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The first weekend of the 2016 Rugby East season saw a blowout and two competitive contests as Penn State, Army, and Saint Bonaventure opened the conference with victories. Penn State continued its early season success blanking West Virginia, 76-0, for its third victory in a row. After crushing Stony Brook last weekend, Army nipped Iona, 16-5, in a defensive struggle and Saint Bonaventure out-slugged Buffalo, 48-31, for its first conference win.
West Virginia rolled into State College, Pa. on Friday night set for contest against the Nittany Lions. Coming off a loss to Bowling Green, the Mountaineers hoped to regain their footing with a good showing against Penn State, but they were unable to find traction. The Nittany Lions blitzed West Virginia for 12 tries by nine different players for the 76-0 shutout.
“West Virginia was more physical than us in the beginning and they really came to play,” Penn State head coach Blake Burdette said. “I was happy how our boys responded and we really started being just as physical and more physical than them... We are 1-0 in the conference now and we know we can run our pattern that fits our personnel, but we have to continue to stick to it and get better.”
The Nittany Lions scored seven tries in the opening stanza with Kevin Trotter, Connor Cassidy (2), Jimmy Ronan, Jordan Crofts, Tommy Capriotti, and Leo Van Buskirk finding the endzone. Up 41-0 going into the second half, Penn State continued to pour on the offense with tries by Selby Niumataiwalu (2), Mike Eife (2) and Thomas Del Pino. Ronan finished the day going 5 for 9 on conversions along with his try.
Burdette singled out the play of the two freshmen in the front for their exemplary play. Jordan Croft and Tommy Capriotti played really well picking up their first collegiate tries in the match. Additionally, flyhalf Mike Dabulas was solid in all aspects and tacked on two conversions in the second half.
With two weeks before its next match, Penn State will rest up and prepare for Delaware when it comes to State College on September 24th. West Virginia travels to West Point next weekend to face Army.
On a hot and humid Friday night in West Point, N.Y., Army scratched out a 16-5 defensive win over Iona. Opportunities for points hard to come by as the game boiled down to a hard hitting and physical stops. Defense ruled the game with neither team yielding a meter.
Iona’s Dylan Evans scored off a driving maul to open the match, but the Gaels were unable score again. The Black Knights’ Jonathan Kim notched a penalty in the 18th minute and Ryan Moshak’s try off a blocked kick at the end of the half gave Army the 10-5 lead at halftime. Two penalties by Kim in the second half provided Army with a cushion for the 16-5 victory.
“Overall, it was positive that we got the victory and I thought we showed a lot of character to grind out a win that perhaps our precision wasn’t great,” Army head coach Matt Sherman. “I thought our defensive effort was outstanding. We had to defend two thirds of the time plus and two thirds in our own half. We were pretty resolute with the only try coming from two consecutive penalties in our 22 and then they had a pushover from five meters.”
Captain and inside center Luke Hume earned the player of the game from Sherman. “Hume was tenacious on defense, which we had to do a ton of. I’m guessing he made 20 tackles and at least half were dominant, physical tackles. When we needed to simplify and be more direct, he got us over the gain line.”
Iona’s head coach Bruce McLane enjoyed the match immensely, although his side came out on the wrong side. “It was a pretty physical, defensive contest. It was phases and phases of going nowhere by both teams... Both teams came off the field satisfied with the effort they gave and both teams really enjoyed being in the game and playing each other. The intensity never let and it was fun.”
In the last Rugby East game on Saturday, Buffalo ventured to Alleghany, N.Y. to battle Saint Bonaventure. In a high scoring match-up that featured five lead changes, the Bonnies turned it on late to pull away and win, 48-31.
Bonnies head coach Tui Osbourne stated that sticking to the pattern and conditioning proved to be keys to the victory. “Fitness kicked in the second half and that saved us. We are looking to maintain that and keep it up for future games.”
Alejandro Alonso and Eamonn Matthews scored twice for the Bonnies and Matt Bergstol, Tommy Anderson, Alfonso De Falco, and Kyle Ciquera each dotted down tries. Maninderjit Singh (2), Casey Morgan, William Burke, and Cody Ratka each scored for Buffalo in the loss.
Osbourne’s main takeaway from the game was “we can’t start slow. We have to come out of the blocks and be aggressive right from the first whistle to the last.” Saint Bonventure will look to work to improve against Army next weekend.