The final week of the College Premier Division season is here and what a finish it’s going to be. An epic clash between two service academies is going to determine the Rugby East champion and assign bragging rights to the winner. To add insult to the loss, the loser will have to travel in to Utah next weekend to face mighty BYU in the quarterfinals. Army v. Navy kicks off at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 on Warrior Field at the Anderson Rugby Complex, West Point, New York.
Army and Navy are tied atop the Rugby East standings with six wins, zero losses, and 30 points to their names.
“To open the playoffs in our home environment would be great. The players are more comfortable, there’s no travel, no hotels, and the home support is always a plus,” said Army Assistant Coach, Justin Hundley.
Coming into this weekend both teams have earned high CPD rankings by RugbyMag.com, Army is ranked #4 and Navy sits at #6. OnWeAreRugby.com, Navy is clipping at Army’s heels with a #7 rankings, while Army sits at #6.
Hundley feels Navy has always been a strong program, but in recent years has become a real force.
“They have a lot of big, physical athletes who have stepped up to play great rugby and I think their record reflects their growing strength as a program.”
These two schools have a historic and fierce rivalry that spans over 100 years. When asked about the rivalry Hundley said, “There is obviously a lot at stake in this match. It’s our seniors’ last season and last game against Navy. While it would be great to win a National Championship, it is always great to beat Navy.”
Along with the academy rivalry, there is a sibling rivalry to watch as well. Army lock, Aaron Retter, will be scrumming down against his brother, Jason Retter, who plays tighthead prop for Navy.
With so much pride at stake and a Rugby East Division title on the line, there is no question: this match will be a thriller.
Army has a serious weapon in the nation’s second leading try scorer, Uiki “Ben” Leatigaga who is hitting his stride as the playoffs approach. Throughout the six games played this season Ben has scored 12 tries, ten of which were scored in Army’s last three games.
When asked about Leatigaga’s success this season Hundley said, “Ben’s been great in support, he has speed and power to take the ball 80 meters, but our guys have been doing a really great job in setting him up to make big plays.”
To go along with their ground attack, Army boasts the nations leading penalty kicker, William Holder, who has nailed 10 PKs this season. These two players have accounted for 167 of Army’s 270 total points this season and it is imperative that Navy play disciplined and physical rugby for a shot to win.
Navy, on the other hand, runs a balanced attack amongst their players and it has proven quite successful up to this point.
Navy’s top try scorer, Seamus Siefring, has five tries this season and is joined in the scoring club by six players who have each scored three tries this season.
When asked about the defensive keys for Army, Hundley said, “If we can stop momentum early with some big tackles and turnover balls it will be a huge help in stopping the Navy attack.”
Army will look to stop Navy’s momentum early, put in some definitive hard tackles, and force Navy to turn the ball over.
The team who can stick to their game best will wind up with the Rugby East Championship and earn bragging rights for their fellow midshipmen and cadets.
West Point enjoys some of the finest rugby facilities in the entire country, thus Warrior Field is a fitting venue for this massive Rugby East showdown.
“The match against Navy in the fall drew around 3,000 people. That was just Army vs. Navy, not a championship game. So we are expecting a couple thousand people in the stands on Saturday.”
The loser of this game will travel west to play BYU and the winner with host the Utah Utes.