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Notre Dame Makes Statement

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Notre Dame Makes Statement

The University of Notre Dame made a statement this weekend with a 43-32 defeat of Ohio State in a non-conference clash.

Ohio State has been hit hard by the respiratory illness going around, and are young, said coach Tom Rooney, but they also were very unfortunate to lose to Bowling Green a week ago where they showed how tough they can be. Notre Dame had a shot to take down a well-regarded opponent, and they did, unleashing a fast-ball form of rugby that netted 43 points.

“It was our first 15s game since April, and that led to the usual early jitters and mistakes,” said Fighting Irish Head Coach Sean O’Leary. “We settled down midway through the first half and started to build pressure and were able to get back into the game before halftime.”

O’Leary praised his team’s north-south approach, adding that “we made good decisions in the collision area with good offloads if available, and quick ruck ball if not. We knew we'd have to front up in the forwards against a Tom Rooney-coached team.”

Notre Dame’s forward pack features six players who began their rugby careers as back-rowers. Two of those are in the front row, and on the speedy artificial surface of Notre Dame’s home pitch, they were needed. In the set pieces, Notre Dame held on in the scrums, but were excellent in the lineouts. The Irish led 43-32 with just under 20 minutes to go, and then struggled to maintain that momentum. At the same time, Ohio State picked up the pace and threatened to punch in a try that could have made everyone in South Bend nervous, but Notre Dame held them out.

For Notre Dame, three freshman logged solid games - prop Jack Mitchell was an Illinois select side player at No. 8 but is now in the front row for the Irish; Ryan Wilson was captain of Westerville and plays flanker; Dan Conmy is a flyhalf from St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia.

Sophomore Luc Joseph captains the squad at hooker - he is another former No. 8 converted to the front row - while senior lock Pat Wirth and senior No. 8 Gerry Kelliher were the best of the forwards. Junior scrumhalf Andy Preising also played well.

“It was good to get a win again,” said O’Leary, whose team hasn’t won a game since the spring of 2013. “We knew last year was going to be really hard because it was my youngest squad since getting here, but the new field has brought out a ton of athletes so the future is bright.”