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In a bit of an upset, Virginia Tech (ranked #23 in DI) defeated CPL Navy 44-22 Saturday in a preseason warm up for both teams as they prepare to take part in new competitions this spring. Given that Navy has a match scheduled with Life University Sunday, and it’s not entirely clear how many of the Midshipmen starters were actually in action against VT, the win doesn’t carry as much weight as it could. Nonetheless, Virginia Tech is thrilled with the victory.
“I really don’t know how much of a full a side that was,” said VTech coach Andy Richards. “There are going to be one or two detractors who say this wasn’t Navy’s full team, but who cares? At the end of the day it’s an honor afforded to very few to say we beat Navy, and we can say that now. I’ve looked through the records, and we’ve only beaten Navy in the past 40-odd years three times, and this is the fourth time, so the boys are happy tonight, anyway.”
Tech drew first blood in the match, jumping out to an early 10-0 lead, but Navy roared back with three first-half tries to take a 19-10 lead at intermission. A penalty and unconverted try later, with about 15 minutes to go, Tech found themselves within one of their old MARFU foes. However, Navy was deep in Tech territory and made some tactical subs, threatening to extend the lead.
“They brought on these three monstrous guys into the pack. I mean, they obviously brought on these three guys to bolster their pack up, and we were on the five meter, and we stuck in there and defended,” said Richards. “They kept taking scrum after scrum trying to get a push-over try and we held out and they had to concede and just take a penalty in the end, so we came away from that and we were only four points down.”
Though Tech trailed 22-18 late in the game, their defensive stand served as a momentum boost, which coupled with great fitness, would propel them to an astounding 26-point run in the match’s waning minutes to close out the victory.
“We’ve done an awful lot of work with our fitness, and I was disappointed because we looked like we were flagging at halftime, but then we came out of the traps again and beat them in the second half 34-3,” said Richards.
“For us to say that against Navy is just incredible, because Navy is fit. They’re one of the fittest sides you’ll ever play in college rugby. But we’ve done an awful lot of work the last month. I mean, the guys have hated me for it…They understand it now; if they want to compete at a higher level they’ve really got to wrap up the fitness side of things.”
Starring for Tech on the day was junior captain Matt Heitzer, who scored two tries and gained a lot of yardage from the inside center position.
Up next for Tech is the their Atlantic Coast Rugby League opener against Duke. On the horizon for Navy is a Sunday showdown with Life and their College Premier League opener against Ohio State.