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.
Arkansas State will host Clemson University in the first round of the Varsity Cup on April 9th. It is the second consecutive year that the schools have met in the first round, with Clemson coming from behind to win 26-22 at home last spring.
For this go around, both teams have a bit of a new look. Both Arkansas State and Clemson have undergone coaching changes. Former ASU All-American Shaun Potgeiter has taken over the helm at his Alma Mater, while Steve Lynch has succeeded last year’s Varsity Cup coach of the year Justin Hickey at Clemson.
Clemson come into the match with a combined fall and spring record of 9-5. The Tigers swept through ACRL play in the fall but fell to a tough AIC team in the ACRC Bowl Series. Lynch’s side played a tough spring schedule, including matches against Life, South Carolina, Wheeling Jesuit and fellow Varsity Cup competitors, Navy, Air Force and Penn State.
Playing at home, the Red Wolves will definitely be seeking revenge this year. Although Lynch is new to Clemson, he is anticipating a hungry opponent. The Tigers are well tested coming into the match with ASU, but Lynch admitted it is going to take a full team effort to come away with a victory.
“In order for us to beat Arkansas State, as good as they are playing right now, all 15 guys have to be involved. My first 15 have to play at their absolute best,” Lynch said. “I don’t think they brought their full complement of athletes against us last year. I think they are gunning for us, so we need to bring our very best on both sides of the ball and every single guy needs to play the best that can possibly play in order for us to compete with Arkansas State.”
While Clemson has played a packed schedule all year, ASU matches have been much more scattered. Unfortunately, the Red Wolves had a number of games cancelled, but early contests against tough opponents like Davenport and Life, the Red Wolves were able to gauge the progress of the program.
“That definitely helped us to see where we are in the season,” Potgeiter said of the matches against Davenport and Life. “It was pretty early in the season so it allowed us to fix some things and strengthen our positives. We did have some cancellations after that, which kind of brought us on the back seat with game time. We have had quite a long break at the moment. We are kind of unsure how that will benefit or not be good for us.”
The time off, however, has put ASU in much better place physically this year. Eight man Kirk Pretorius returns after missing most of last year with an ACL injury and captain Robert Elan-Puttick comes in firing on all cylinders from is fly half position. Along with wing Preston Weigel, who missed some of the spring with concussion issues, the Red Wolves come into the game completely healthy.
ASU is excited to host the Varsity Cup this year and are looking to right the wrongs of last year.
“We went down disappointingly as the heavy favorites last year….They played one heck of a game on their home turf and they really brought it to us. It is up to us this time around to bring it to them on our home turf,” Potgeiter iterated.
Salt Lake City, UT—In lead up to today’s Penn Mutual Varsity Cup National Rugby Championship, the coaches and administrators of the participant schools met for a series of coordination and development meetings to review the 2015 competition and set plans for the future.
Along with these coordination meetings, the coaches named Clemson University head coach, Justin Hickey, as the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup 2015 Coach of the Year.
Hickey, who was named to the USA Rugby Collegiate All American coaching staff along with Varsity Cup fellow head coach Gavin Hickie from Dartmouth, has quickly taken Clemson from a mid-tier collegiate rugby program in the Atlantic Coast Rugby League (ACRL) to the 2013 and 2014 champions.
Hickey was also named the ACRL Coach of the Year in both of those championship seasons.
Overall, Hickey has led the Tigers to a strong 28-4 conference record over five seasons at the helm.
In the 2015 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, Hickey led his Tigers to a 26-22 upset victory over Arkansas State University, but were up-ended narrowly at the United States Naval Academy the following week by the score of 23-24.
After their team’s loss to the Midshipmen, Hickey and the Tigers finished as Runners-Up at the ACRL 7’s Championship the following week, and therefore , qualify to the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia May 30-31.
Hickey was also a member of the 2012 USA Rugby Under-20 Junior World Rugby Trophy Champion coaching staff.
“Justin is one of the Varsity Cup’s rising coaches,” said Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Director Dan Lyle, “And is proof that consistent effort and a solid vision can lead to the development of a winning program. Justin is another example of what makes the Varsity Cup a great avenue for the development of collegiate game and student-athletes.”
After being named the 2015 Coach of the Year, Hickey was obviously flattered.
“To be selected as the Coach of the Year is humbling,” Hickey said, “The room was packed with men that I look up and have interacted with over my coaching career, and this is just as much an award for our players, alumni and support staff. I look forward to continuing our efforts at Clemson and am grateful for the opportunities that the Varsity Cup offers our program to grow and develop.”
Hickey and the rest of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Head Coaches will be on hand at today’s championship match between the California Berkeley Bears and the Brigham Young University Cougars.
Kick-off is slated for 4pm EST and will be broadcast live on national television on NBCSN. Check your local listing for channels.
For the second consecutive week, Navy escaped with a one-point victory in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Navy won 24-23 over Clemson in a tight contest for their third victory over the Tigers this year.
Aaron Keers opened the scoring for Clemson, giving the Tigers and early 3-0 lead. Navy responded with a converted try from lock Cade Pope but Clemson mauled over a score to retake the lead 10-7. Jack McAuliffle evened the score minutes later with a penalty for Navy.
Clemson retook the lead with a penalty and made the game 18-10 when outside center Dylan Goulding darted over the line. The tigers swung the ball wide, exploiting the outside space after Navy received a yellow card a few minutes prior. The score was right at the 40-minute mark and Clemson went into the break with an eight-point lead.
Navy struck first in the second half off a five-meter scrum. In the 56th minute winger Ron Helms dotted down and the successful conversion left Clemson up one. Helms and Ben Umpingo at the wings both had very good outings and Dakota Raymond at outside center was stout defensively. In fact, Navy coach Mike Flanagan indicated that the stellar backline from the Mid Shipmen was the probably the difference this afternoon.
The Tigers stemmed the Navy momentum thanks to another strong play from Goulding. The center broke through the Navy line and after a series of offloads Ryan Gilroy finished the play with a score in the corner. With the conversion sailing wide, Clemson led 23-17.
Clemson clung to a 6 six-point lead and defended valiantly despite a yellow card. The Midshipmen punched in a try off a break, however, and with the conversion, took their first lead since early in the first half. After several phases Kevin Kirchmer picked up the ball and rambled in for the score in the 72nd minute.
The visitors pushed into Navy territory but were unable to get any more points on the board. The final whistle blew with a 24-23 score.
Overall, it was a very clean game for Navy, as they committed very few turnovers. “I thought that our contact skills were good. We didn’t lose a lot of balls in contact and we kept the ball in our hands pretty well,” Flanagan added.
Navy continues to play well from behind and very easily could have lost this game. Flanagan praised the play of Clemson and their evolution through the season.
“Its hard to beat a team three times and they got better every time we played them,” Flanagan said of Clemson. “This was no exception. They were solid as a rock.”
For Clemson, they are a team on the rise and will ultimately be happy for with their performance in the tournament, but are currently disappointed with the final result.
“We were in position to win that game and to lose it late like that is tough to take,” said Clemson coach Justin Hickey.
With only a handful of seniors and a team that now believes it can compete at the Varsity Cup level, Clemson will a be a team to look out for in future Varsity Cups.
The semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup will take place next weekend. Navy will travel to Berkeley to take on the University of California.
In their third meeting of the season, Navy and Clemson will do battle in Annapolis, Md. It will be the third meeting of the year between the two sides with Navy taking the first two matches.
This will be the first of the three matches that Navy will have hosted against Clemson this season. In the fall, the Midshipmen used a couple of late scores to pull away from the Tigers 50-22 at Clemson, and this spring Navy outlasted Clemson 39-25 at the Charlotte Rugby Complex.
Having played each other twice this year, both teams are very familiar with one another. For Clemson, they relish the chance to play at a service academy and look forward to the challenge.
“It is always an incredible honor, any time you play the military academies and anytime you can play Navy. It is a team that we know very well, it is the third time we will have played them this academic year and they are one that we are very familiar with. We are excited to visit Annapolis and give it a crack and see if the third time is the charm,” said Clemson coach Justin Hickey.
Clemson have learned lessons from the first two outings with Navy and know they must make adjustments in order to beat a disciplined Navy side. “We missed some opportunities in the mid field,” Hickey said of the last time Clemson faced Navy. “There forward pack is very very strong and you need to get it out the backs and take some direct lines to get over the gain line against them.”
Navy is excited to host a Penn Mutual Varsity Cup match for the second consecutive year. Coach Mike Flanagan indicated that the first two games with Clemson were closer than the score indicated and is excited for the advantage of playing at home.
“I am glad we are at home. They are tough, they are solid at all phases and we are going to have our hands full. I think it is hard to beat a team three times. We are really going to use this week to really prepare for these guys and see what happens next.”
Navy emphasized possession would most likely be the biggest factor in determining a winner. Both teams rely heavily on strong forward packs, so maintaining ball possession and winning the breakdown will be crucial in this matchup.
“We are going to have to win first phase possession, and keep them from getting first phase possession,” added Flanagan. “It is a double edged sword. We have to get ours and keep it and spoil there’s.”
Both Navy and Clemson are coming off tight first round games. Clemson upset Arkansas State at home 26-22 while Navy squeaked by Dartmouth 23-22. This game should prove to be another tight affair.
Clemson earned their first ever Penn Mutual Varsity Cup win with a thrilling 26-22 victory over Arkansas State. Two late penalties from Aaron Keers spoiled a second half comeback for the Red Wolves.
Arkansas State controlled the early stages of the game, pressuring Clemson with their kicking game. The Tigers defense held strong but their defensive line started to narrow. Arkansas State found the space out wide and busted through for the opening score of the game.
Clemson settled down after conceding the opening points, and got on the board through the first of three Aaron Keers penalties. The Clemson pack began to impose there will Arkansas State, chipping away at the fringes. After some valiant defense from the Red Wolves and even better patience from Clemson, Max Simons dove over to take an 8-7 lead.
The Tigers continued to apply pressure to Arkansas State, monopolizing territory and possession. The home side earned a penalty five meters out and Kevin Mckeown snuck over the line to increase the lead to 15-7.
A penalty cut the Clemson lead to 15-10 but moments before halftime, Clemson sustained pressure inside the Red Wolves 22. The forwards kept banging away at the fringes and finally the ball made its way to winger Chris Abraham, who fended off two defenders, for a 20-10 halftime lead.
“We have relied heavily on forwards and after the first 10 minutes we felt like we started to display a little bit of dominance in the forwards,” said Clemson coach Justin Hickey. “A lot of what I was hearing amongst the team at halftime was that they felt good, they felt confidence there to build phases in tight with the forwards and just make yards, regain possession, be patient and wait for things to open up. Credit to our forwards, they did a great job controlling that aspect of the game.”
Clemson seemed to pick up where they left off, winning the game at the breakdown. They withstood a couple of forays into their 22 but were in the ascendancy. Looking to increase their lead, the Tigers had numbers wide but Michael Krochta intercepted the pass and ran 70 meters for an ASU score.
The Red Wolves seized the momentum and began to make gains through the backline. Starting inside their own territory, ASU broke the Clemson line and used several well-executed offloads down the left sideline to tie the game. Arkansas State nailed the tough conversion to go up 22-20.
Clemson pursued the game but a number of knock-ons and penalties thwarted their attack. The Tigers, who had been strong in the scrum all afternoon, struggled to maintain the dominance in the waning minutes.
The referee, however, awarded a penalty to Clemson off a scrum with eight minutes to play and Keers placed the kick through the uprights from 35 meters out to retake the lead 23-22. Keers later added another penalty from 40 meters out down the left sideline, forcing ASU to score a try in order to win the match. The incredibly tough kick inspired the home side to throttle up the defensive pressure.
“They have that conversation every game, where do you feel good from,” Hickey said of his captain and his kicker. “He said I wanted it and I went to my radio and said he must know something I don’t. Obviously, he was feeling good, ended up striking the ball well, and while it only put us up by four, it really was a nail in the coffin.”
The remaining minutes saw ASU attempt another comeback, but tenacious defense from the hosts prevented the score. The Clemson defense was superb all day other than a few moments and ultimately guided them to victory on the afternoon.
“They clearly like to move the ball to the sideline and get it straight to the 13 channel,” Hickey said of Arkansas State. “In the second half kind of flooding that channel defensively was the difference.”
For Clemson, it was their first ever Varsity Cup win, and with the win have earned a matchup with Navy in the quarterfinals.
“I am just proud and excited for the guys,” Hickey said. “For them to be able to stick in their, keep their composure and make critical decisions under pressure and really just kind of grind it out and do what we need to do was really great.”
Arkansas State will travel to South Carolina to take on the Clemson Tigers. A game of contrasting style, Arkansas State, the current USA Rugby 7s Champions, like to swing the ball through the hands while a strong Clemson pack likes to play a forward centric game.
Flanker Jimmy Rippert and ACRL player of the year prop Max Simons leads a strong Clemson pack that went undefeated in ACRL action in the fall. Number 8 Jason Damm had a tremendous performance in Clemson’s opening round loss the Dartmouth in the 2014 Varsity Cup and has parlayed his performance into a fine sophomore season.
“They have really set everything up for us,” Clemson coach Justin Hickey said of his stalwarts in the pack. “Our success has been directly related to the forwards and it will be no different this Saturday.”
Clemson took home ACRC Bowl honors with a decisive victory over South Carolina in their final game of the ball season. Their only blemish of the fall came against fellow Varsity cup competitor Navy. The Tigers scheduled a tough spring campaign and faced hard luck against Navy for a second time falling 39-25, and losing 51-0 to Life University. Clemson, however, rebounded for wins against Cincinnati and Wheeling Jesuit.
“I think it has been good preparation for us, really you know physically,” said Hickey. “You know what you are going to get when you play Arkansas State, you are going to get big strong physical team, and hopefully trying to play similar competition prepares us well for the game.”
The Red Wolves play in arguably the toughest areas in the country facing off with Life, Lindenwood and Davenport every year. The competitive balance and overall strong level of rugby in the Mid-South conference will prepare Arkansas State to make a deep run in the Varsity Cup.
Arkansas State played a difficult non-conference schedule this year as well, playing against the Glendale Raptors Men’s Club twice and traveling to California to take on St. Mary’s.
“We wanted to get our guys tested for the Varsity Cup,” said Arkansas State head coach Mani Delaibatiki. “Those games that we have had have really made us test our depth more than ever before and have made us come out stronger than ever before.”
The tough schedule has paid its toll on the Red Wolves as the team has seen a number of injuries this year. It has allowed a number of younger players, however, to come in and gain significant experience. Freshman Pedro Alvarez will be starting at center and the Red Wolves will be looking to him to make a big impact.
Arkansas State has a very balanced attack with a smaller but agile pack and a very talented back line. “Because of 7s and the nature of the guys we have….it is a balance between our backs and forwards,” Delaibatiki said.
Both teams will want to impose their style of play on the other early in the game. “The first 10-15 minutes for both teams is going to be what sets the tone for the rest of the game,” Hickey concluded.
Provo, UT— The Varsity Cup announced today that Clemson University will join the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship beginning in the 2014 spring season.
Clemson completed the 2013 season finishing second in the Atlantic Coast Rugby League with a 10-2 record, behind 2013 Varsity Cup semifinalist the Naval Academy. The Tigers went deep into their respective post season reaching the national quarterfinals.
Clemson head coach Justin Hickey felt the Tigers’ inclusion in the Varsity Cup was sign of his program’s progress.
“Clemson is incredibly excited to join the Varsity Cup,” Hickey said, “The Varsity Cup has quickly become a premier competition, and it is an honor to receive the invitation and to be associated with programs of such rich history and tradition. With the vision of the Varsity Cup, its teams, and the direction of our program, the timing is right and we look forward to an excellent future for the competition.”
The Clemson Tigers are set to join the Varsity Cup having agreed to a participation commitment for the 2014 and 2015 post seasons. The decision to support Clemson’s entry into the Varsity Cup came with the unanimous backing of the Varsity Cup universities.
BYU rugby coach David Smyth commented, “Clemson is one of the top emerging rugby programs in the country and was a natural fit for the Varsity Cup’s expansion.”
“The Varsity Cup has identified Clemson as a top, consistently high performing rugby team from an NCAA university in the southeastern US,” Smyth continued, “The decision to extend an invitation to Clemson was arrived at through our due diligence in examining their team, and our belief that their program structure and coaching, along with their university support to be top notch. The Clemson Tigers will be a great addition to the Varsity Cup for the coming seasons.”
The addition of the Clemson Tigers brings the total number of Varsity Cup teams for the 2014 competition to 10 including 2013’s eight original teams and the recent addition of the University of Texas.
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