Kutztown staves off comeback, downs Penn State

D1A Rugby: Kutztown staves off comeback, downs Penn State
Photo Credit: Kent Miller

KUTZTOWN, Penn. – Kutztown had been patiently awaiting a match that would truly test its team for 80 minutes, and the Golden Bears got just that out of their 36-28 win over Penn State.

After three Rugby East victories against Buffalo, Wheeling Jesuit, and Iona by a combined point total of 176-25 in favor of the Golden Bears, Kutztown relished in the opportunity to play a familiar foe in Penn State that always presents challenges to Kutztown.

“It’s always a lot of fun playing against Penn State,” said Kutztown captain Niku Kruger. “Penn State is always going to play up to us because it’s a big Rugby East showdown.”

Playing up to Kutztown is exactly what Penn State did. The Nittany Lions controlled the ball for much of the first half, but Kutztown was fortunate to turn its minimal opportunities into points when Jordan Ghyzel and Vetekina Malafu scored tries to help push the home team to a 17-7 advantage.

“We’ve worked really hard over the last few weeks to make sure we are playing on our front foot,” explained Kruger. “At times Saturday we were able to play some fast flowing rugby because our forwards were keeping us on our front foot and getting me clean ball. Other times Penn State’s forwards did a great job of slowing our ball down.”

A persistent attack on offense and a well-structured defensive scheme by Assistant Coach Larry Chester aided in Kutztown’s ability to push its lead to 36-14 in the second half. However, true to the rivalry between the two Rugby East titans, Penn State created scoring opportunities for captain Dan Metcalf and Selby Niumataiwalu to close the gap to 36-28.

With the support of a large crowd on hand to celebrate Kutztown’s Homecoming as well as the program’s 30-year anniversary, the Golden Bears dug deep to prevent Penn State from adding to its comeback and preserved yet another victory.

Next up for the Golden Bears is an Oct. 25 trip to West Point to play Army, who shares Kutztown’s 4-0 Rugby East mark and is coming off of a 73-12 dismantling of Buffalo. The Golden Bears know another daunting challenge awaits them Saturday when they play the Black Knights, but feel better prepared after getting past Penn State.

“We hadn’t really been tested on defense because the teams we’ve played haven’t been able to keep coming at us for a full 80 minutes,” Kruger said. “What Penn State did was prepare us for that.”