Difficult nonconference tests await Davenport, Life

D1A Rugby: Difficult nonconference tests await Davenport, Life
Photo Credit: Steve Zomberg

BOULDER, Colo. –The recent cancelation of Air Force’s away match versus BYU due to weather makes matches involving both Davenport and Life the key nonconference games of the weekend.

Davenport will play a familiar foe Feb. 21 when it travels to Jonesboro, Ark., to play Arkansas State. The two schools played an annual home-and-away series prior to the Red Wolves’ departure from the Mid-South Conference, and have continued that tradition this season. In October, Arkansas State got the best of Davenport to the tune of 49-12.

The No. 7-ranked Panthers could be in for another difficult 80 minutes this time around. Davenport hasn’t played meaningful rugby in four months, while the Red Wolves are coming off of a Cup Championship performance at the Las Vegas Invitational in sevens, and recently handled senior club side Glendale Raptors, 14-12, in 15s.

It would be foolish, though, to count the Panthers out before they even take the pitch. Davenport has an extremely talented roster and is led by a trio of All-American seniors. Prop Angus MacLellan and hooker Gabe Sochanek pack a powerful punch in the front row, and fly half/full back JP Eloff should be in good form after easing back to the pitch in the fall following his recovery from a torn ACL.

Life’s opponent, Clemson, isn’t quite up to par with Arkansas State, but still capable of presenting challenges for the Running Eagles. The Tigers won their second consecutive Atlantic Coast Rugby Championship in the fall after going undefeated during the conference’s regular season.

If the two squads’ matches against Navy are any indication as to how Saturday’s game will go, then Life must be favored. Just last week, Navy managed to upend Clemson, 39-25, but couldn’t keep pace with the Running Eagles, and D1A’s 2nd-ranked team beat the Midshipmen, 48-17.

Both Davenport and Life will gladly welcome quality performances over the weekend, as each match represents the programs’ final tests before diving into their Mid-South schedules. In fact, the top ten schools kick off the conference’s spring season when the Panthers head south to try and pick off the Running Eagles in Marietta, Ga.