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There was a handful of intriguing non-conference games over the weekend. Several ranked teams squared off and Notre Dame pulled out a shocking victory over Davenport on the road.
NDC at AIC, NEC
Notre Dame College took on a pair of northeast opponents on Thursday and Sunday, respectively. NDC traveled to AIC and took down the Yellow Jackets 36-22. The Falcons jumped out to an early 24-5 lead, but a yellow card allowed AIC back in to the game.
“AIC has some really big guys and they love to play physical but we used the same tactics that we used to beat them two years ago to go to nationals. We didn’t let them get time and space and it was effective,” said NDC coach Jason Foxx.
The home side tallied three tries while up a man and cut the lead to 24-22. AIC, however, was not able to continue the momentum at even strength and NDC added two more for insurance.
“AIC took advantage of the man advantage but we were able to add two late tries to put the game away. I was proud of the guys that they were able to get up for a game after a nine-hour bus ride,” said Fox.
On Saturday, the Falcons took down NEC 58-5. NDC jumped out early and dominated the game.
Notre Dame at Davenport
After several frustrating moral victories, Notre Dame got its first big scalp of the year. The Irish traveled to Davenport for a Thursday night clash during midterms week. Despite the adversity, Notre Dame used a strong second half to down the Panthers 36-24.
The teams traded tries in the first half that saw a number of missed opportunities. The only difference was a made conversion via the Irish for a 12-10 lead. Davenport took the lead to start the second half but after the early score Notre Dame took control.
“It was very back and forth and nobody was really taking control early. At halftime we discussed that we played 30 minutes of solid rugby to have the lead but we needed to play a complete second half. Davenport came out and scored and we did a good job of weathering that,” said Notre Dame coach Justin Hickey.
The Irish dominating field possession and won the battle at the breakdown. The teams were knotted at 24 a piece but the visitors earned two scores to snatch the victory. In total, Notre Dame scored five tries around the fringes with their forwards and added a sixth via the scrumhalf. It was an impressive performance against a team that is known for having a dynamic and physical pack.
“It is pretty easy to draw lessons from losses but it does get a little bit tiring. Saying stick with it, stick to the plan, stick to the process, until you can show them the reward, it is hard to continue to stay at it. We needed the win in that sense. When we can put 70 minutes together and we can play to the system a win like this is definitely helpful and satisfying for the guys,” Hickey concluded.
Army at Iona
Army traveled to Iona to take on the Gaels, in a game that was aired live on ESPN3. ESPN is a broadcast partner with Iona, and since rugby draws one of the largest crowds on campus, and it was homecoming weekend, the network decided to air the game.
The game turned out to be a great display of college rugby. The Gaels jumped out to an early 10-0 lead thanks to a quick penalty and well timed execution of an Army pass. Lavar James intercepted a pass out wide and took it the distance for a 10-0 lead.
Army responded, however, getting a penalty of its own and a try to even the game at the break. Iona once again took the lead to start the second half with a penalty. The Gaels probed the Army line for a few minutes but eventually settled for three points thanks to a stringent Army defense.
The Black Knights took their first lead of the game with 20 minutes to play. Off a lineout, the visitors mauled the ball over the line to take a 17-13 lead.
“I was very happy with our composure coming from behind from double digits, said Army coach Matt Sherman. “It was not our best performance with ball in hand. It was not our smartest performance. It was hard to play in front of that crowd against a good team and go down early but I thought our guys battled through it.”
The lead would stand thanks to tremendous Army defense. Iona tested Army for the final 20 minutes and was on the Army line with less than five minutes to play. Despite earning several penalties against the Black Knights, and being up a man thanks to a yellowcard, Iona was unable to break through for a score. The Gaels ultimately knocked the ball on and Army kicked out for a line out. Once more, the Gaels put the visitors under press but were unable to score before the final whistle.
“I was really happy with how we defended. Only one try given up and that was on an intercept,” said Sherman. “Holding on by our goal line down a man, I thought our guys showed a lot of mental there.”
Iona may have the opportunity to stream several more games on ESPN3 so be on the lookout for those games.