Army pulled away from Notre Dame in the second half to win 41-8 in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The Black Knights scored four unanswered second half tries to upend the Fighting Irish.
Jon Kim opened the scoring in the second minute with a penalty before Luke Huen found a gap to score the first try of the game. Kim converted the try to extend the lead to 10-0.
Notre Dame battled back, however, kicking a penalty and scoring a try in the 30th minute to cut the lead to 10-8. Uncharacteristically, discipline hurt West Point. Army made a number of unforced errors and saw a man sent to the sin bin.
“We did some good things in the first half to weather the wind but we were a little careless at times,” said Army coach Matt Sherman. “We never really got into a good attacking rhythm in the first half.”
The Black Knights did right the ship however, scoring a try right before halftime to make it a 17-8 game. Austin Rutledge dove over shortly before the break to give Army some momentum it would ultimately roll over into the second half.
“In the second half, I thought we did a good job in the first 20 minutes. I thought we just started to keep it simple and built an attacking rhythm. We started to play phases,” Sherman added.
Harrison Farrell gave the Black Knights a nice lift off the bench in the second half. The replacement scrumhalf scored a try and commanded the offense. Along with Andrew Fargo leading the way at center, Army went on to a convincing victory.
The home side scored four times in the second half. Jeff Malm-Annan, Sam Sutera, Farrell and Eli Brown all found pay dirt with Kim converting two of the scores.
Army will travel to Penn State for the quarterfinals of the Varsity Cup next weekend.
The University of Notre Dame will travel to play the United States Military Academy in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The notorious football rivalry will come to life at the Anderson Rugby Complex at West Point on April 8.
Army, who gave Cal everything it could handle in the quarterfinals of last year’s Varsity Cup, is looking to build off the result from last year. West Point, however, will have to do it with a bit of a revamped roster due to loss of players to graduation.
“Last year we felt good about playing some of our best rugby at the end of the season,” said Army coach Matt Sherman. “We know when we look in the mirror that we are not the most experienced team but taking the field against some of the best teams in the country, we see that as a real opportunity.”
The Black Knights come into the match sitting at 11-2, with their only blemishes coming against fellow Varsity Cup participant Penn State and San Diego State. Army boasted a 7-1 Rugby East record with wins over ranked opponents Kutztown and Wheeling Jesuit.
In addition to the solid conference record, West Point took home the Commander-in-Chief trophy. The Black Knights hammered Air Force 62-19 in the fall and bested Navy 24-18 in its final test before the Varsity Cup. Up next will be a bout with the Fighting Irish.
“We are excited to play this game between two storied universities with strong rugby programs. We are excited for the challenge,” said Sherman. “They have been an improving team the last couple of years and bringing in Justin Hickey to coach them will only accelerate that.”
The Fighting Irish come into the match sitting at 7-6 on the season but they are a team on the rise.Former Clemson coach Justin Hickey took over the program this season and Notre Dame is seeing improvements. The Irish played a challenging schedule, which included tough losses against the likes of Navy, Davenport, Arizona, and Indiana.
The tough schedule should help Notre Dame prepared for a talented Army side. Hickey indicated, however, that it would be challenging to win on the road at West Point.
“They are big, physical and Matt Sherman has them playing some good rugby. They are very talented in the backs and they are very savvy. They try and mix things up with what they do at the breakdown, at the line out and at set piece time,” Hickey said of Army. “It will take a great performance from us to come out on top. We have no illusions about it.”
The trip to West Point will be exciting for a team that comes from a storied university itself. For Hickey, he is excited for his team to experience playing at Anderson Rugby Complex against a Service Academy.
“It is always an honor to travel to any of the Military Academies. Our guys are very excited to go to West Point, very excited for that experience. To be able to play there, to be able to spend some time there and of course share the field with the guys on other side, our guys are very much looking forward to that,” Hickey concluded.
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.”
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.
For the second consecutive year, Texas eliminated Notre Dame to advance to the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. In Austin, Texas, the Longhorns used two second half scores and solid defense to defeat the Fighting Irish 22-17.
Texas started strong and opened the scoring with a try in the opening minutes. Tommy Gilmore bashed through the Notre Dame defense for a try under the posts and a 7-0 lead.
The Fighting Irish controlled much of the play for the next fifteen minutes, earning several penalties at the breakdown. Texas struggled to control a bigger and stronger Irish pack and were penalized as a result. Notre Dame capitalized on the penalties when they drove a maul over the line for a score. Notre Dame missed the conversion and Texas retained a 7-5 lead.
They were really big, really strong and really heavy,” Texas coach Chris Hopps said of Notre Dame. They were a load at the set pieces.”
Notre Dame continued to dominate the ruck area, garnering several more penalties. The referee’s patience wore thin, and he sent a Texas flanker to the sin bin. The Irish spent much of the bin time in Texas’ territory but a knock-on on the goal stymied the Notre Dame attack.
Things settled down for Texas, however, and the Longhorns garnered the only three points earned during the penalty.
“I thought we faced some adversity,” said Hopps. “”We had to make some adjustments to the way that the breakdown was being called. We had to throttle back our aggression. It became more about pressuring them into mistakes rather than winning the ball back.”
At 10-5, Notre Dame fought its way back into the game with a score off a quick tap. The Irish caught the Texas defense napping and darted over to tie the game. The conversion was missed and the game went to halftime nodded at 10 apiece.
Texas controlled the early stages of the second half. Taking a page out of the Notre Dame book, the Longhorns drove down the field by attacking the fringes. The home side established sustained pressure inside the 22-meter line and twice earned penalties 5-meters out. A knock on and a penalty against Texas, however, ended both attacks and Notre dame was able to clear their line.
The defensive pressure from Texas was very strong in the second half, and a strip they earned at a ruck resulted in the first score the second stanza. Off the turnover, the ball found Felix Olazaran, who outflanked the Notre Dame defense and fended off two tacklers to score a 50-meter try. With the conversion, the Longhorns led 17-10.
The Longhorns added to their lead several minutes later with a well executed try off a scrum. Texas drew the Notre Dame defensive line in and the blindside wing Matt Young split a gap to score down the right sideline.
For the remainder of the second half, Notre Dame attempted to cut into the Texas lead but a strong defensive effort kept the Irish at bay for almost the remainder of the game.
“I thought our guys played great from beginning to end in lose play,” added Hopps. “I thought we swarmed in the tackle and were read it well and were able to cover it well. We really forced them to work down the field. Obviously, I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Notre Dame once again caught the Texas defense napping on a quick tap, however, cutting the lead to 22-17. With very little time left, Texas forced Notre Dame into touch on the ensuing kickoff. The Longhorns maintained possession in the dying moments to punch their ticket to the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.
Texas will host the University of California next weekend.
The first game of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup will kickoff under the lights in Austin, Texas between the University of Texas and Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame is a Jesuit University, Texas agreed to play the game on Friday night to allow Notre Dame students to return to campus for the rest of the weekend.
In the 2014 Varsity Cup, Texas traveled to South Bend and came away with a 55-33 victory. Notre Dame will have their chance to exact revenge on Texas, but will have to come away with a tough road victory.
It will be even more of a challenge for the Fighting Irish, as a number of players picked up injuries in the recent weeks. Already a young side, Notre Dame had to make a number of roster adjustments after a bruising encounter while touring in Arizona and after hosting a leg of the ACRL 7s series this past weekend.
“We were so young last year, so the issue we had was we had to get a greater IQ and that is what we were doing by playing more games. What has transpired is more games has led to more injuries,” said Notre Dame coach Sean O’Leary added.
In addition to more games, the Fighting Irish have adopted a strength and conditioning program. “It has helped us start to develop size, start to develop explosiveness,” O’Leary added. “We see that as a promising way to start to compete at this next level, which is something we want to do.”
The visitors will rely heavily on sophomore captain Luc Joseph. Joseph, who just returned from a stint in Canada, with the Men’s Junior All Americans will lead a team comprised of mostly freshman and sophomores.
For Texas, hosting a big time school such as Notre Dame is a big step for the rugby program.
“Our guys are really excited,” said Texas coach Chris Hopps. “Notre Dame needs no introduction, they are one of the premier institutions in the United States and have a great rugby program…This is one of the biggest games we have ever hosted at UT, so we are really focusing on putting on a good performance.”
The Longhorns will look to repeat the success of last year’s performance. The Longhorns jumped out to an early lead and were able to withstand a Notre Dame comeback in the second half to earn a ticket to the second round.
“I know that Notre Dame was very young, we probably caught them at the right time” Hopps of said of last year’s meeting. “I think we caught them pretty quickly and it gave our guys enough of a front foot to build some space and build a lead.”
Hopp’s indicated that he does not believe there is very much between the sides and it was more a reflection of the moment. “That game was more to do with what happened on the day rather than us being a better team.”
Unlike Notre Dame, Texas has a strong class of seniors leading the way. Captains Taylor Hayes and Tommy Gilmore have been around the program a long time and provide strong leadership.
“These guys are definitely the face of the program, they are the best players and are generally the hardest workers,” Hopps stated.
Gilmore and Hayes highlight a strong senior class that includes Tanner Avery and Connor O’Leary, both of who have played in four Collegiate Rugby Championship events and several Varsity Cups.
The game will kickoff at 8PM ET on Friday evening.
Annapolis, MD–It was supposed to be the closest match of the Varsity Cup. Dartmouth was supposed to win. Navy didn’t get the memo.
Though the 32-0 score was actually the closest match in the first round of the inaugural Varsity Cup, the outcome surprised everyone except Navy’s home crowd. Normally shutouts speak of a team that either can’t get anything started or can’t get their star player the ball. Neither of those were the case yesterday as Dartmouth’s team was extremely capable and it’s best player, Madison Hughes, had his hands on the ball plenty of times. Navy’s defense simply proved to be too much for Dartmouth, refusing to let them score even a consolation try in injury time. When Navy’s Brandon Willis stripped the ball from a would-be Dartmouth try in the end zone to end the match, it seemed to be an accurate summation of the entire eighty plus minutes for Dartmouth’s offense.
Offensively, Navy seemed to stick to their game plan of using extremely fit attackers to grind down their opponent, then get the ball wide to the back three for a score on a tired defense. Junior Jack Mcauliffe showed a lot of finesse scoring a try himself as well as moving the ball through the back line to get tries from fullback Ron Helms and wing Justin Lamascus. Navy forwards also showed their power inside the 22 with a slow ball try from Darien Green. The excitement of the Varsity Cup clearly energized Navy who also used the foot much more than previous matches.
The win guarantees Navy another 80 minutes of rugby where they will travel to face Cal on Cal’s home field. The two teams spent time together in Annapolis when a few Navy players escorted Cal on a tour of the Academy. Though their next meeting will be on less friendly terms, both teams have ample respect for each other proving the Varsity Cup’s professional setting.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – With a lineup featuring six underclassmen starters who were joined by three more frosh-sophs as replacements, California advanced to the semifinals of the Varsity Cup National Championships on Saturday with a 77-0 win over Notre Dame at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
The Golden Bears (20-0, 5-0 PAC) got 13 tries from 10 players, including two each from lock Brendan Daly, match-day captain and No. 8 Danny Barrett, and fullback Jake Anderson, who added another 12 points on conversions (6-for-10).
Notre Dame flanker Bobby Manfreda missed a penalty attempt (0-for-1) in the eighth minute that proved to be the best chance for the Irish to score.
“It was an honor to play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium,” said match-day captain Danny Barrett, who took over captain’s duties on a day that Seamus Kelly was held in reserve and did not play. “The tour of the academy yesterday was a highlight.”
Cal will face Navy at the semifinals next Saturday, April 27, at 1 p.m. on Witter Rugby Field. The Midshipmen (8-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) defeated Dartmouth, 32-0, in the second match at the Eastern Super Regional located just off the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy.
“The Naval Academy did a great job of hosting,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “There were key athletic administrators on hand at every turn. This venue will be an important franchise as the Varsity Cup grows.”
The Bears entrusted their fate against the Irish in a Starting XV that included a backline almost entirely comprised of players who had featured primarily as reserves throughout the spring. Sophomore Nicklas Boyer, who continued to build on his resume at scrumhalf, distributed the ball to freshman flyhalf Harry Adolphus (0-for-1 conversions), who kept the ball moving to sophomore Eakalafi Okusi at inside center, freshman Anthony Salaber at outside center and sophomore Jesse Milne at one wing; in the forwards, sophomore Michael Bush got the call to start at one of the flanker positions.
“A lot of us younger guys stepped up,” said Bush. “Anthony Salaber was a key for me.”
After lock Brendan Daly started the scoring in minute four to finish a Cal attack, the Irish remained composed and managed to press into Cal territory and draw a penalty, but Manfreda’s attempted three-point kick from 30 meters was wide left.
Eight minutes later, Bears hooker Grant Hyjer scored Cal’s second try, but the conversion from Anderson was no good into a stiff wind blowing into his face from the north. The fullback missed his next attempt as well following a try by Boyer, but made his next two after a try by Okusi was followed by one of his own, and Cal went into halftime up 29-0.
“Cal came out and went through their phases at a very fast pace,” said Irish head coach Sean O’Leary. “That’s what they do well: they recycle and they win the collision areas. It’s a good learning experience for us. I’ve always been impressed with how Jack Clark and Tom Billups put their program together. They play at a high pace and that’s where we aspire to be.”
“Notre Dame is one of the improving teams in U.S. collegiate rugby and they’re growing the program in the right way,” coach Jack Clark said. “It was a difficult match for them today but their coaching leadership and team ethos are outstanding.”
As has become its trademark over the past five matches, Cal shifted into a higher gear in the second half, adding 48 points including tries by Adolphus, Andre Coquillard (0-for-2 conversions) and Carl Hendrickson.
The Bears left Annapolis honored to have played the Super Regional at the historic venue of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which is ringed with the names of battle sites around the world where Naval and Marine forces have fought and fallen for this country.
“A Navy administrator shared a great story with our team during Friday’s walkthrough,” said Clark. “When Lou Holtz was coaching at William & Mary College in the early ’70s, he brought his team into the stadium, showed them the battle names on the facade and told them, `You think our schedule is tough.'”
“It definitely felt good to come out with a win in a single-elimination tournament, but we know we’ve got a big week of practice ahead to get ready for this next matchup,” added Milne. “This is what as an athlete you live for, to go out there in those do-or-die moments and take it.”
The Scoring Timeline vs. Notre Dame:
04:00 Brendan Daly 5
16:00 Grant Hyjer 5
21:00 Nicklas Boyer 5
24:00 Eakalfi Okusi 5, Jake Anderson 2
27:00 Jake Anderson 5, 2
Halftime Score: California 29, Notre Dame 0
43:00 Danny Barrett 5, Jake Anderson 2
47:00 Jake Anderson 5
52:00 Jesse Milne 5, Jake Anderson 2
59:00 Danny Barrett 5, Jake Anderson 2
62:00 Harry Adolphus 5, Jake Anderson 2
67:00 Brendan Daly 5
71:00 Andre Coquillard 5
78:00 Carl Hendrickson 5
Final Score: California 77, Notre Dame 0
Provo, UT—With less than 48 hours until the start of the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship excitement is building around America’s top collegiate postseason championship.
The Varsity Cup features eight of the most recognized and accomplished collegiate rugby programs in the country vying for the right to be named the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Champion.
The eight Varsity Cup teams are the U.S. Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, the University of California, Dartmouth College, the U.S. Naval Academy, Notre Dame, the University of California, Los Angeles and Central Washington University.
In the 33 years of the collegiate rugby championship play 31 of the collegiate national champions have come from one of the eight Varsity Cup teams. In total, a Varsity Cup program has played for the collegiate title in every year of the championship’s existence except for 1984.
In 2013 the Varsity Cup teams have boasted an overall record of 87-7 in collegiate play and three of the eight Varsity Cup teams finished as their respective conference champion—California (PAC), Dartmouth (Ivy League) and Navy (ACRL). UCLA was no slacker this season finishing as the outright runners-up in the PAC beating all the other PAC teams with the exception of PAC champ California.
Meanwhile, BYU, Air Force, CWU and Notre Dame played as “conference independents” but recorded a cumulative 36-4 record in 2013 against all collegiate division foes.
The eight Varsity Cup programs also boast hundreds of Collegiate All Americans and scores of USA National Team members making the Varsity Cup a veritable proving ground of American rugby. With the country’s best high-performance training facilities, state of the art match venues and strong coaching experience, the eight Varsity Cup programs set the standard for elite player development in America.
The Varsity Cup programs’ appeal is wide reaching. The two most recent Collegiate National Championships attracted over 22,000 spectators to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT (California—2011 & BYU—2012) with both championships being viewed live, on tape delay and on-demand on the ESPN family of networks.
University administrators and coaches alike are also anxious to get the Varsity Cup action started. Here’s what many of them are saying:
“As a campus community we are excited and proud to send our Cal rugby team to the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Championships. We are proud to compete with the elite college rugby programs on a national stage.”
-Solly Fulp, Deputy Director of Athletics/COO, University of California
“Navy is honored to be part of the inaugural Varsity Cup with so many great collegiate rugby programs. Throughout our athletics program, we pride ourselves on competing at the top level, and the Varsity Cup gives our Men’s Rugby program that opportunity. We’re excited to host the Eastern Super-Regional and support our team as they strive for the National Championship.”
-Robert Dunn, Associate Athletic Director, Naval Academy
“We are celebrating our 41st year of rugby at Central Washington University and we are excited about the direction of our program. The Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship provides an excellent opportunity for us to compete with the nations top rugby institutions.”
– James L. Gaudino, President, Central Washington University
“We are delighted to be participating in the Varsity Cup, the Premier National Collegiate Rugby Championship in the country, and are very pleased to be hosting such esteemed rugby programs on our campus. The performance of the participating teams this past season is a testament to the strength of the Varsity Cup field, one deserving of National Championship accolades.”
-Scott Stewart, Head Coach, UCLA Men’s Rugby
“It is a huge honor and privilege for The University of Notre Dame to be playing Cal in the VC this weekend. It is a brilliant opportunity for our Rugby Program to play against one of the best and most storied programs and our players are thrilled to be playing in American Rugby’s National Collegiate Rugby Championship”
-Sean O’Leary, Head Coach, University of Notre Dame Men’s Rugby
“Dartmouth is very excited about our participation in the Varsity Cup. Competing in this premier collegiate tournament is the pinnacle of our 15’s season. We know we need to be at the top of our game to contend against Navy on Saturday.”
-Gavin Hickie, Head Coach, Dartmouth College Men’s Rugby
“I think the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Championship is something that every fan in college rugby has their eye on. If you look at the teams across the board with BYU, Cal, Air Force have all won titles and you’d be hard pressed to find programs that have consistently competed at a level as high as Navy, Dartmouth, UCLA, Notre Dame and Central Washington. Man, our guys are excited to be part of it. Our whole team will be anxiously watching the event itching for a shot next year. At the University of Texas just participating doesn’t cut it. Our Administration, alumni and supports expect us to win at the absolute highest level and this is the prize everyone has set their sites on. It’s a tremendous thing.”
-Chris Hopps, Head Coach, University of Texas Men’s Rugby
With the level of interest growing daily from the fans, players, coaches coupled with the foundation of the Varsity Cup based on solid coaches, high performance development environments, development of top-level rugby talent and an historic record of entertaining and championship rugby there’s a reason the Varsity Cup is known as “American Rugby’s National Collegiate Championship.”
For more information on the Varsity Cup follow it on Facebook and Twitter or go to VarsityCup.US for tickets, broadcast and other information.