BOULDER, Colo. – There are only three weeks left in the regular season in Rugby East, and it’s packed with key matchups. From a surprising Iona team to an undefeated Kutztown and strong pushes from both Army and Penn State, these next few weeks will shape who will become the Rugby East champion.
No. 6 Kutztown vs. No. 7 Army
Army suffered a surprising loss to Iona this week, and will have to overcome an always tough Kutztown side if it wants a shot at the Championship.
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No. 10 Wheeling Jesuit vs. Buffalo
The Cardinals have played every ranked team in the East, a grind that would give fall to many teams, but they have found a way to still be ranked in the top 10. An early win at Iona proved to be more impressive than originally thought, but losses to Army, Kutztown, and Penn State hurt their chances of winning Rugby East. The good news is they can use their next two games to fine-tune their skills and potentially get a shot at the D1A playoffs.
Buffalo has also played every ranked team in the conference other than Wheeling Jesuit, but it fared far worse than Wheeling Jesuit did. Buffalo failed to produce a single point until its 122-10 loss to Penn State, but the team rebounded last week with a close, 22-20, loss to West Virginia.
Wheeling Jesuit is led by All-American Peter Malcolm and sophomore star Cecil Rich, both of whom are amazing players with bright rugby futures. If Buffalo is to have any chance against this Cardinal team, they will need to slow down those two. They will also need to play a full match with great defense. They were leading in their last match to West Virginia, 10-3, at halftime, but faltered in the second half to let up the win. On offense, Buffalo will need to rely on flanker Maninderjit Singh, who has led by example for the Bulls and has persevered through the tough start of the year, to help bring the team back into contention to win a game.
Buffalo will need to play its best rugby of the season if they hope to stop the Cardinals, but the power the Cardinals have all over the pitch makes them a clear favorite.
West Virginia vs. St. Bonaventure
Like Buffalo, St. Bonaventure has struggled so far this season, failing to put a ‘W’ in the win column, but has a good chance this Saturday at West Virginia. The Bonnies had last week off after losing to Wheeling Jesuit the week before, and have likely focused their attention on this Mountaineer side.
West Virginia captured its first win as a Rugby East side last week with a tremendous second-half effort against Buffalo. Being down, 10-3, at halftime, the new squad was able to pull this one off with two tries in five minutes by wing Luke Ellis.
The Bonnies have yet to put up more than 10 points in a match so far this season, but have a good chance against this new opponent. If they play defense like they did in their first game against Penn State, the Bonnies will have a very good chance at this one. As for the Mountaineers, they need to play like they did in the second half last week. This will be a competitive match, and will provide a good measure of where these two programs are in their process of building better rugby programs.