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UMass-Lowell, Bentley Battle in Tight NE DII

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UMass-Lowell, Bentley Battle in Tight NE DII

The Rugby Northeast season is coming to a close, and it may be that the league was decided way back on September 19.

It was then tat Bentley defeated UMass-Lowell 54-24. Since then, both have been undefeated, and one wonders of Lowell would like another crack at the league leaders.

“We caught Lowell at a good time,” said Bentley Head Coach Brian Pendergast. “They were just getting into the season, and they are a very tough team.”

Indeed, Lowell kept winning after that game, and beat Stonehill 36-24 this past weekend.

It wasn’t an easy game. Stonehill led 10-3 with about ten minutes to go in the first half before tries from center Mark Chandler and flanker Diego Papasodaro, both converted by Matt Charest, put Lowell up 17-10. Wing, Dave Barrionuevo scored in the second half for Lowell, but they struggled to shake Stonehill. Two tries from Chandler finished them off eventually, but it was a close-run thing.

“Every team is competitive in this conference,” said UMass-Lowell Head Coach Josh Skinner. “This year more than most.”

Skinner agreed with Pendergast’s feeling that Lowell was unlucky to meet Bentley so early in the season.

Almost half their team is freshmen and sophomores, and so “in the first weeks of the season we’re trying to get them up to speed while we’re getting the experience players ready. We’ve been getting better.”

It’s been a battle, though. Lowell’s results include a 12-10 result over Bryant and a 23-15 defeat of Holy Cross. Led by Nick Mogren and Matt Charest, both players who see the field well, Lowell looks has big goals.

But they would still have to get by Bentley. And despite being pushed by Holy Cross, and Lowell and others, they keep winning games.

“Holy Cross was the first time we’d been behind - they really put us on our heels,” said Pendergast. “This is a very tough conference.”

So it takes a tough team to win it. Led by an excellent forward pack, with prop and captain John Mancini leading the way and with No. 8 Connor Roberts causing all kinds of problems, Bentley is a very direct team.

“We kind of keep it between the hash-marks,” said Pendergast. “We are real forward-oriented. It’s a simple approach, but the guys are relentless.”

They do have backs, and the backline is catching up to the backline, with center Dan Reardon (and inside center, so basically a forward in the backline) being the big attacker. But this all fits in the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it category.

Bentley is now 5-0 with three games to go. They are favored in all three. Lowell is 4-1 and could be tripped up in the final weeks. They can’t afford to, and in fact need Bentley to falter to catch them.