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Strong Second Half Propels CWU Over UCLA

Strong Second Half Propels CWU Over UCLA

by Brett Anker

Central Washington used a strong second half to get by UCLA 44-15 in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. After going into the break tied, the Wildcats scored in the opening seconds of the second half and several times more in quick succession to eliminate the Bruins.

The first half was very much a back and forth affair. In his first game in a Wildcat uniform, Darren Cooper found pay dirt five minutes in to give CWU the early lead. Ten minutes later, the Bruins got on the board with a penalty but Korbin Lindell got the second try for CWU to extend the lead to 10-3. Seb Sharpe responded for UCLA, however, earning a try and evening the game at 10-10.

Due to a heavy wind, Central Washington could not play an expansive game in the first half. Combined with a high penalty count, and poor play at the breakdown, the Wildcats could not muster any more points.

“We were playing into the wind in the first half. The game plan was a little more restricted. Kind of keep things in tight and just really just be patient and maintain possession and keep them off the score sheet,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco. “To be honest, UCLA were better over the ball than us in the first half.”

The second half could not have started any better for the Wildcats, though, as UCLA let the kickoff bounce deep its in own territory. Dom Lindstrom capitalized on the mistake diving in for the score less than 10 seconds into the half.

“I’ve been part of rugby for quite a while now and I haven’t seen a kick quite like that,” Pacheco noted. “That’s a hustle play by Dom there, he’s the kick chase guy on that and he got in the right spot.”

Lindstrom notched his second minutes later off a failed kick to touch. Ian Wright got the third try of the half off a counter attack assisted by Seth Halliman and Tanner Barnes scored right after that to increase the lead to 37-10. In less than 12 minutes, CWU tallied four tries and broke away from UCLA.

Clint Lemkus added the fifth Wildcat try of the half before UCLA stemmed the momentum with a try. It was too little too late, however, and CWU added one more for good measure to seal the match.

Central Washington will play the University of Utah next weekend.

Borer, Army, Beat Oklahoma in Varsity Cup

Borer, Army, Beat Oklahoma in Varsity Cup

by Brett Anker

Army cruised to the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup with a 55-10 victory over Oklahoma. Led by a three tries from flyhalf Andrew Borer, the Black Knights jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.

Borer opened the scoring with a penalty in the minute and backed himself two minutes later for an early 8-0 lead. The flyhalf added his second of the day five minutes later. Until recently, Borer had been playing fullback. The back has made the transition to first receiver and is coming into his own. In all, the newly minted flyhalf tallied 30 points on the afternoon.

“He had a good day. He is a good all round player…. I thought he had his best performance running our attacking 10 of the year,” Army coach Matt Sherman said of Borer. “

Before the 20-minute mark, Torran Raby had extended the Black Knights lead to 18 nil. West Point would add one more score from Logan Weiland to increase the lead to 23-0 at the break.

“I thought when we stayed composed everything worked. We had some nice tries from set piece, from attack and created some tries through defensive pressure,” said Sherman.

Borer added another penalty and completed the hat trick at the start of the second half. The home side added two more tries before Oklahoma would get on the board with a penalty. After another penalty from Borer, Oklahoma notched its first try and the match ended 55-10.

Although Army controlled the match for most of the game and everything seemed to go its way, the team let emotion get in the way of things at times. As the Black Knights progress in the tournament, they must maintain the discipline that the service academy is well known for.

“The down side was we lost our composure. We were pretty emotional throughout the day. We were intermittent with that sort of focus throughout the day,” critiqued Sherman of his team’s performance.

Army continues to ride a hot streak but will face its toughest test since losing to BYU. After beating Utah, Navy and Oklahoma, the Black Knights will host Cal in next week’s quarterfinal action.

Arkansas State Blanks Clemson in Varsity Cup Rematch

Arkansas State Blanks Clemson in Varsity Cup Rematch

by Brett Anker

Arkansas State avenged last year’s loss to Clemson in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup with a 50-0 win over the Tigers in Jonesboro, Ark. on Saturday. The Tigers had no answer for the dynamic and open game that the Red Wolves played.

Sione Fanagaiuiha opened the scoring four minutes into the match and Preston Weigel extended the lead to 14-0 not long after. Clemson looked to get back into the game at this point and nearly scored. However, the Tigers were called for a double move at the goal line and the Red Wolves got out of trouble. That was the closest Clemson would come to scoring on the afternoon.

Ruan Knuppel got the third for ASU and Austin Bush dotted down right before halftime to increase the lead to 24-0. Arkansas State did a good job of exploiting space out wide, with nearly all of its scores coming from outflanking the defense.

“I think we spread the ball well. We talked about it before the game, passing and handling, moving the ball a little bit,” said ASU coach Shaun Potgeiter. “I think in the previous games we put the ball on the boot a bit too often so we decided to throw it around a little bit and that worked.”

A great combination between Pedro Alavarez and Connor Cook led to the next score. While Cook made it into the score sheet on this occasion, Alvarez got two of his own later in the match to extend the lead to 43-0. Finally, Fanagaiuiha closed out the game with his second of the day.

With the first half cushion, the Red Wolves were able to run in some subs as the game went on. While Potgeiter thought his team had a great first half performance, there was a little bit of a let up in the second half. Nevertheless, he was extremely happy his team kept Clemson off the score sheet and that his side walked away with a convincing win.

“I thought it was a great first half. We stayed disciplined and stuck to our game plan. Got a little bit sloppy in the second half, lost our structure a little bit and started slipping off tackles. But generally speaking, it was a great victory,” Potgeiter added.

Cal Crushes Texas In Varsity Cup Opener

Cal Crushes Texas In Varsity Cup Opener

by Brett Anker

The Cal Bears dominated Texas with an emphatic 138-0 victory over the Longhorns. The Golden Bears earned 22 tries in the rout and cruised to the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.

The Bears dotted down 11 times in the first half and took a 55-0 lead going into the break. Scrumhalf Nickolas Boyer scored a pair of tries and went four of seven on conversions. Karl Thornton and George Vrame each added two while Lucas Dunne, Jesse Milne and Connor Sweet each scored once.

The second half was not any tougher for the Bears. Despite bringing on a number of substitutes, Cal continued its torrid scoring pace. Zachary Tavenner scored four second half tries in the span of 11 minutes and Dunne added two more to get the hat trick. In all, Cal had twelve different try scorers.

Despite the drubbing, Texas continued to fight throughout the match.

“We’re really grateful to Texas for making the trip. It was hard on them but they were resilient throughout,” said head coach Jack Clark. “For 30 years these first-round matches have been more lopsided than everyone wants. So even more respect for the Longhorns seeing it through.”

Coming into the game, cal wanted to take over early. With five scores in the first 20 minutes, the Bears were able to bring on substitutes and get ready for a tougher opponent in Army next week.

“The goal was to advance and play well,” said matchday captain Nick Salaber. “The goal this week is work hard and set ourselves up to keep improving. Army is going to be a tough team.”

The Golden Bears will travel to West Point to take on Army next weekend.

Navy Stymies Notre Dame in Varsity Cup

Navy Stymies Notre Dame in Varsity Cup

by Brett Anker

Navy scored 40 unanswered second half points to put away Notre Dame 57-3 in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. After a sloppy first half that saw points go begging, the Midshipmen exploded for a six try second half.

The Military Academy got on the board first through hooker Dan McCaffrey. Jacob Griffin and Mike Samaniego added tries later in the half to go up 17-0. The Fighting Irish notched a penalty right before halftime to make it 17-3 going into the break.

The Midshipmen missed on a number of opportunities in the first half and with a high penalty count, Navy made it hard on themselves. After a tough first stanza, though, the floodgates opened in the second half. Griffin and McCaffrey both tallied their second while Kevin Kirshmer, Connor McNerney and Zach Coffman all found pay dirt as well.

“We talked at halftime about just getting back to fundamentals. We tried to do a little too much. Be a little too slick with the ball in our hands,” said Navy coach Mike Flanagan. “It was a slippery wet service and it just wasn’t going to happen that way. We just dialed it back a bit, stayed with fundamentals and patience paid off.”

While Navy was explosive on offense, it was extremely impressive on defense. For Flanagan, that is the key to advancing in the Varsity Cup.

“The ability to defend here is way more important than the ability to score. We have got to keep people out of the goal line and I think we did a pretty good job today sort of putting a cap on Notre Dame,” Flanagan said.

Navy has advanced to the semi finals of the Varsity Cup in each of the last three seasons. For the Midshipmen, today was a good rebound from a loss to Army and a solid hit out before a date with Arkansas State next weekend.

“It went about as we expected. We are a pretty solid team. We are still feeling the effects of a loss to Army a little bit and needed to get into the contact.”

Dartmouth Upends Penn State in Varsity Cup Opener

Dartmouth Upends Penn State in Varsity Cup Opener

by Brett Anker
Photo Credit: Aaron Deykin

Dartmouth shocked Penn State with a 30-25 victory in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Led by flyhalf Dawit Workie, the Big Green played an extremely clinical game to come away with the victory.

Penn State opened the scoring with a penalty but prop Will McNamara earned the games first try for Dartmouth. Center Will Konstant intercepted a pass and a few phases later the prop found his way over. With the conversion, Dartmouth led 7-3.

Both Will’s are new to rugby from the Dartmouth football program. Although they both only have a handful of rugby games under their belts, both had solid performances and contributed to the win.

“We have a fantastic relationship with our football club here. We are pretty close with both teams and I think we are going to align the two programs together. We love getting these football players, starting with a blank canvas and trying to coach some rugby into them. They are great athletes, they buy in, they learn very quickly. That relationship is so important to us,” said Dartmouth Coach Gavin Hickie.

Dartmouth added to its lead with a penalty a few minutes later. Disciplinary issues plagued Penn State all day and in this instance saw a player sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. Despite being down a player, however, the Nittany Lions evened the score with a try from Chris Burian.

The hosts retook the lead thanks to a well-executed kick from Workie. The flyhalf sent a kick up in the air and back rower Hayden Aldridge ran underneath it. Arthur Sants was the beneficiary a few phases later for a 15-10 halftime lead.

Jimmy Ronan added his second penalty for PSU to cut the lead to 15-13. However, the Nittany Lions yielded a try to winger Andrew Zhu in the corner to make the difference a converted try. Things went from bad to worse for PSU, as it had a player sent off for a deliberately late hit on Workie.

Workie bounced back from the hit to set up teammate Struan Coleman. The flyhalf was coming off a hip injury and was just getting back into form for this match.

“Dawit is a class act. Every player that has had the opportunity to play with him here at Utah knows that. I’ve known that for a long time,” Hickie said of Workie. “He needs to be consistent in his high standard. What is really pleasing from our point of view is he is really starting to deliver on that.”

At 25-13 Penn State refused to quit, however, and despite being down a player, scored a well-worked team try. Discipline, however, cost the visitors once again. A high tackle resulted in a second yellow card forcing the Nittany Lions to play with 13 players for 10 minutes.

Dartmouth added another try to extend the lead to 30-20. Malcolm May dotted down for PSU late but the Big Green held on to win the match.

“We are very happy. I don’t think anybody really gave us a chance in this game. That is fine, we used that a little bit as fuel for ourselves,” said Hickie. “We were very confident going into this game, just very quietly being able to fly under the radar. We were confident that we could if we could execute what we were trying to do, we would come out on the good side of the score.”

The Big Green got inspiring performances from a couple of unexpected players. Along with the football players, Chris Banks played a tremendous game at hooker. Coming off a pair of ACL tears on the same leg, the former Junior All American played his first game in a couple years.

Dartmouth will take on BYU next weekend.

2016 Opening Round Match Schedule | April 9th

2016 Opening Round Match Schedule | April 9th

VARSITY CUP OPENING ROUND MATCH SCHEDULE | APRIL 9TH:

Army vs. Oklahoma

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

Arizona State vs. BYU

Location: ASU Poly Campus, 7001 E. Williams Field Rd., Mesa, AZ 85212
Time: 7:00 PM MST

Arkansas State vs. Clemson

Location: ASU Rugby Pitch, 501 Red Wolf Trail Rd., Jonesboro, AR 72401
Time: 1:30 PM CDT

Cal vs. Texas

Location: Witter Rugby Field, 210 Stadium Rim Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
Time: 12:00 PM PDT

CWU vs. UCLA

Location: CWU Wildcat Rugby Field, Ellensburg, WA 98926
Time: 1:00 PM PDT
Webcast: Wildcat “Event Zone” (www.wildcatsports.com)

Dartmouth vs. Penn State

Location: Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse, 9 Reservoir Rd., Hanover, NH 03755
Time: 12:00 PM EDT
Webcast: Live on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EIwkyCQ3AI)

Navy vs. Notre Dame

Location: Naval Academy Brigade Sports Complex, 64 Greenbury Point Rd., Annapolis, MD 21402
Time: 12:00 PM EDT
Webcast: TBD

Utah vs. Air Force

Location: McCarthy Field, 76 S. Wasatch Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Time: 12:00 PM MDT
Webcast: KUTE Radio (http://www.kaltura.com/tiny/h06yz)

Arizona State vs. BYU | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Arizona State vs. BYU | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Photo Credit: Trev Mozingo

BYU’s road to a fourth consecutive Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship goes through the desert. The Cougars will travel to Arizona State in the opening round of play this weekend.

David Smyth’s team comes in with a blistering 19-0 record this season and an unbeaten streak that extends back to February of 2014. The Cougars beat St. Mary’s twice, Central Washington, Army and Air Force this season and are gearing up for another title run.

Despite losing Johnny Linehan to football commitments and losing several players to graduation, BYU has not missed a beat. In the back line, Calvin Whiting and Kevin Schoefield have been try scoring machines while Zane Mendenhall and Joe Pikula lead a talented BYU pack.

“Many players stepped up to the challenge this season and we will need them to do it again against ASU,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU’s undefeated record. “We were able to develop more players this year and those who received those opportunities played well.”

Arizona State knows they are up against a juggernaut but will attempt to do what nobody has done in over two years, beat the Cougars.

“I think they are a better team than they have been,” ASU coach Gary Lane said of BYU. “I have watched a lot of tape and they are clinical and just relentless.”

It will take an inspiring performance from the Sun Devils to give BYU a run for its money. Slowing down the potent BYU attack requires activity at the ruck and keeping the ball out of the enemy’s hands.

“I definitely think we need to contest at the breakdown and we have got to keep possession when we have it,” Lane added.

ASU has been playing well of late and coach Lane is hoping to carry that momentum into the match. A very young side, the spring has been a valuable earning curb for them.

“The guys have worked very hard. I absolutely trilled with the work ethic of this team. They are a very good, close knit group of men that just work very very hard and have achieved good things by pure hard work,” Lane concluded.

Dartmouth vs. Penn State | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Dartmouth vs. Penn State | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Dartmouth will welcome Penn State to Hanover for the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The Nittany Lions are making their first foray in the Varsity Cup and are hoping to come away a victory on the road.

The hosts, however, have played a tough schedule this year and are ready for the challenge. After undergoing a rough start to the fall, that included big losses to Lindenwood, AIC and Boston College, the Big Green went on to win its 9th consecutive Ivy League Title. With tough matches against fellow Varsity Cup participants Army and Navy this spring, Dartmouth is ready to take on the Rugby East heavy weight.

“We designed our fall schedule to really test ourselves against some of the best teams in the country to gear ourselves up for the Ivy,” said Dartmouth head coach Gavin Hickie. “We want to get tested out of our conference as often as we can and we welcome that challenge. The score lines didn’t go our way but it was a great learning curve.”

A traditionally smaller team, the Big Green always punches above its weight. Dartmouth narrowly lost to Navy in last year’s Varsity Cup and will be competitive playing at home. Led by three year starting fly half Dawit Workie and senior Captain Jack Braun, the Big Green has been gearing up for a physical contest. With the largest roster in recent years, competition is fierce and depth is a plenty.

“The boys have been working very very hard over the winter, particularly in the gym, indoors, on technique on subtle areas of the game,” added Hickie. “We are happy with where we are and we hope we are flying under the radar a little bit. We know Penn State are the heavy favorites and that is ok with us.”

The Nittany Lions have earned the reputation of being a very physical side, thanks in large part to the play of a pair of flankers and a prop. Malcolm May had a tremendous campaign during Rugby East play and earned conference player of the year accolades while leading the Pennsylvania school to a second place finish. Complementing the junior flanker is the equally athletic and dynamic Sean Mahon and loose head prop Brian McKellar.

“Sean is a terrific player and someone that I think projects to move forward if he wants to and works at it,” Penn State coach Blake Burdette said of his senior flanker. “McKellar is one guy who has really worked his butt off to get to where he is at.”

Penn State has been gearing up for the Varsity Cup by taking on two other VC squads and the formidable Indiana Hoosiers. The Nittany Lions lost a tight one to Navy, held off a Clemson surge and handily defeated an undefeated Hoosiers team. Playing some teams that have also played Dartmouth, Burdette has been able to gauge his own squad.

“A couple of those teams are Varsity Cup and they have also played Dartmouth. We just wanted to challenge ourselves,” Burdette said.

Although Penn State may be favored on paper and in the eyes of Coach Hickie, coming into Dartmouth and walking away with a victory is no easy task.

“We need to play to our strengths. We have to worry about us. We can’t worry about them. We know Dartmouth is going to be well coached, well drilled and they are going to come after us, especially playing on their home field,” Burdette concluded.

The game kicks off at noon ET on Saturday.

Navy vs. Notre Dame | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Navy vs. Notre Dame | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Photo Credit: Colleen McCloskey

The Storied rivalry between Navy and Notre Dame continues this weekend in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The Midshipmen have reached the semifinals in each of the prior three Varsity Cups and will be looking to continue that streak against a young Notre Dame side.

The Fighting Irish come into the match having played very little rugby. Outside of a tour out west that saw the Irish split with San Diego and Arizona, Notre Dame has only played local Bethel College this spring. With a young and inexperienced side, the Fighting Irish will have to find form quickly against a tough Navy squad.

“All across the board, we really respect the Navy guys. Not only for what they do on the rugby field but for what type of men they are. What choices they make to choose and go represent our country. We are under no false impression how hard these guys are and what toughness means to them. That being said, we expect to get every bit of that toughness out of them,” said Notre Dame coach David Fee.

Freshman fly half Luke Denehey leads the Notre Dame back line. The English born halfback has been getting better throughout the limited season and will need to be on point for Notre Dame to stay competitive. Along with Denehey, captain Pat McMahon spearheads the forward pack from the back of the pack. McMahon controls the line outs for the Irish and will be key to maintaining possession.

“We are a very young team. We are going to play our best to compete against a very tough, very disciplined Navy squad,” Fee added.

Navy comes into the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup after playing an independent spring schedule. The Midshipmen defeated fellow VC cup competitors Clemson, Dartmouth and Penn State this spring. With a close loss to Life, a tour of the United Kingdom, and a tight loss to rival Army, Navy comes into the competition with a 6-2-1 spring record.

The Midshipmen have a history of being a physical team and this squad is no different. The Navy pack is highlighted by a powerful front row, including captain Woody Dewing and hooker Dan McAfferty, Cade Pope at lock and flanker Kevin Kirchmer add to an already strong forward pack.

“Woody Dewing is the emotional leader of our team. He plays loose head for us and is a rock solid guy,” Navy coach Mike Flanagan said of his captain. “Dan has had just a great senior year. A terrific number two.”

Navy is looking forward to a tough matchup with a traditional rival.

“We are looking forward to playing Notre Dame. It is certainly a great rivalry, Navy-Notre Dame. It ranks there with some of the great national rivalries in all of sports. To be able to host Notre Dame here in Annapolis is a real big deal for us,” Flanagan concluded.