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The inaugural season of the DI-AA Chesapeake Collegiate Rugby Conference kicked off on Saturday with three intense matchups. The defending NSCRO Small College National Champion, Mount St. Mary’s, beat Georgetown, 45-24, to open to conference. In a battle of champions from last season, Keystone’s James Madison defeated Potomac’s Towson, 33-7. Lastly, ACRL stalwart, Virginia, edged Salisbury with two late tries, 30-27.

In hot and humid conditions at Cooper Field in Washington, D.C., Georgetown hosted Mount St. Mary’s for the first CCRC contest of the season. Both teams have much to improve upon, but the Mount showed why it won a national title last season. The set piece was especially strong for the Mountaineers with two pushover tries and a lineout maul for a score. Three converted tries gave the Mount a 21-10 halftime lead and four more in the second half completed the 45-24 victory.

The Mount head coach Jay Myles indicated that the keys to victory were ball retention and the set piece. “When we were able to retain possession and go through our patterns and shapes, it made things much easier. Ultimately at the end of the day, it was the forward-oriented set piece work that really allowed us to set up an incredible attacking platform both offensively and defensively. We put them under pressure consistently throughout the match.”

The first half was almost all Mountaineers as eightman Travis Bewley dotted down a pushover try and CJ Beasley scored off a lineout maul for an early 14-0 advantage. Georgetown’s Charlie Sullivan cut into lead with a penalty, but the Mount came right back with a Brandon Johnson try following a great pass from Tyler Myles. The Hoyas’ Chen Han scored right before the halftime whistle, but the Mount led 21-10 at the break.

The Mountaineers kept the pressure in the second half and Beasley and Luis Turbyfield scored in the first ten minutes of the period. A try by Georgetown’s Stephen Tigani made the tally 33-17, but Bewley’s second pushover try brought the advantage to 21 points. GT’s Mike Ficca and the Mount’s Tyler Myles exchanged tries in the final quarter as the Mountaineers won, 45-24.

The Mount win was massive for the program showing how far it has come in five years. Myles gave game balls to Travis Bewly, Tyler Myles, and Brandon Johnson for their hard work and effort. “Bewly is a standout player, he gets better and better each match. Flyhalf Tyler Myles did a good job controlling the play and the flow. Freshman outside center Brandon Johnson is absolutely is one of the most athletic players we have as he took the ball strong through center gaps to bend the defense.”

After winning the DI-AA Keystone Conference last season, James Madison moved the Chesapeake to battle more geographically relevant foes. Towson won the DII Potomac last year over Salisbury, but was hit hard when multiple All-Americans graduated from the squad. In Towson, Md. on Saturday, JMU had the upper hand in the match beating Towson, 33-7.

The Dukes put Towson under intense defensive pressure stifling almost every opportunity.  Good ball retention in the rucks for JMU was crucial and scrumhalf Federico Meersohn was terrific handling the ball.

JMU shut out Towson in the first half as Michael Barry, Ryan Morreale, and Kevin Cheung each scored for the 21-0 halftime. Towson prevented the goose egg with a Ty Plummer try to start the second half, but the Dukes shut the door on any potential comeback with tries by Mo Katz and Nick Anzevino.

Towson head coach Don Stone praised his opponent by saying, “I think we got out-played and we got out-coached. It hasn’t happened to us all that often over the last five years. They were definitely the better team. We made lots of mistakes, but that’s not to take away from the superb rugby they played. I think Mark Lambourne is the best coach in the league and they beat us in pretty much every phase of the game.”

Discussing how important getting the first win in the new conference was, JMU head coach Mark Lambourne remarked, “It was very important. Every game in this conference is going to be a tough game. It was important that we made a statement. We have a very tough game next week against Mount St. Mary’s. They beat Georgetown so they are the real deal, well coached and a good squad.”

Like Towson, Potomac transplant, Salisbury, lost several starters to graudation leaving the forward pack very young and inexperienced. The undersized and raw tight five struggled on offense and defense for the Sharks and Virginia took full advantage. In a tight match where Salisbury led by nine in the last five minutes, the Cavaliers came back to win 30-27.

Virginia lead 13-12 at the half after Kyle Robinson try and two Luke Agness penalties. The Sharks stayed close with tries by Blake Carroll and Brendan Nguyen. Salisbury opened up a 27-13 lead in the second after scores from Alex Baxter and Xavier Hilliard and another penalty from Carroll. With 15 minutes left, Virginia began its comeback scoring three consecutive tries to end the match. Steve Gercken started the rally and with less than four minutes to go, Martin Keuchkerion scored back-to-back tries for the 30-27 win.

The Cavaliers exploited the Salisbury forward weakness and attacked the trenches. “We made some mistakes in the back line, but the key for our win was our forwards dominating,” Virginia head coach Hennie van Zyl said. “In the last half hour, we really took over in that department. Martin [Keuchkerion] was the MVP as he played brilliantly in the loose and general play.”