Rugby East picks up three big wins

D1A Rugby: Rugby East picks up three big wins
Photo Credit: Carol D'Allara (above) & Michael Ireland (homepage)

BOULDER, Colo. – Apparently not every team on the East Coast strictly sticks to playing sevens in the spring, as three Rugby East squads picked up quality nonconference victories over the weekend in the 15s code. Iona and Wheeling Jesuit beat Umass and Ohio State, respectively, while Army won its annual rivalry game with Navy.

With an opportunity to sweep its two military service academy rivals after defeating Air Force in the fall, West Point fought Navy to a tight but uneventful 7-5 halftime score in favor of the Midshipmen. The second half, however, would be anything but uneventful as each side traded tries at will.

Down, 17-12, 15 minutes into the second half, Black Knights scrum half Jake Banarhall took it upon himself to spark his team’s attack. The slight but dangerous half back scored back-to-back tries within minutes to give Army its third lead of the day.

Navy responded with a try of its own to regain the lead one last time, but scores from wing David Huff, center Andrew Fargo, and a third from Banarhall closed the door on the Midshipman and gave West Point a 41-24 win.

“It was a typical Army-Navy game and they were in every bit of it,” Army Head Coach Mike Mahan told GoArmySports.com. “In the second half the guys just decided they were going to put their foot on the gas and not let up. It was just an awesome second half and they did a great job.”

An emotionally-driven win with plenty of offense is exactly what the Black Knights need considering No. 2 Saint Mary’s and its high-octane attack invades West Point April 4.

A team that gave Army just about everything the No. 5-ranked team could handle just a few weeks ago, UMass, was at it again versus another Rugby East opponent. As it did against West Point, UMass jumped out to an early lead, but Iona surged ahead. Led by a group of freshman strike runners, Dylan Evans and Mike Marino scored tries, while Mike Scarcella crossed the line twice to turn back the East Coast Rugby Conference squad 28-24.

Iona is schedule to face Saint Mary’s March 31. The contest is the second of the defending National Champion’s three-game east coast tour, so Iona is expected to face a developmental side from the visitors. The Gaels of California kick off the tour tonight versus Dartmouth.

“We’re excited to play Saint Mary’s reserves,” Iona Head Coach Bruce McLane said. “They have a great tradition, and what [Saint Mary’s Head Coach] Tim O’Brien and [Assistant Coach] John Everett have accomplished is one of the things that attracted me to Iona.”

No team on the east coast has done a better job of balancing competitive sevens tournaments and scheduling beneficial friendlies in 15s than Wheeling Jesuit. This past weekend the Cardinals continued their preparation for the fall Rugby East season by taking on Big Ten Universities’ Ohio State.

The Buckeyes were without a number of starters from the fall, including BTU Conference MVP Santino Cua, and it showed. D1A’s No. 12-ranked team ran wild on Ohio State, as seven different Cardinals scored tries. 1st Team All-Rugby East number eight Peter Malcom dotted down and set up a couple more scores, while full back Jamie Barlow had two tries of his own to help outpace Ohio State 48-10.

This weekend Wheeling Jesuit heads to Pennsylvania to compete in the Kutztown 7s Tournament. Hosted by the Kutztown University rugby program, the April 4 tournament is available via webcast at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ku-live.