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Kutztown with the ball against Iona. Peggy Fontanesi Photo.

Before next Saturday’s showdown between the top four teams of the Rugby East, Army, Penn State, Kutztown, and Wheeling Jesuit were victorious this past weekend. Army blew out Delaware, 81-5; Penn State swept St. Bonaventure and Buffalo to a combined score of 137-24; Kutztown crushed Iona, 77-14; and Wheeling Jesuit pummeled West Virginia, 72-12.

For Delaware’s Rugby East home opener in Newark, Del., Army raced out to a 57-point lead before the Blue Hens could put a single point on the board. The Black Knights brought the wood and will to Delaware and came out with a 81-5 victory.

“We started really strong,” Army head coach Matt Sherman said. “I was really pleased with the tempo and physicality we played with. I think we found another gear in ourselves and that combination overwhelmed [Delaware] today.”

A total of 13 tries by eight players were scored by Army, including a hat trick by flanker Bailey Abercrombie. Jake Lachina, Jeff Malm-Annan, and Andy Sullivan each had pair of tries and Sean Berry, Ben Lemon, Mitchell Sanderson, and Eli Brown scored the others. Flyhalf Jon Kim connected on eight conversions on the day.

For next Saturday’s match against Penn State, Sherman concluded, “We’re expecting a real challenge. They are very skilled and they play an expansive style, which suits their experienced team. We need to contain them as best we can and put up some points as well because from what I’ve seen they can certainly score.”

Score Penn State did as the Nittany Lions swept its back-to-back games against St. Bonaventure and Buffalo. Penn State head coach Black Burdette split his squad hosting St. Bonaventure on Friday and then travelling north to Buffalo on Saturday.

Coach Burdette stressed that he saw the weekend as an opportunity to test his team’s depth and work on the pattern before Army next weekend. “It was a good weekend to get a lot of guys some high quality playing time... We worked on executing our pattern. We have to get better at it and that’s what our focus was... Army is a well-drilled, well-coached team and we’re expecting a battle for 80 minutes.”

Against the Bonnies, the Nittany Lions won 71-24. Ryan McNulty had three tries and Mike Dabulas and Chris Burian each scored two. Thomas Del Pino, Joseph Kelly, Rob Irimesco, and James Haley also scored and Jimmy Ronan kicked seven conversions.

For the trek to Buffalo, Penn State brought a different squad, but achieved the same result. The Nittany Lions pitched a 66-0 shutout behind four tries by Kiefer Kei-Boguinard. Kyle Crawford, Thomas Capriotti, John McLean, Malcolm May, and Leon Patel-Champion each scored a try. Dabulas had 21 total points in the second game with a try and eight conversions.

In its second Rugby East match, the Kutztown hosted Iona in Kutztown, Pa. After a tense battle for the first 20 minutes, Kutztown exploded for the 77-14 win. Iona’s defense and pressure forced the Bears to step up their game.

“Our forwards played really well for the whole 80 minutes and basically wore them down in the middle of the field,” Kutztown head coach Gregg Jones said. “It opened up the outside channels and we had too much speed for them to cover. The score wasn’t indicative of how hard Iona played, we just had some breakaways, the score mounted, and we got momentum.”

Johan Van Wyk duplicated his output from last week to score four tries in the victory. Freshman flyhalf Jackson Clark directed the offense and did a fantastic job managing the game and the attack.

Kutztown will travel to Wheeling, W. Va. to face the Cardinals on Saturday. “Wheeling Jesuit is a very good team and they haven’t lost yet in the Rugby East,” Jones stated. “If we want to win the Rugby East, we have to beat Wheeling Jesuit. Wheeling has never beaten any of the top three in the Rugby East. With the way they are playing, they obliviously have the ability to knock off us or anybody else. We are going to take this game very seriously.”

After defeating Iona 44-19 last weekend, Wheeling Jesuit welcomed West Virginia to town and promptly won 72-12. The Mountaineers held an eight point lead early, but the advantage didn’t last long. Allan Hanson, Andrew Waggoner (2), Peter Malcolm, Ryan Graggs (2), and Cullen Buckley each scored tries and Hanson added four conversions and a penalty.

Although the Cardinals earned a convincing win, head coach Tommy Duffy indicated there is plenty of work to do. “We didn't play our best rugby, but I was working in players that didn't have a lot of playing time up to now. Hanson, Malcolm, Waggoner, and Graggs all had outstanding matches. The key to victory came in the second half when we countered WVU’s uncontesting of the rucks, mauls, scrums, and lineouts. We have got to streamline our overall play for Kutztown.”