LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Indiana won the battle of conference champions when the Big Ten Universities trophy-hoisters dispatched the 2016 Rugby East winners, Penn State, 29-19.
The Nittany Lions made their trip to Bloomington, IN riding good form after going 3-0 while on tour in Scotland during spring break. It became obvious early on, however, that Penn State would not match the 50 points it averaged in Europe as the match took shape of a defensive battle from the opening whistle.
The Hoosiers recorded the first points of the match when former U20 All-American Tyler Sousley dotted down. Fly half Teddy Terezis’ conversion put the home side ahead, 7-0, just before the 15-minute mark.
With three minutes remaining in the opening half, Penn State got on the board thanks to an unconverted try by Thomas Del Pino, and the teams would head into halftime separated by just two points.
Terezis struck again just two minutes into the second half – this time a deep three-pointer after Indiana was awarded a penalty. Bryce Campbell made his return from international duty felt with a brilliant individual play. The All-American center snuck into a passing lane to intercept a Penn State pass, and stretched over the try line after brushing multiple Nittany Lions off him. Terezis’ kick went wide of the posts and Indiana led 15-5.
Indiana increased its lead to 22-5 when blindside flanker Tyler Graham scored after a winning possession in the lineout.
Penn State would not bow out without a fight, though. Ryan McNulty got over the line and his try was converted to pull the visitors to within two scores of their opposition, 22-12. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, they couldn’t amount enough pressure to inch closer to Indiana, and Sousley’s second try in the 73rd minute effectively closed the door on a Penn State comeback despite a late try by the Rugby East champs.
The 10-point win is a huge boost for the Hooisers. After a second-half meltdown on the road to Arkansas State, it was the team’s first win sin Feb. 18, and reminded foes just how tough Big Ten’s best can be – especially with Campbell back in the midfield.
Indiana will remain busy leading up to the D1A Playoffs with an April 1 fixture against Notre Dame and an April 8 contest versus Notre Dame College on the horizon. Penn State, meanwhile, will look to rebound against Bucknell University Saturday, April 1.