Rugby East flexes muscle in nonconference wins

D1A Rugby: Rugby East flexes muscle in nonconference wins
Photo Credit: Davey Wilson (left) & Mimi Goodman (right)

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Two of Rugby East’s best sides earned Canterbury D1A top-five upsets when Army and Penn State handed Utah and Indiana losses, respectively.

Although the Nittany Lions were able to topple the previously-unbeaten Hoosiers, it was the cadets of West Point who had the more challenging task. Army first gave BYU its best shot March 17, but was buried by the Cougars, 71-10. Just two days later, the Black Knights strapped up their boots and earned a come-from-behind victory over the Utes.

Trailing 21-12 at halftime and with 120 minutes under its belt in fewer than 48 hours, Utah would extend its lead to 26-12 early in the second period before West Point began to mount its comeback.

Two quick scores by full back Jake Lachina and No. 8 Peter Basnight got Army right back in the game. Stifling defense minimized Utah’s opportunities on attack, while the Black Knights continued to put pressure on the hosts, and eventually sent captain Donny Goff over the line for a try and a 29-26 win for West Point.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Army Head Coach Matt Sherman told West Point Athletics. “Today we put in a fully committed effort after a day of rest against a very good team on the road. Every player gave the full measure. The best part is we can still be far more accurate in our execution, which we will need against Navy next week.”

Following two losses to very good squads in New York Athletic Club and Navy, Penn State was eager to earn a victory when it hosted Indiana over the weekend.

The opening exchanges in this Big Ten Universities-versus-Rugby East matchup were very even. After trading unconverted tries, both teams added penalty kicks to notch the score at eight-all.

The Hoosiers regained the lead for the third time at the 31-minute mark with their second try, and appeared to be on their way to a halftime advantage. However, the Nittany Lions exploited Indiana with a trio of tries to close the half, including an intercepted pass returned for a try center Tyler May.

Leading 29-13 at intermission, Indiana opened the second-half scoring with a converted try, but the nine-point deficit would be as close as the Hoosiers would get.

Kiefer Kei-Boguinard ran in back-to-back tries for Penn State before outside center and former Men’s Junior All-American standout Joe Kelly pushed the home team’s lead to 48-20. Indiana would add two late tries to make the final 48-32.