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Blowouts populated the Rugby East landscape as the average margin victory in the five matches this weekend was 61 points. Army moved to 4-0 in the conference with a 67-12 win over St. Bonaventure on Friday and a 50-0 blanking of Buffalo. Wheeling Jesuit grabbed its second win over Iona, 44-19, and Kutztown picked up its first league win over West Virginia, 95-8. Lastly, Penn State clobbered Delaware, 97-5.
With back-to-back matches on the road on Friday and Saturday, Army tested its depth and emerged victorious with two wins. Starting different lineups for each test, the Black Knights achieved the maximum result with dual victories against St. Bonaventure and Buffalo.
By outscoring its opponents 117-12, Army head coach Matt Sherman praised his team’s defensive effort and depth. “Our defense was strong. The St. Bonaventure defensive performance was stronger than Buffalo. The Bonnies attack had a lot of skill and ability. Although they got behind us twice, I though we were pretty effective shutting them down.”
Commenting on how deep his club is winning with two distinctive sets of players, Sherman added, “It’s a good reflection of the strong depth that we have and the intense internal competition. It’s going to be very difficult to crack the first 15 going forward and it’s going to bring out the best in all of our players.”
Eight different players scored tries against the Bonnies, but Sherman said that the play of prop Adam Szott and flyhalf Jon Kim stood out. Kim was 5/6 on conversions and connected on two penalties. In the Buffalo game, senior fullback Andy Sullivan scored a hat trick and Jeff Malm-Annan and Bailey Abercrombie played brilliantly.
In the closest match of the weekend, Wheeling Jesuit earned its first conference win with a 44-19 victory over Iona. On Friday night on neutral ground at Penn State, the Cardinals won its fourth consecutive game over a solid Iona club.
Peter Malcolm and Allan Hanson combined for a total of 29 points with each scoring two tries apiece. Hanson had a stellar match with three conversions and a penalty and his boot kept pinning the Gaels back. Wing Killian Gause was outstanding on the wing with a pair of tries and Cullen Buckley scored another.
“[The Cardinals] played good consistent ball on both sides and were very dominant in the scrums,” Wheeling Jesuit head coach Tommy Duffy said. “The difference was that WJU was consistent in the game plan and in the second half, played more consistent ball all around.
“At halftime, I told them to stay in our game and not to let them get inside their heads,” Duffy continued. “We can win this, just be consistent and clean, execute more efficiently, and vary the back play... It was truly a full 15 effort.”
John D'Allara (2) and Lavar James scored for the Gaels in the loss. Iona head coach Bruce McLane said, “We were flat. We had our moments and played too conservative. Hanson played great and we got killed in the kicking battle.”
In Kutztown’s first match of the 2016-2017 season, the Bears blasted West Virginia, 95-8. Kutztown used the match to shake off the rust as the Bears were chomping at the bit to get some game action. However, the game showed the areas of improvement needed when going up against higher quality defenses.
“Overall, we’re all happy about coming of the gate and scoring a lot of points,” Kutztown head coach Gregg Jones said. “It means at least that we are all on the same page. Our defense was solid, but will it be as solid in the middle when you have really strong attacking and striking runners like Army and Penn State? That’s what we have to prepare for.
Johan Van Wyk (4), Joe O’Shields (2), and John Sage (2) dominated in the attack and Dmontae Noble, Joe Thatcher, Jackson Clark, and Brandon Boon notched their first tries of season.
Coach Jones especially noted the play of senior Evan Anderson as instrumental to the match. “In the lineouts, he was just phenomenal, winning our ball and stealing their ball. Our set pieces were really solid and him and Nick Hohlt, the second rowers, were definitely responsible for all that success.”
Penn State improved its record to 4-0 and 2-0 in the Rugby East with a 97-5 obliteration of Delaware. A total of 15 tries were scored by nine players as Mike Eife dotted the ball down four times and Chris Burian had a hat trick. Ryan McNulty (2), Tyler May, Jordan Crofts, Jimmy Ronan, Selby Niumataiwalu, and Jack McLean each scored in the victory. Ronan and Mike Dabulas combined for 11 conversions.
The Nittany Lions have same double shot Army endured next weekend when they face St. Bonaventure and Buffalo on back-to-back days. Wheeling Jesuit will look to go 3-0 in the conference against West Virginia and Delaware hopes to defend its home field from Army. In the marquee match, Iona and its swarming defense travel to Kutztown in a match of conference heavyweights.