Arkansas State Holds Off Navy

Arkansas State Holds Off Navy

by Brett Anker

Arkansas State withstood a late second half surge from Navy to punch its first ever ticket to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup quarterfinals. Despite a valiant comeback attempt, Navy will miss out on its first Varsity Cup quarterfinal in four years.

The Red wolves could not have gotten off to a better start on the road. Prop Kuda Makuvire dotted down twice in the first 15 minutes for a 14-0 lead. Zac Young broke through the Navy line for third score and a penalty from Zinzan Elan-Puttick extended the lead to 24-0 in the 35th minute.

“We came out firing in the first half. Moved the ball around well. Defended well. We did prepare all week for Navy’s attack so things worked out pretty well in the first half,” said ASU coach Shaun Potgeiter.

Navy finally got on the board in the forty-minute mark. After Arkansas State had a player sent to the sin bin, the Midshipmen spent five minutes inside the ASU five-meter line. After several penalties, Ben Johnston punched it in. With the conversion, it was 24-7 going into the break.

Navy looked to continue the momentum from the end of the first half. Despite being down a man, however, Young scored his second of the day for the Red Wolves and extended the lead to 31-7. It appeared that this score would end the hopes of a Navy comeback.

The Midshipmen refused to give in, however, and started mounting a comeback The Navy work rate and fitness paid dividends later in the second half, starting with a try from scrumhalf Gardy Lebon. Minutes later, the Academy found the try zone again. Jake Martin got Navy’s third of the half and with about 10 minutes to play off a loose ball and with 10 minutes to play it was a one score game.

“We expected them to come out in the second half firing. Just try to come back and get themselves back into the game, which they did,” Potgeiter said of the Navy comeback.

“It speaks to who we are. It is the Naval academy. A bunch of young men just filled with character. We were not happy with our first half performance and that the score line was against us and we had to come out and make some changes,” Navy coach Mike Flanagan said of his team.

Despite the comeback from Navy, Arkansas State managed to weather the storm for the remainder of the game. Navy was pressing inside ASU territory in the waning moments but a knock-on ended the possession and the game.

“The guys really showed guts to hold them out of the try zone at the end,” Potgeiter concluded.

Arkansas State will take on BYU in the semifinals next weekend.

Central Washington Pulls Away From Utah in Varsity Cup

Central Washington Pulls Away From Utah in Varsity Cup

by Brett Anker

Central Washington hammered Utah 58-5 to advance to the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup semifinals. After two years in a row of close contests in the quarterfinals, the Wildcats ran away with the 2016 contest to claim its 3rd consecutive win over Utah.

Despite winning the game handily, the match got off to a rocky start for Central Washington. Utah played the first 20 minutes of the match inside the CWU 22. A number of penalties resulted in the referee going to his wallet on multiple occasions. For roughly seven minutes of the half, the Wildcats played with 12 men on the field. Nonetheless the Central Washington defense didn’t break.

“I really commend our guys for playing fantastic defense against a quality opponent when we were down a few members in the first half,” CWU Head Coach Tony Pacheco said. “It was a gutsy gutsy performance by the 12 who were on the field. We have to be better with our discipline, so we do not put ourselves in these types of situations.”

After weathering the storm, Central Washington struck first through Aladdin Schirmer. Clint Lemkus added the second, while Scott Dean and Dominic Lindstrom each tallied their first of multiple on the day. At half, the Wildcats led 26-0.

“It was just a matter of us getting our hands on the ball,” Pacheco added. “For the first 20 minutes we defended the entire time, and were in survival mode. When we were able to get back to full strength and get our hands on the ball, we carried very well. There was a lot of support all over the field and were able to maintain possession and score tries,”

The Wildcats exploded for five more tries in the second while Utah only managed a single score. CWU dominated in the scrum, disrupting Utah ball, and providing a platform for the backline. Dean needed no other invitation as he dotted down two more times in the second half to complete the hat trick.

“We were able to give him a lot of front foot ball… and when we were on the front foot they just were not able to transfer across the field quick enough. He was able to take a couple gaps and score a couple nice tries,” Pacheco said of Dean.

Central Washington will travel to Strawberry Canyon to take on Cal next weekend.

Cal Prevails Over Tough Army Side

Cal Prevails Over Tough Army Side

by Brett Anker

Cal overcame an early first half deficit to defeat tough Army squad 41-29 in the quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. A pair of late first half tries and a strong second half propelled the Golden Bears into the semifinals.

This contest was incredibly physical from the get go. Both packs refused to give in to one another throughout the course of the match, pummeling the fringes to create space for their respective backlines.

“We knew coming into this game that these were a lot of stout tough guys. We have nothing but the utmost respect for these guys and this university and so that we knew that they were going to be tough and stout. We had to prepare for that and they gave us a real physical game,” said Cal match day captain Scott Walsh.

Army got on the board first off a lineout inside the Cal 22. Flanker Andrew Irwin powered his way over after peeling off the back of a maul. The West Point set piece was excellent all afternoon, leading to a number of well-worked scores.

Cal bounced back after the Army score. The Bears monopolized possession for the next 10 minutes, pressing inside the Army 22. After making several goal line stands, the Black Knights defense finally broke, and Russell Webb scurried over for a 7-7 tie.

The ensuing kickoff bounced off the arms of a Cal player and immediately Army went into the ascendency. West Point attacked back and forth against the Cal defense and ultimately found an overload outwide and winger Joseph Dlugosch capped it off with a score in the corner.

Army added two more scores to increase the lead to 22-7 in the 33rd minute. Jake Lachina broke through the Cal line off a scrum. The speedy fullback went on one with the fullback. As he was being dragged down he offloaded to an oncoming Andrew Yoon for a score under the posts. Mitch Sanderson scored a forward’s try five minutes later to increase the lead.

“We were our own worst enemy for so much of the game. We had to really bare down to win the game,” said Cal coach Jack Clark. You give West Point a lot of credit for that. Army was strong and they played some good rugby.”

Cal righted the ship towards the end of the first half. Lachina made a tremendous tackle on the try line pulling his man into touch, but Cal’s Nic Mirhashem intercepted the lineout and dove over to cut the lead to 22-14.

The Golden Bears got on the board again right before halftime. Russell Webb kicked a turnover ball ahead. Anthony Salabar ran onto it and booted it ahead once more. The big center got a nice bounce and without breaking stride, scooped the ball and ran around the fullback. Lachina made a nice recovery tackle, and batted the ball backwards on an attempted offload. The ball bounced and Webb fell on it under the posts to make the game 22-21 going into the break.

Harry Adolphus gave Cal its first lead of the day shortly into the second half. The fullback nailed the conversion to give Cal a 28-22 lead.

Army struck back 10 minutes later via Andrew Borer. The fly half had a strong game distributing and with the boot, but this time he backed himself. Cutting back inside on the Cal defense, Borer slithered through under the posts to regain the lead for Army 29-28.

Cal slowly took over the game from this point on, however. The Golden Bears upped the intensity and speed of play. Even an extremely fit Army struggled to keep pace and eventually the defensive line broke. After passing up a number of kickable penalties, Connor Sweet powered his way over for what would turn out to be the game winning score.

In the 70th minute Cal got the insurance try it was seeking through Salabar. Army got deep in Cal territory in the final minutes but a turnover at the goal line stymied any chance of West Point coming back from the two score deficit. The Bears added a penalty at the death to finish 41-29.

Army gave Cal all it could handle and coach Matt Sherman was very positive about his team’s performance.

“I could not be more proud of this team. I have never been more proud of a team I have coached than these boys right now,” said Sherman. “This senior class, they are just outstanding in how much they have improved this year.”

Cal will move on to play Central Washington in the semifinals next weekend.

2016 Quarterfinal Match Schedule | April 16th

2016 Quarterfinal Match Schedule | April 16th


The Varsity Cup Quarterfinals are nearly upon us! There are some critical matchups tomorrow Sat., April 16th as Arkansas State, Army, BYU, Cal, CWU, Dartmouth, Navy, & Utah will do battle to see who earns at spot in the Semi-Finals.

See the below for more information on the where and when the matches are being held and how you can watch remotely:

Army vs. Cal

– Location: Anderson Rugby Complex, River Rd., West Point, NY 10996
– Time: 3:00 PM EDT
– Webcast: Army “Knight Vision” (http://goarmywestpoint.com/watch)

Dartmouth vs. BYU

– Location: Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse, 9 Reservoir Rd., Hanover, NH 03755
– Time: 1:00 PM EDT
– Webcast: Live on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iA5QqeCNdDY)

Navy vs. Arkansas State

Location: Naval Academy Brigade Sports Complex, 64 Greenbury Point Rd., Annapolis, MD 21402
Time: 11:00 AM EDT

Utah vs. CWU

Location: Salt Lake Regional Sports Complex, 2280 N. Rose Park Lane, Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Time: 12:00 PM MDT
Webcast: KUTE Radio (http://www.kaltura.com/tiny/h06yz)

Navy vs. Arkansas State | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

Navy vs. Arkansas State | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

by Brett Anker

Arkansas State will head to Annapolis to take on Navy in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Both teams logged convincing wins last weekend and it sure to be a physical encounter.

Navy and Arkansas State are entering unfamiliar territory, as the schools have not played in nearly a decade. Although Navy and Arkansas State are unfamiliar teams, they are very similar in playing style. Both Navy and Arkansas State are built on strong forward packs and play similar styles. This game is sure to be won at the breakdown, where both teams are known to compete heavily.

“It will be a fight in the trenches up front. We are going to have weather the storm a little bit,” said Arkansas State coach Shaun Potgeiter.

Both teams play with great defensive shape. Arkansas State blanked Clemson last weekend and has been tough to score on all spring. Navy held Notre Dame to three points and is always well disciplined. Arkansas State is aware of the discipline and will need to take any opportunities presented to it.

“We know they are going to be structured, which is typical of a militia team,” Potgeiter added. “We are going to have to be aware of their structure and keep our defensive aggressiveness up. Once we get the ball, if we can make some things happen, then I think that will help us score a few points on them.”

As a military school, Navy is always ready for the challenge. The Midshipmen are taking it one game at a time and are excited for the contest.

“They are a solid team. They are going to be a challenge. We are just grateful to get on to the next round,” said Navy coach Mike Flanagan. “Our motto through this championship season is we are playing for 80 more minutes.”

It will be an action packed 80 minutes of bruising rugby. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Midshipmen are seeking their fourth consecutive Varsity Cup semifinals. However, a determined and healthy ASU squad is looking to make up for an early exit last year and advance to its firs ever final four.

The game kicks off at 11EST.

Utah vs. CWU | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

Utah vs. CWU | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

by Brett Anker

Central Washington will travel to the University of Utah for the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity. The Wildcats and the Utes have faced each other in each of the last two Varsity Cup quarterfinals with CWU coming out on top in both.

In 2014, a last second penalty from Josh Bower staved off an upset from Utah. Bower nailed a penalty from roughly 40 meters out to win 25-24. Last year the Wildcats won more comfortably, but it was still a competitive 18-7 match.

Utah and Central Washington are no strangers. For years they played each of in the Pacific Coast playoffs and after facing off in the last two Varsity Cup’s, the school’s are very familiar with one another. Nonetheless, CWU coach Tony Pacheco believes that both squads have changed over the last couple of seasons and the game could be vastly different from year’s prior.

“We know each other well obviously, being matched up for the last couple of year,” Head coach Tony Pacheco said. “I think having seen how we’ve played, I think we’re a different team from last year and Utah the same. I think it’s going to be about those 80 minutes and not so much about our previous matchups.”

Coach Pacheco stressed the importance of showing up and playing for a full 80 minutes. Utah is battle tested and takes advantage of mistakes. In a close contest, that could be the difference.

“It’s very much ‘what you see is what you get’ from them,” Pacheco added. “They run hard, they tackle hard, they scrum hard. Everything they do is 100 percent and they are on the job for 80 minutes. So if you switch off mentally and miss your assignment they will take advantage of it. This tournament is about us getting better throughout, that’s the next step. We have to be better this week than we were last week if we want to advance.”

Utah survived a scare last weekend. The Utes nearly gave up a two score advantage with less than 10 minutes to play. Despite a majority of the team being under the weather due to a flu circulating through the squad, Utah bounced back to win the game in the waning moments.

For Utah, it is always about consistency. Although coach Pacheco stressed that Utah comes to play all the time, Utah struggled to put together complete games all season. Coach Jon Law thinks Utah cannot afford to many mistakes if they are going to come away with a win against CWU.

“It is always a battle with Central Washington. If you look back at the games that we have played the last couple of years, they have been really exciting rugby, well matched pretty even,” said Law. “With us being down a little bit this year, not really having all the horses in the stable, we are going to have to play a nearly flawless game to make it competitive.”

The game will kickoff at 1PM PST.

Dartmouth vs. BYU | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

Dartmouth vs. BYU | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

by Brett Anker

In the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, BYU will travel to Hanover, NH to take on Dartmouth. BYU put up a century mark last week in Arizona and will be looking to continue the momentum in the northeast.

BYU and Dartmouth last met in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Varsity Cup. Dartmouth frustrated BYU for most of the first half in that contest and only trailed 15-3 at the break. The Cougars surged in the second half, however, winning 70-15.

The Big Green will take on BYU in the second round once again. Dartmouth will look to surprise once again after shocking Penn State last week. The Ivy League played a strong game and executed its game plan to near perfection in last weeks win over Penn State. Coach Gavin Hickie indicated that his team may not be able to fly under the radar again and will expect BYU to provide a stern test.

“We know where we are nationally despite what subjective rankings around the country say. We are pretty comfortable with where we are nationally.” Hickie said of Dartmouth. “We are not quite at BYU’s level yet but any opportunity we get to play them we will gladly accept that challenge.”

The Big Green needs to play a near perfect game to challenge the three time defending Varsity Cup champions. The Ivy school has is giving up a lot of size but that is no different than most other games. For Dartmouth, it is about finding unique ways to exploit space.

“We have got to be clinical in our execution… We have got to be clinical with any offloads and in the contact area. We know they are going to be huge, physical, so we have to be bottled up in that area and find the space wherever that my be. We have got to get a game plan and execute it properly, “Hickie added.

The Cougars are coming off their 20th victory of the season and are playing incredibly well this season. After traveling to Arizona last weekend, BYU will make the trek to the east coast to play. Despite a lot of travel, the BYU coaching staff believes the boys will ready to play from the get go.

“It will be a challenge for us. We have got to travel quite a bit to get there but our boys will be ready to go either way,” BYU assistant coach Wayne Tarawhiti said of the Cougars.

Despite having been unbeaten since 2014, BYU takes nothing for granted. Knowing the tough time the Big Green gave the Cougars in the first half a couple of years ago, the Utah school is not taking Dartmouth lightly.

“Dartmouth is and has been a well coached school for a number of years Gavin Hickie is a really good coach. He will have his boys ready to play us up there this weekend. We are just going to go up there and hopefully play well enough to play again the following weekend,” Tarawhiti said.

The game kicks off at 1:30 EST.

Army vs. Cal | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

Army vs. Cal | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

by Brett Anker

The University of California will travel to West Point to take on Army in the quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Both teams won handily in the first round of the Varsity Cup and are looking to continue the momentum.

The last time the Golden Bears played the Black Knights in a 15-aside match was in 2009. The teams met in the division I USA Rugby playoffs with the Golden Bears winning 42-17 to claim a spot in the 2009 final. Besides the 2009 semifinals, the clubs competed against each other in 7s at the Collegiate Rugby Championship, with Cal winning a pool play contest.

Prior to the 2009 contest, the teams met twice in consecutive national championships. In both 1991 and 1992, Cal defeated Army in tight contests to win the national title. The teams also met consecutively in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs with Berkeley claiming wins in both.

For a program of such rich tradition and history, however, this will be the first time that Cal travels to West Point. The Golden Bears are looking forward to the challenge and are excited at the prospect of playing on a storied campus.

“Army has always been a fierce opponent and we are expecting their best rugby,” said head coach Jack Clark. “It will be a privilege to visit West Point and we want to soak it all in.”

Adding intrigue to the match up is the fact that the first year head coach of Army was a co-captain on a Cal side coached by Clark. Matt Sherman participated in the 2002 and 2003 victories over West Point and more recently served as an assistant coach for the Bears. For Sherman, however, the focus is on preparing for a tough opponent.

“We are looking forward to the challenging opportunity that awaits us in Cal in round two of the Varsity Cup,” Army coach Matt Sherman told United World Sports. “Cal has set the bar for many years in the collegiate rugby landscape, and we welcome the opportunity to test ourselves against that high standard,”

Army has been playing extremely well of late. Picking up wins against Utah, Navy and Oklahoma. However, the Black Knights struggled against another top tier opponent in BYU, falling 72-10. This weekend will be a step up from the recent wins and Army knows that it will require a strong performance.

“It is a challenge, no doubt. Our focus will remain the same. Chasing our best performance. I think when we are playing at our top level we are very competitive to compete with most teams. For us the challenge will be the constancy and that standard. Can we find 80 minutes of that level? To be competitive with Cal that is what we need to do,” added Sherman.

The game kicks off at 3PM EST on Saturday.

BYU Tramples ASU in Varsity Cup Opener

BYU Tramples ASU in Varsity Cup Opener

by Brett Anker
Photo Credit: AWride Photography

BYU started its quest for a fourth consecutive Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship with a blistering 113-8 victory over Arizona State. The shear size, strength and speed overwhelmed the Sun Devils on Saturday night.

The Cougars jumped out of the gate quickly and tallied 61 points by halftime. Kevin Schofield scored three first half tries and added a fourth in the second half. Hooker Alex Vorster added two more tries in the first half in a game that quickly became a rout.

“Our boys played really well. We were firing on all cylinders,” said BYU assistant coach Wayne Tarawhiti. ”We were able to piece some stuff together in both our forwards and backs and were exceptional on the night.”

Jackson Kaka earned himself a pair of scores in the second half, including the try that put the Cougars over the century mark. In total 11 different Cougars found the try zone.

Despite giving up over one hundred points, the Sun Devils continued to play until the final whistle. Gary Lane’s side has showed tremendous effort all season and the young squad will be stronger come next year’s competition.

“It was a tough game for Arizona State,” added Tarawhiti. “But I will say this, the boys played right until the very end regardless of the score.”

BYU will travel to Hanover to take on Dartmouth in the quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.

Utah Thwarts Air Force Comeback in Varsity Cup

Utah Thwarts Air Force Comeback in Varsity Cup

by Brett Anker

In the most thrilling game of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup opening round, Utah edged Air Force 36-31. The Utes blew a late lead but managed to score with under five minutes to play snatch the victory from the Zoomies.

“That was the kind of game that was probably great for the fans but terrible for the coaches,” Utah coach Jon Law said of the back and forth contest.

Taylor Thomas opened the scoring for the Utes. The winger just returned from injury and made a huge impact on the game. Thomas scored the eventual game winner late in the second half.

“Taylor’s performance today was gutty. He was still missing a bit of his step. He is ok linearly but laterally he is not what he was. He is coming back from a knee injury,” added Law. “Most of the season we have been playing him at outside center and we felt that today he was a better matchup at wing.”

Fellow back line player Casey Raymond scored again for Utah before Air Force got on the board. The Zoomies responded, however, with two tries to take a 12-10 lead. The pendulum swung back in favor of Utah after the two Zoomie scores, with Gabe Ruflin and Josh Webber dotting down for Utah. At the half, Utah went in with a 22-12 lead.

Air Force struck back early in the second half but Utah once again stymied its momentum. Adding two more tries, the Utes led 29-19 with less than 10 minutes to play. Utah seemingly dodged a few bullets as well, as Air Force had two tries called back. One try was called back for a knock and the other the referee awarded a penalty to Utah.

Things started to get interesting, however. Air Force barged in for a try to cut the lead to 29-24. Minutes later, the Zoomies were deep in their own territory and not looking dangerous. All of a sudden, Air force busted through the line for a 60-meter run. Braden Smith received an offload and sprinted the rest of the way for a try under the posts. With the conversion, Air Force led 31-29.

“All credit to Air Force. As is to be expected from Air Force, or for that matter any service academy. They know of no other way to play for a full 80,” Law added.

Utah kicked off with very little time left but managed to get a turnover deep in Air Force territory. After a few phases, Thomas found space out wide and scampered in for the game winning score.

The Utes showed a lot of grit in this game. Coming into the weekend, nearly the entire team had come down with the flu. Law indicated that they were a bit sluggish on their recycling and support but got the job done nonetheless.