was well executed. The forwards stepped up and played an instrumental part in winning a great match.”

Flyhalf/captain Eamonn Matthews and lock Jack Wiles earned game balls in the victory. “Eamonn [was excellent in his] ability to control the game,” Osborne reflected. “In the second half, he turned it on with his leadership on the field. Jack Wiles has been very good in the forwards all year, but in these last two games he has stood out. Today, he gave it all he got and he’s going to one to look out for in the future.”

Notre Dame College at Kutztown

NDC ended its 2017 fall campaign with a 44-38 road win against Rugby East foe, Kutztown. The Falcons came out firing scoring twice in the first ten minutes through Ryan Cahill and Matt Smith. Inside center Ryan Nolan got the Bears on the board with his own converted try under the posts. Marcus Tupuola extended NDC’s advantage to 19-7 in the 30th minute, but Kutztown rallied the last ten minutes with two tries by Allan Kaufman and Nolan to take a two-point halftime lead, 21-19.

Using the drive from the late first-half scores, Kutztown’s Dmontae Noble scored off the opening kickoff to open up a 26-19 lead. The momentum shifted to NDC soon after when Cian Grendon charged down a kick and offloaded to Andrew Guerra for a try.

NDC pushed the pace and Tupoula’s second try at 57’ gave the Falcons the 31-26 advantage. Evan Bradshaw followed suit at 61’ and Jasper Windsor-Clive chipped in a PK at 67’ to bring the tally to 39-26. Kutztown’s quick-strike offense came back with two tries in four minutes to narrow the lead to a point with five minutes remaining. NDC answered by marching downfield and Guerra’s eightman pick set up Cullen Barelka for the final score of 44-38.

Speaking with Rugby Today after the game, NDC coach Jason Fox said, “KU plays a wide-open 7s style and moved the ball from side to side well. I think we had more structure on offense however, both teams moved the ball well to space.”

“We played Marcus Tupuola at #10 to change things up. He played well, scoring two times, as did our #8 Andrew Guerra, who had a monster game,” Fox added. “Captain Cian Grendon, Cullen Barelka, and Corey Graham also played well. We improved on our attack, however, we did miss some defensive assignments. Overall, we played much better and are happy with a win on road against a very good KU team.”

NDC will wait for to see if it qualified for the D1A Playoffs, but in the meantime will prepare for spring 7s.

Lindenwood-Belleville at Lindenwood

In the familial annual contest between Lindenwood and Lindenwood-Belleville, the Lions roared to a 71-5 mauling of the Lynx on Saturday night in St. Charles, Mo. Lindenwood scored 11 tries by eight players as eightman Wes White scored a hat trick and wing Deion Mikesell scored a pair. Greg Robertson, Nick Feakes, Jack Huckstepp, Gabe Romero, Cristian Rodriguez, and Clement Quaicoe finished the try parade for the Lions and Feakes ended eight for eleven from the tee.

Head coach Josh Macy said that the key to the win was the offense working as a unit. “We have some strong carriers of the ball, but the ball movement was pretty quick tonight and it allowed us to find the matchups we wanted.”

Macy has been encouraged by the play of his team the last few weeks and is looking forward to ending the fall season on a high note this weekend against Missouri and Delaware. “We've been mixing in a lot of the first year players and they've all taken their chances pretty well,” Macy concluded. “[On Saturday], four Lions suited up for the first time it's always fun to see them soaking up the occasion.”

Arkansas at Arkansas State

Arkansas State’s ramp up to Mid-South play continued on Saturday with a 31-19 romp against Arkansas in Jonesboro, Ark. The Red Wolves raced to a 31-0 lead behind tries from Valentin Balande, Tanner Pope, Christian Schulze, John Scotti and Jake Ray and three conversions from Brock Roper. The Razorbacks recovered late to score 19 in the loss.

First-year coach Blake White reflected on the victory saying, “We were able to capitalize on the limited possession U of A allowed us. They had a great game plan for us and stuck to it. They have come a long way in recent years and it’s a credit to their coaches and the talent they’ve been able to recruit recently.”

Arkansas State’s first Mid-South match is Saturday at Davenport. “Last year, we lost to Davenport and I think that’s something our guys have thought a lot about,” White said. “Davenport has a great program but it’s never fun losing. We need to stick to our guns and play hard physical rugby to come away with a win. It’s going to be a great test for our program to see where we’re at.”