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In the annual battle of the service academies in West Point, N.Y., No. 6 ranked Army scored three tries in the final 12 minutes of the match to defeat Navy, 41-24. Whenever Army plays Navy in any sport, it’s about more than just the game. It showed on the field with a tough physical match that included seven lead changes. After trailing Navy in the first half, 5-7, Army piled on 36 points in the second half, including three tries by junior Jake Banarhall.
“The first half was a very close,” Army head coach Mike Mahan said. “I think our guys were a little bit too nervy. The backs particularly let a lot of ball go on the ground. In the second half, we took advantage of some wide stuff and it really worked for us... We had opportunities on the outside in the first and second half, but we were looking for them and not passing the ball out well enough. Not careful with the ball and a lot of it went to ground. Navy had the majority of the possession in the first half and we played great defense, but much rather have played great offense.”
The game started out scoreless for the first 15 minutes until Army’s flanker Collum Magee picked off the scrumhalf’s pass following a stolen lineout to sprint 60 meters to the try zone. With the missed conversion, the Black Knights struck first, 5-0.
Navy responded in the 30th minute when the forwards drove into the 22 and scrumhalf Dan Page went weak off the ruck for the try. Jack McAuliffe converted the kick for the 7-0 lead. The Midshipmen maintained their two-point going into the half.
Army came out firing in the second half scoring a minute into the frame. Sophomore wing Any Sullivan took it in for the Black Knights and Dan Myers made it 12-7 with the conversion.
Navy answered back with back-to-back tries to regain the lead, 17-12. The first try in the 45th minute was the result of 15 phases of effort inside the 22 where flanker Dan Tilghman capped off the series with the try. Lock Cade Pope followed it up with another forwards try in the 53rd minute.
A minute after Navy’s try, Army’s Banarhall scored two tries in the 54th and 57th minutes to retake the score, 22-17. Navy would come back again in the 66thminute when Nick Marmareanu took an eightman pick from the base of a scrum to race 40 meters for the try and the two-point advantage, 24-22.
In the final twelve minutes of the match, the Black Knights showed their fitness and skill to score three tries to win the game. Wing David Huff got the ball out wide to score a try followed by Banarhall scoring his third try in the 79th minute. Inside center Andrew Fargo ended the game with a breakaway try as time expired and Army earned the 41-24 victory over Navy.
“It was heartbreaking to be that close, but good on Army,” Navy head coach Mike Flanagan said. “It was a very competitive physical battle as all of those service academy battles are... Our effort was great. I thought if you would have put some stats on it, we probably dominated possession and territory. We had more redzone ball than they did, probably two to one or three to one. Unfortunately, we steal a lineout, float a ball, and they turn our stolen lineout into a 60 meter score [for Army’s first try]. God bless them for being aggressive, but it was our positive play and they end up scoring a try.”
When asked what the main difference between the clubs was, Coach Mahan responded, “Our game out wide was a challenge for them. Their forwards did a great job on set pieces and on loose play, but if we could get the ball to our backs then we managed to put some tries on there.”
Army will face fourth-ranked Saint Mary’s next weekend at home in it’s last match before the playoffs.