Week 6 Barnburner: Navy v. Penn State

D1A Rugby: Week 6 Barnburner: Navy v. Penn State
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Penn State will travel to Annapolis, Maryland to face 2011 Rugby East #2 seed, Navy, in a pivotal early-season Rugby East match. The two perennial east coast powers square off Saturday March 24 in what is the Week 6 Barnburner for the 2012 season. Penn State and Navy both come into the match with one win and zero losses to their name. Last week, Penn State defeated a determined Delaware side 30-17. Navy had the week off but three weeks ago the Midshipmen defeated Rutgers 64-3 in their season-opening match. The Barnburner will kick off on Saturday at noon and will be played on the Ernie Blake Field at the Prusmack Rugby Center in Annapolis, MD.

Navy should be well rested coming into their match with Penn State, as they will have had three weeks since their last match, played on March 3. Penn State, on the other hand, will be rolling into the match with significant confidence after a strong win over Delaware. The contrast in the past week’s schedule between the two teams may become a factor depending on the injuries and fitness of both teams.

Penn State Head Coach, Don Ferrell, feels his team is ready for the pivotal early season match. “We are healthy after last week and are excited that most of the team is returning from last season. It is good to get early big matches, that is what you prepare in the offseason for.”

In the 2011 matchup between these two teams Navy came away with a 29-12 victory at Penn State. The loss put Penn State in third in the Rugby East Conference, while the win put Navy in second place, thus propelling them into the playoffs as the number two seed from Rugby East. Based on past results, it is fair to assume that this match will have similar playoff implications to the 2011 match. Ferrell believes that the result from last year’s match doesn’t add too much to the plot of this season’s match. “Penn State and Navy have had an outstanding rivalry over the years and one match doesn’t necessarily fuel the fire. Both programs have been extremely strong over the years and it is always a war.”

“Every time we play Navy it’s physical,” said Ferrell on the 2011 match, “last year, they outplayed us on that day and it’s as simple as that.” Expect both teams to come out of the gate with significant fury in order to put their opponent on the back foot.

Navy plays a very physical style of rugby that has proven quite successful in the past. For Ferrell and Penn State, balance is the key to their attack and success. “We have been working on a balanced attack between the backs and forwards. There are a few guys who lead us on the field, but we have a very strong team attack opposed to a singular player who is the sole difference maker.” However, both Navy and Penn State have 2011 All-Americans on their team that are significant difference makers.

Penn State’s scrumhalf, Chris Saint, was a first-team All-American in 2011 and is a big factor in the Penn State attack. Navy’s 2011 All-American is flanker, Seamus Siefring, who is constantly disrupting the opposing offense and punishing their defense. Look for both players to make their mark on the match at any point throughout the 80 minutes.

The Navy home match is set to kick off at noon, Eastern Daylight Time, at Ernie Blake Field at the Prusmack Rugby Center, Annapolis, Maryland. For fixtures and results go to d1arugby.com or stats.usarugby.org.