Iona welcomes Delaware back to East with shutout victory

D1A Rugby: Iona welcomes Delaware back to East with shutout victory
Photo Credit: Carol D'Allara

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Iona rebounded from last week’s loss to Army by blanking Delaware, 33-0, in front of its home fans in New Rochelle, N.Y.

The Gaels defense was dominant all afternoon, but didn’t find its footing on attack until the second half. Elliot Collins and John D’Allara scored converted tries in the first half before the team added additional pressure in the second period.

Mike Marino, Ben Romeo and Mike Stanback were the recipients of solid phases strung together and added second-half scores, while Santiago Mascolo collected eight points from the tee.

Iona’s offensive continuity was much improved after only managing one try at West Point. Defensively, the team was able to implement a few areas of focus in order to keep the Blue Hens off the scoreboard.

“They tackled well, they got their spacing right and they got their speed right,” explained Head Coach Bruce McLane. “When you combine speed, space and tackling then generally your defense will be pretty good.”

The win was also a big one for Iona having fallen to Delaware last year. The Blue Hens were able to beat the Gaels, 36-29, in a match that was part of the ACRC Bowl Series.

The 33-point loss was a disappointing way for Delaware to return to Rugby East after playing as a D1AA Independent last season. Next week’s fixture won’t get any easier, as the Blue Hens will stay on the road to play D1A Rugby’s fourth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.

Iona will remain at home this weekend to play a Wheeling Jesuit team coming off its own win over St. Bonaventure. Last year the Cardinals got the best of the Gaels, 37-19, in the opening week of Rugby East.

“It’ll be a challenge for us this week,” McLane said. “They are a powerful team and they’ve beaten us in the past – so you know they’ll be confident. We’re going to have to find a way to stay in it and win.”

The fixture against Wheeling Jesuit doesn’t figure to be a tough one solely because the Cardinals are on a five-match wining streak, but because Iona anticipates being at a size disadvantage this weekend. The Gaels are one of the smallest squads in the typically physically imposing Rugby East Conference. The team’s lack of size puts added emphasis on executing consistently at every breakdown and set piece.

“We need to be disciplined enough to do the right thing over and over again without getting bored with it,” McLane concluded.