Life Downs Army in ACRC Bowl
Life Downs Army in ACRC Bowl
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Life University unleashed a snappy, fast attack that, after a tough first half, resulted in an impressive 53-19 defeat of previously-unbeaten Army at the American Collegiate Rugby Conference (ACRC) Bowl Series in Charlotte, N.C. Saturday.
Army came in ranked #1 among ACRC teams, and Rugby East Conference champions. Their match with Life was a de-facto fall national championship game, and was part of a nine-game Bowl Series weekend.
The Black Knights trailed the entire game, but their physical play put Life under pressure.
“Army really came at us, and you want your players to react under pressure,” said Life Director of Rugby and new Athletic Director Dan Payne. “We had some trouble exiting out of our 22, and I think that was partly due to what Army could do, and partly due to the fact that we have a lot of good ball-runners who need to have the patience to send it down the other end of the field.”
Once their got going, Life was very good. They used the width of the wide field at the Rugby Athletic Center, and probed for gaps. Flyhalf Blane McIlroy zipped through a tiny gap to open the scoring, and he added the conversion and a penalty moments later. Hiko Malu surged over for Life’s second, but Army came back. ACRC MVP and Army captain Collum Magee capped off Army pressure in the 29th minute to make it 17-5.
Life replied, with No. 8 Glen Maricelli capping off a long attack by taking an inside pass and powering through a small gap. Once again Army replied, this time with David Huff scoring on the outside. Andrew Borer’s conversion made it 24-12 at halftime.
At that point, it seemed as if Army could control the ball, they could slow the game down and take control. It didn’t happen that way. Sub wing Duncan Van Schalkwyk chased a high kick, came up with the ball and was gone in the corner.
Moments later, wing Harley Davidson raced in on the opposite wing. Davidson scored again a few minutes later, as Army struggled to contain Life’s speedy wingers and also stay honest inside.
“Army was very big, but we focus on being strong even if we’re not as big,” said Payne. “And our guys did a good job.”
Mark Gribben scored off a scrum move to make it 48-12, but Army did not stop. They worked their way downfield, helped by a couple of Life penalties, and lock Ben Foley muscled his way through to make it 48-19 with Borer’s kick. Va Schalkwyk had the last word with a try in the corner to finish it up 53-19.
For Army it was a tough lesson, but one they needed as they look ahead to spring. The Black Knights are still very young, and played well all fall. But Life was very precise, hitting runners on the hop and forcing Army to be perfect in their tackles.
“When we play the way we can play, we are very good,” said Payne. “We had some moments today.”
Life also ran on their JV team to face Western Michigan. Van Schalkwyk was a starter in that game and scored there, as well. The team of mostly freshmen and sophomores were just faster and more polished than Western Michigan, showing the difference between a varsity program that has a men’s team to scrimmage against, and a hard-working club team.
Life’s JVs won 42-10.
“We are just really grateful for the game,” said Payne of the Western Michigan match. “We had guys coming up who weren’t going to get much playing time, if any, and instead got at least 50 minutes. It was really, really good for us.”