Rugby East powers Kutztown and Penn State eager to duke it out

D1A Rugby: Rugby East powers Kutztown and Penn State eager to duke it out
Photo Credit: Ron Raff (left) & Kent Miller (right)

BOULDER, Colo. – Kutztown has received little resistance on the pitch during the first half of its fall season. After a phenomenal 2013-14 campaign, few should be surprised by the Golden Bears’ 6-0 start, including a 3-0 mark within the Rugby East Conference. Still, a combined scoring margin of 175-25 in those three Rugby East wins is rather jaw dropping.

Considering Kutztown has yet to be challenged for a full 80 minutes, the Golden Bears couldn’t be happier to have Penn State slated for Saturday’s Homecoming match. With Rugby East’s newcomers – Buffalo, Iona, and St. Bonaventure – struggling against the rest of the field, Penn State is one of the few teams in the region that can test Kutztown.

“They are going to be the best team we’ve played up to this point, and possibly the best team we face throughout the regular season,” explained Kutztown Head Coach Doc Jones. “They’re never going to slow down – it’s going to be a very competitive game. We’ve been emphasizing keeping our foot on the gas this week because Penn State can always come back on you. They’ve done it to us before.”

The home team won’t be on the only side anxiously awaiting Saturday’s clash. Penn State’s only loss of the season came Sept. 20 against No. 5-ranked West Point. Since then, the Nittany Lions have looked impressive in victories over St. Bonaventure and Buffalo.

“Guys were really disappointed in our performance against Army,” Penn State captain Dan Metcalf reflected. “We squandered a few opportunities in that game that didn’t allow us to get the result we were hoping for. So, we’re really looking forward to getting back on track with a solid match against Kutztown.”

Metcalf and the rest of the Nittany Lions may need more than a solid performance to stay in contention for the Rugby East Championship. A second conference loss will all but eliminate Penn State from a title run, while a victory for Kutztown puts the reigning Rugby East Champion in good position to repeat its feat.

Fortunately for Penn State, D1A’s No. 6-ranked team might be catching Kutztown at a vulnerable moment. The Golden Bears recently lost Robert Stortz and Nick Hohlt to season-ending knee injuries, while Johnathan Sage is expected to miss several weeks while recovering from a minor surgery. Stortz is a try-scoring machine on the wing who worked incredibly hard to return from an ACL injury only to reinjure the same knee. Hohlt had been playing very well at lock and filling the shoes of recently-graduated AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Michael Lawrenson.

Still, Jones is confident in his team’s depth at the moment, but also knows Penn State has a number of quality players of its own.

“They have a bunch of good players – Dan Metcalf is still there, Joe Kelly at full back, and Malcolm May on the flank are good players,” Jones said. “They are going to be formidable.”

Like Jones, Metcalf is familiar with tomorrow’s opponent.

“Saturday is going to be hotly-contested match just like it always is between Penn State and Kutztown,” said the All-American lock.” This team is hungry and we’re looking forward to the challenge on Saturday.”

Coach Jones believes a fairly basic aspect of the game will determine the outcome of the match.

“I think it’s going to come down to the forwards on both sides, and which forward pack can put the other on their back foot,” examined Jones. “That’s probably true of most rugby games, but that will be a crucial part of this game in particular.”