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In the late season match between two top 20 ranked service academies, the #13 Army came out hard and fast against #16 Air Force in West Point, N.Y. to win 62-19. The Black Knights dominated the first half scoring 43 straight points before the Zoomies could dot down a try at the whistle. Air Force played inspired rugby in the second half, but the first half onslaught was too much to recover from. Army concluded the fall season with a 9-1 record and the Zoomies play their final match at home on November 12th against New Mexico.
Characterizing his team’s effort, Army head coach Matt Sherman said, “This was our best performance of the fall season and really a big step forward. I don’t think we did anything new or different, but we put all facets of our best performance together into one performance for the first time.”
Things worked out for the Black Knights almost immediately as they built a 17-0 lead in the first ten minutes with Jon Kim penalty followed by tries by Kim and Jake Lachina. Army continued to pile on as Kim scored his second try, Lachina completed his hat trick by the 32nd minute, and Jeff Malm-Annan put in another six minutes later. Not to be shut out, James Hanley crossed the whitewash for Air Force to go into halftime, trailing 43-7.
Army picked the momentum back up scoring the first three tries of the half when Andy Sullivan and Raaqim Rispress (2) extended the lead to 62-7 with 20 minutes remaining. The Zoomies kept fighting until the final whistle as AJ Being and Colin Culver scored in the later stages of the game. In the end, Army was victorious, 62-19.
When asked about the significance of the service academy annual match-ups, Sherman responded, “Beating our fellow service academies always has significance. It’s one of our primary goals of the season to defeat both Air Force and Navy and win the Commander and Chief trophy.”
Regarding how Air Force played, Sherman added. “AFA really battled hard, and while I know the game didn’t go the way they hoped, I thought they showed tremendous resiliency to battle back in the second half.”
“The deciding factor was Army's ability to create pressure,” Denny Merideth said, head coach of Air Force. “Air Force played with a lot of heart, but turned over the ball too often early in the match and was slow to adapt to Army's play... Army clicked in all aspects of the game and played an excellent match, capitalized on turnovers, and created hard pressure both defensively and offensively.”
The main takeaway from the fall for the Zoomies is the necessity and commitment to building depth and experience within the team. “With one match remaining in the fall season for Air Force, the season has been one full of recovery and rebuilding from losses of key players throughout the season,” Merideth remarked. “Less experienced players have stepped in and gained valuable experience this fall, which we expect to pay dividends in the spring season.”
With the season in the books for Army, Sherman wrapped up the fall by saying, “I think our fall season was generally successful. We fell short of one of our goals to win Rugby East, but I think from a performance orientation, we improved every single game, which was our primary goal.”