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With three games on the slate in the D1A Rugby East, the schedule saw a slugfest between two powerhouses, a team pick up its first win, and a blowout in Buffalo. On Saturday, Penn State proved it is the team to beat in East with a 54-24 win over Kutztown, St. Bonaventure notched its first victory beating Wheeling Jesuit, and Notre Dame College clobbered Buffalo on the road.
Kutztown at Penn State
In a match between two top 15 clubs, #13 Kutztown ventured into enemy territory on Saturday to face #6 Penn State in State College, Penn. After some back and forth play in the first half, the Cougars opened the second with three straight tries to power for the 54-24 victory.
Penn State head coach Justin Hundley indicated that defense and sticking to the gameplan were keys to the win. “Penn State was able to put a lot of defensive pressure on Kutztown's outside backs and did not give them much room to run. We knew this was a huge threat and were able to keep it contained. Our set piece was solid again today, the forwards played their hearts out again... The guys played well, on attack they stuck to the system and it paid off.”
After PSU’s Ryan McNulty and KU’s Vetekina Malafu exchanged tries to begin the match, the Cougars regained the lead with back-to-back tries from Malcolm May and McNulty. A yellow card by PSU at 27’ opened the door for the Bears to get back into the game as Jay Glass scored a couple minutes later to cut the lead to 17-14.
Even a man down, PSU’s offense was still potent as freshman wing Brian Stella scored to extend the advantage to 24-14. Unfortunately for Stella and PSU, the rookie was sent to the bin in the 36th minute. The Cougars didn't give up any points this time and Jimmy Ronan added to the Cougars’ total with a penalty at the horn for the 27-14 halftime lead.
The Cougars built on their lead with three tries to start the second half. Connor Cassidy, Mike Eife, and Leo Van Buskirk dotted the ball down in the sequence and Van Buskirk tacked on a long-range penalty shortly after. Kutztown attempted to keep pace with scores from Dmontae Noble and Ryan Nolan, but Stella’s late try sealed the 54-24 win for PSU.
Hundley believes his squad is a work in progress but played well on Saturday. “We would have liked to have let in fewer scores, but Kutztown had a number of attacking threats and although we were able to contain them for a majority of the match they made their presence felt and were able to score a few very nice tries.”
Game balls were given out Thomas Del Pino and Jack McLean for the Cougars. “Del Pino played a great game at #10. He marshaled the boys well and took his chances when they came. Jack McLean was a stalwart again today, solid in the lineout, had some good carries and was a defensive presence all day.”
Kutztown head coach Gregg Jones praised PSU for its play on both sides of the ball. “PSU is a well-disciplined team and stays within their defensive and offensive structures. They attacked in waves and played the game mostly on their feet... The key factor was that they attacked off of their defensive gain line at 100% for the entire game, which created intense pressure on our backline from the beginning to the end of the match.”
Penn State is on bye this weekend, while Kutztown welcomes New England College to town for a non-conference match on Saturday.
Wheeling Jesuit at St. Bonaventure
With both teams looking for their first conference win, the match between Wheeling Jesuit and St. Bonaventure featured immense momentum swings in the second half that ended with the Bonnies scoring three tries in the final 15 minutes for the 30-24 victory.
After Wheeling Jesuit started the match with an Alston Burton try, the Bonnies answered with two penalties by Josh Smith and a try by Colin Sustersic to lead 13-7 at the half. The Cardinals came out of the half on fire as Jeremy Kirk, Burton, and Andrew Waggoner scored to take the 24-13 lead with 16 minutes left.
With limited time remaining, the St. Bonaventure offense focused on playing the system and being patient with the ball. The refocus paid off as the Bonnies scored three answered tries to close out the match. Pat McCormick and North Westall had tries in the 66th and 72nd minutes, and Francisco Hereñu scored the game-winner in the 76th minute to win 30-24.
St. Bonaventure head coach Tui Osborne inspired his players at halftime to play better and be patient. “They needed halftime to hit the reset button and stop panicking. Their accuracy in finishing out the phases we played [needed to improve]. We tried to convert phases in the first half, but we just couldn’t and were knocking on the door... We spoke at halftime about being patient with our attack, but with a steady emergency and speed that we were playing.”
Flanker Matt Williams was Coach Osborne’s player of the game. “He was getting every ruck and making every tackle. Most of the turnovers came from him being dynamic in that position. He was all over the field on the day making big plays for the team.”
This Saturday, the Bonnies travel to Army while Wheeling Jesuit hosts Buffalo.
Notre Dame College at Buffalo
Fresh off its defeat of Army last weekend, #8 ranked Notre Dame College took the trip up the shore of Lake Erie to Buffalo, N.Y. to play the Bulls. The Falcons scored 12 tries in route to a 79-12 win. Khalid Williams, Andrew Guerra (2), Christian Olsen, Calum Haddock, Marcus Tupuola (2), Cory Graham, Evan Bradshaw, Pat O'Shea, Liam Tipton Fletcher and Ro'Neil Reynolds scored tries for NDC and Jasper Windsor-Clive added eight conversions and a penalty.
“We wanted to make sure there was no letdown after our victory over Army last week,” NDC head coach Jason Fox said. “We really wanted to concentrate on playing more mistake-free, stick to our system, and come up fast on defense to take away space from the attacking side. I think we did a very good job on all aspects.”
“We were able to keep possession and control the pace of the game for the most part,” Fox added. “Both Cory Graham and Marcus Tupuola did a very good job creating space to set up many of the scores or create long gains. We moved the ball well to space that set up scoring opportunities both through the middle and on the outside.”
NDC will get a break on Saturday but then enter a stretch of four games in ten days. The Falcons will head north to play AIC on Thursday, Oct 12th and then New England College on that Saturday. The next weekend, NDC plays a back-to-back against Navy in Annapolis, Md. on October 21st and at Wheeling Jesuit on the 22nd.