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With four weeks left in the 2016 Rugby East season, the race is tight with the top four clubs jockeying for position. Army rebounded from its loss to Penn State last weekend to rout a surging Wheeling Jesuit club, 53-7. Penn State remained undefeated after dealing a resilient Iona team a 36-17 defeat and Kutztown rediscovered its winning ways with a dominant second half over St. Bonaventure, 60-36.
After defeating Kutztown last Saturday, the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals were flying high going into their home game against Army. The Black Knights saw their first loss last week at the hands of Penn State and were determined to get back on the pitch and play Army rugby. At Bishop Schmitt Field in Wheeling, W.Va., Army found its form for a 53-7 win as six players scored a try and flyhalf Jon Kim tallied a season high 28 points in the victory.
“This was our strongest performance of the year,” Army head coach Matt Sherman said. “In particular, I think we were far more patient on both sides of the ball, which was a big improvement from last week.”
Flyhalf Jon Kim’s 28 points (a try, five penalties, and four conversions) ranks second all time for Army in points scored and with a total of 102 points this season, Kim now holds the Army record for most points in a single season. Sean Berry, Jeff Malm-Annan, Andy Sullivan, Rocky Rispress, and Jake Lachina each found the tryzone in the win and Lachina’s score makes it seven on the season.
Commenting on the defensive effort limiting Wheeling Jesuit to seven points, Sherman responded, “I think we continued to play a strong field position game and we improved dramatically on our discipline from last week which gave them less opportunities deep in our end. Regardless, a talented WJU team got down to our line on multiple times and I was really proud of the guys for the gritty resilience they showed to turn them back.”
The Cardinals will look to improve against Buffalo next Saturday as Army enjoys a bye week before facing Kutztown on October 29th.
Fresh off its rousing victory over Army last weekend, Rugby East frontrunner Penn State travelled to Iona for the Gaels’ Homecoming match on Saturday. The two teams played tight before the Nittany Lions pulled away in the second half. With Penn State only leading by seven points at the break, the away team converted more opportunities than its opponent and ultimately, earned the 36-17 win.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” PSU head coach Blake Burdette said. “I felt it was going to be one of those games where we had to go up and grind it out. Coming off an emotional win against Army and then having to travel up and being Homecoming for Iona, it was one of those games where we had to show up. Iona brought it all day, we were in a dogfight.”
Penn State’s Jimmy Haley lead all scorers with 16 points with two tries and three conversions as Leo Van Buskirk, Rob Irimescu, Kiefer Kei-Boguinard, and Danny Featherston each crossed the whitewash for the Nittany Lions. In the defeat, Mike Scarcella scored a pair, while John D’Allara had the final try.
Co-captain D’Allara spoke with Rugby Today saying, “We played hard for 80 minutes, but PSU came out with the victory... They beat us a lot on the outside. They made a few moves in middle, but nothing significant. When they got it out wide, we had trouble keeping up.”
Coach Burdette was proud of his team with how consistent and patient they played. “We knew if we stuck to our gameplan, we could break it open at the end... Fullback Jimmy Haley was great. Our centers, Selby Niumataiwalu and Joe Kelly, every time they touched the ball, they got the gain line. That’s what you need from them, especially against a good defense like Iona. After looking at the film, Malcolm May was a huge reason why we came away with the victory.”
In the final match, Kutztown earned its third conference win of the season with a 60-36 victory at St. Bonaventure. After its disappointing loss to Wheeling Jesuit a week prior, the Bears rebounded to score 10 tries that began as a slugfest in the first half and evolved into a convincing win in the second frame.
Over the course of the match, the speed and athleticism of Kutztown wore down the Bonnies’ defense opening up holes in the line. With seven freshmen starting for the Bears, including five in backs, Kutztown is a work in progress still finding their way through the schedule.
“Our pack played really well, but our backline made a lot of mistakes,” Said Gregg Jones, head coach at Kutztown. “We definitely have a lot of speed and athleticism in our backline. This is probably #1 through #15, the most athletic team we’ve had in a decade, but it's very young.”
After a competitive first half that featured a total of nine tries and ended with the Bears up 36-26, Coach Jones told his troops to get back to the basics. “Running straight, not sideways. One more phase instead of one more pass. It settled down from there. In the second half, we started running straighter and harder.”
After the Bonnies’ Jaret Williamson opened up the second half to cut the lead to 36-31, Kutztown followed its coach’s advice to score four straight tries for the 60-31 advantage. Dmontae Noble (2), Jackson Clark, and Aaron Gray dotted down tries in the sequence to add to scores by John Sage (2), Johan Van Wyk, Angel Santiago, and Brandon Boon in the first half. Ryan McGovern, Francisco Hereñu (2), and Eamonn Matthews (2) scored for St. Bonaventure in the effort.
“We’re happy with the win, but we have to go forward and get better every week,” Jones remarked. “We are a puzzle. We have all of the pieces, we are just a working project to get the pieces all in the right place.”
Kutztown travels to Delaware next Saturday, while St. Bonaventure is idle.