WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Rugby East Conference Champion will all but be decided tomorrow when Kutztown (7-0, 4-0 Rugby East) travels to West Point to play Army (5-0, 4-0).
Army and Kutztown are the only remaining undefeated teams in the Rugby East Conference, but both do have an additional conference match following what should be a heated contest Saturday. If the Brothers and Golden Bears can avoid upsets against Wheeling Jesuit and St. Bonaventure, respectively, then the team that remains undefeated beyond this weekend will claim the Rugby Each Championship.
Kutztown has been beating its opposition at a staggering pace, but benefited from a full 80 minute test in last week’s 36-28 win over Penn State. Even after handling a fellow top-five team last week, the Golden Bears know No. 6 Army will thrust another set of challenges their way.
“Army is always going to be really good and they are going to be well drilled,” Kutztown captain Niku Kruger said. “The one thing about Army that has definitely stood out to me over the years I’ve played them is that they never stop coming. They will constantly come at you and it’s going to be a hard-hitting game.”
Although the two Rugby East juggernauts missed out on an opportunity to share the pitch last season due to Army’s suspension, West Point Head Coach Mike Mahan has a history of playing the Golden Bears and agrees with Kruger’s sentiment regarding the physicality of tomorrow’s game.
“It’s going to be smash-mouth rugby,” explained Mahan. “Kutztown is a very hard-nosed team and they don’t give any quarter. They are going to attack, counter ruck, and always look for turnover ball.”
Mahan’s respect for Head Coach Doc Jones’ Golden Bears is evident, and the West Point man is confident his team will be a better team after Saturday regardless of the outcome.
“They’re a tough team and a team we’d like to be like in many ways,” Mahan continued. “So, we’re hoping we can learn a little from them and we’re looking forward to it.”
Considering the youth along Army’s first XV, it is no surprise Mahan feels his team could learn from Kutztown. After putting together less than dominant performances against Rugby East newcomers Iona and St. Bonaventure, the Brothers showed much improvement in its Oct. 11 win over Buffalo.
“They will need to grow up fast to beat a team like Kutztown and be successful,” Mahan said. “I think we’ve turned a corner, but it’s still going to be a huge challenge to hang in there with a team like Kutztown.”
To prevent Army from taking the driver seat in the Rugby East standings, Kutztown’s All-American scrum half believes his team simply needs to stay within its structures, and make West Point’s bigger units play from touchline to touchline.
“If we stick to our game plan and move their big forwards around the field it could be a long day for them.”