BOULDER, Colo. – Conference play for the fall has come to a close in D1A, but the rugby has not. Teams are turning to other contests in order to keep improving, and four of those sides are taking part in the American Collegiate Rugby Championship (ACRC) Bowl series Nov. 21.
Indiana, Iona, Kutztown, and St. Bonaventure will be playing matches this Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. The competition gives college rugby programs across the country an opportunity to face off against new, high-level competition.
St. Bonaventure will be the first of the four sides to take the pitch, taking on Western Michigan. The Bonnies struggled throughout the early stages of the season, but have been on a hot streak of late, beating Buffalo and West Virginia, and pulling off a great win against Notre Dame College. The win against Notre Dame College gave St. Bonaventure a boost of confidence going into its match against Buffalo, and the Bonnies are now on a three-match win streak. Their opponent in the ACRC Bowl, the Western Michigan Broncos, are coming off of a loss in the MAC championship match to Bowling Green State. The Broncos will be a good matchup for the Bonnies, but the match will likely come down to how well the tough pack for the Bonnies performs.
The Bonnies made a big addition to their rugby program this week, as well, as they added former Life Head Coach Andrew Osborne onto the staff. Though not likely to make an impact before Saturday’s match against Western Michigan, Osborne should have a huge impact for the Bonnies during their sevens season in the spring.
Iona will face Delaware on Saturday, but instead of playing in Charlotte, the match will be held at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. This match is the first satellite bowl for the ACRC, and is being called the Ice Bucket Challenge Bowl in support of ALS and Pat Quinn, an Iona College Alumni and initiator of the Ice Bucket Challenge social media campaign.
These sides shared similar opponents in Kutztown, Penn State, and Wheeling Jesuit, but they both lost their matches to these teams.
Delaware faced Wheeling Jesuit on October 30th, and played the Cardinals to the end, but they still lost, 29-20. However, Wheeling Jesuit was playing without two of their best players against Delaware, Peter Malcolm and Allen Hanson were both playing in the Halloween 7s Tournament in Florida. Wheeling Jesuit played Iona early in the season, when both Malcolm and Hanson were on the pitch, and beat the Gaels, 37-19.
Iona played a great first half against Wheeling Jesuit, and entered halftime only down by three. The Gaels weren’t able to keep up with Malcolm in the second half, as the former High School All-American scored two tries, and the Cardinals ran away with the match. In Wheeling Jesuit’s match against Delaware, the Gaels got out to an early lead, but without the leadership of Malcolm and Hanson, they let the Blue Hens come back in the second half.
Penn State was a tougher match for both sides. The Nittany Lions beat Delaware, 51-19, and a week after they beat Iona, 56-12. Iona was not ready for the Nittany Lions’ fast attack, and neither was Delaware, as the Nittany Lions were on a tear after their loss to Army. Penn State was also the only team to beat Kutztown, though Kutztown still won the East title.
Kutztown was able to beat Delaware handedly, 77-21, but Iona was able to play very well against the Golden Bears. They held Kutztown scoreless until the 20th minute, and then entered halftime only trailing 21-12. The final was 33-24 but Iona played hard all match against Kutztown.
Iona is a very strong team, and if it plays hard rugby like it did in the win against Army, it will be a hard side to beat.
The final match for D1A sides in the ARCR Bowl series will be between Kutztown and Indiana, a battle to see which fall conference champion is the best east of the Mississippi. Indiana, which won the Big Ten Championship against Ohio State, has not lost a match in three years, but the Golden Bears might just be the team to hand it the first.
Kutztown won the East title after rolling through its schedule, with a lone loss to Penn State. Its roster is extremely talented, which includes Rugby East Forward of the Year Wes Hartmann and Rugby East Back of the Year Robert Stortz. It also has three first-team All-Rugby East players, and USA Men’s Eagles Sevens-hopeful Alex Faison-Donahoe. The Golden Bears have the firepower to compete with the best in the entire country, and that is exactly what Indiana is.
The Hoosiers’ back line is one of the best in the country, thanks to the powerful trio of Bryce Campbell, These three have combined for 29 tries on the season, and Terezis has also contributed 94 points in the form of conversions and penalty kicks. A great back line such as this isn’t possible without the big men up front.
“Our back line has gotten a lot of press andfocus this season,” said Indiana Assistant Head Coach Dan Fitterling. “However, our back line knows that if the forwards were not playing as well as they have, they would not have the opportunities to shine. The forward that has played the biggest, most consistent role is Tyler Graham. Rocky Cislak and Jonathan Barrentos have also played big roles up front for us.”
Kutztown has been playing highly-ranked opponents throughout conference play, such as Army, Penn State, and Wheeling Jesuit but hasn’t faced an opponent as high as No. 5 Indiana. Indiana has faced the challenge of playing a higher-ranked team and came out with a win. The Hoosiers played Mid-South side Davenport midway through their conference schedule, and, thanks to a great second half, took the match, 18-17.
If Indiana keeps the match close in the through the first half, such as they did against Davenport, they have the advantage in this match. The Hoosiers were able to wear out Davenport and Wisconsin in their matches, and used their speed to outrun a tired side to win a game in the final minutes. The Hoosiers will likely use this effective strategy in this match, as Kutztown won’t be an easy out. Kutztown needs to score early and often to counter the strong Hoosier attack. This will be the biggest match between D1A sides this season, and one no rugby fan should miss.
All matches can be seen live online on the ACRC Bowl Series website. St. Bonaventure versus Western Michigan kicks off at 11:20 a.m., Iona versus Delaware is at 1 p.m., and Kutztown versus Indiana will be at 8:30 p.m. All times Eastern Standard Time.