Army Defeats Tenacious St. Bonaventure
Army Defeats Tenacious St. Bonaventure
In a meeting of two trophy-laden teams from last season, Army West Point beat St. Bonaventure 24-7 Sunday at Anderson Rugby Complex at the US Military Academy.
The scoreline belies how close and difficult this game was. Bonnies hit very hard and were a constant threat to Army if the Black Knights faltered at all on defense. But the Knights didn't falter much, and did a superb job of forcing St. Bonaventure to play a long field.
This was a game between the D1A champs Army and the winners of NCR's first-ever D1 playoff last fall in St. Bonaventure. Army had beaten Bonnies 27-0 last season in Rugby East play, and were certainly looking for a similar result playing at home.
Army scored first, punishing a Bonaventure penalty and mauling it over—Max Brown doing the honors. They followed that up with another and a 12-0 at halftime.
"I think the first hlf we dominated territory," said Army Head Coach Matt Sherman. "I thought we defended really well. I was really happy with the defense and territory; I think on attack they gave us a hard time at the breakdown."
In the second half St. Bonaventure was determined to continue doing that, and even as they found themselves pinned in their half again, they fought for every ball and looked adventurous in trying to run it out.
But it wasn't always to be, and perhaps a little bit of luck was on Army's side. Bonnies was making ground toward halfway when a juggled ball landed in Nate Gould's hands. The outside center immediately popped a kick down to the St. Bonaventure line. It bounced, and bounced kindly for wing Adam Bazan, who cruised in for a crucial try. St. Bonaventure had players to cover the kick, but the rugby ball is a funny shape.
What the play did outline was that Army is thinking aggressively and a bit more wide open these days, and their kicking game was fairly solid.
"We got a turnover ball and put it behind them and great finish," said Sherman. We've really worked hard the last couple of years to be a good transition team; it's an important part of the game. I think we handled some transitions well in the first half that helped us out as well."
Up 19-0 Army looked in good shape, but if they thought it would be easy to get that fourth try, they had another thing coming.
Not Over Yet
With flankers Matthew Conroy and Mark Blum tackling and getting work done in the breakdown, and scrumhalf Matheo Lorenzato looking to open up some opportunities, Bonnies remained a handful.
They stopped a maul from Army that seemed sure to be a score, and the scrums were a constant back-and-forth.
Finally, as time wound down, St. Bonaventure got something going. Lorenzato tapped quickly on a penalty and worked the ball from sideline to sideline. Suddenly the final passes that hadn't been going to hand were finding their mark, and Army was scrambling. Nick Otineru had a crucial run as did hooker Joseph Hawthorne. Lorenzato at one point tried to pop a little kick, which was probably not the right option, but it was partially blocked right back into his hands. The forwards worked hard to consolidate that and finally Greg Steffens found a seam and was through for a try that involved just about everyone on the team.
"It definitely takes all 23," said Blum, pointing out that several from the bench were involved in that try. "Today we knew we were going to need everyone and ... it just takes a little bit of grit and finishing to get that last try."
The try came too late. With about three minutes to go there wasn't enough time for a comeback. Army got a penalty and got their maul working again for four try to make it 24-7, but as we said at the beginning, it was closer than that.
For Army, there were several standout players. Tiaan Mosconi at scrumhalf was a nonstop chatterbox in the best possible way and organized the side well on attack and defense. The back row of Lucas Pattinson, Dominic Tianga, and Connor Fay got a lot of work done, while Gerard McCarron, Brown, and Larry Williams up front did also.
Gould's kick for Bazan to chase was superb, and wing Mike Amberg along with fullback Jonny Haley helped Army win the kicking battle.
For St. Bonaventure, Blum and lock forward Rick Rose were impressive in the trenches, and center Keeling Coyle was opening up some opportunities. The front row of Ethan Doumbe, Hawthorne, and James Aitken gave as good as they got.
Mount St. Mary's pulled off something of an update, holding Mary Washington scoreless and winning 11-0. Notre Dame College shut out Virginia Tech 54-0 behind two tries each from flyhalf Lachland McDonald and lock Luke Duhigg. Those results shook up the standings a bit. Mount St. Mary's improves to 2-2, right behind Kutztown and St. Bonaventure, both at 2-1. NDC gets its first win and leapfrogs UMW and Penn State to 6th. Army (4-0) and Navy (3-0) remain undefeated.