WEST POINT, N.Y. – A try from firstie Peter Basnight in the 65th minute of action propelled the fifth-ranked Army West Point men’s rugby team to a 35-23 victory over ninth-ranked Wheeling Jesuit from Anderson Rugby Complex on Saturday afternoon.
“The first 35 minutes was the best 35 minutes we’ve played this year,” said head coach Matt Sherman. “And then we got put under some pressure by a good Wheeling Jesuit team and I thought we unraveled a bit. That was pretty disappointing but it was nice to get that lesson and come away with a victory and hopefully we take that lesson to heart going forward.”
Army jumped out to a quick lead, taking a 28-3 lead into the break. The Cardinals, however, would respond in the second half, going on a 20-point unanswered streak to pressure the Black Knights. A penalty riddled contest, the game featured five successful penalty kicks, three yellow cards and a red card.
The Black Knights set the tone in the 10th minute as Thomas Del Pino successfully booted a penalty kick to give Army the 3-0 advantage. Cameron Hargis scored his third try of the season in the 18th minute, with Del Pino adding the conversion to put Army up 10-0.
Coming off the bench early in the game, Andy Sullivan caught the ball in the 25th minute from a Wheeling Jesuit kick and faked out a few Cardinal defenders to find the try zone. Del Pino added his second conversion of the afternoon to put the Cadets up 17-0.
Army took the 22-0 lead after David Huff posted his first try of the season in the 28th minute.
The first half of the game saw three penalty kicks, as Del Pino was successful in the 35th minute and stoppage time and Wheeling Jesuit converted a kick for points in the 39th minute to send Army into the break with the 28-3 lead.
The Cardinals came out strong in the second half, posting 20 unanswered points through 62 minutes of action, capitalizing on yellow cards issued to Andrew Irwin and Andrew Fargo.
Coming out of a scrum down the far side of the field, Basnight broke free of the Wheeling Jesuit defense and put the ball down near the sideline for five points. Del Pino was successful on a tough kick to earn his third conversion of the afternoon.
Neither team was able to score as time ticked off the clock and the Army defense held the Cardinals out of the try zone, despite multiple close calls and the Black Knights earned their third consecutive win.
With the victory, Army improves to 3-0 on the season, having earned all three wins over Rugby East opponents. It is the first win over a nationally ranked opponent on the season and the final home game at Anderson Rugby Complex in the fall regular season.
With Wheeling Jesuit’s penalty kick in the 39th minute, the Cardinals snap a streak in which the Black Knights held opponents off of the score sheet for 198 minutes of action. The points are the first surrendered by Army on the season as they shut out both Buffalo and St. Bonaventure to open the year.
Army will hit the road for the remainder of the year, closing the fall out with a five-game road trip. They’ll face another tough test as they head to eighth-ranked Penn State on Friday, Oct. 2 for a 6 p.m. kickoff with the Nittany Lions. Last fall, Army earned a hard-fought 19-15 win over the then sixth-ranked Nittany Lions from Anderson Rugby Complex.
Following the trip to State College, Pa., Army will visit West Virginia, Iona, Kutztown and Air Force to close out the year.
Visit www.GoArmyWestPoint.com for up-to-date information and follow the Black Knights on Twitter @ArmyWP_MRugby.