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Battle For The Castle A Promising Bow Matchup

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Battle For The Castle A Promising Bow Matchup

MSM embraces the challenge. David Hughes photo.

The Battle for the Castle Bowl Game at the CRAA Fall Classic might well be the rightest game of the day.

While these teams haven’t crossed paths, most observers believe that Mount St. Mary’s and Michigan State are pretty close. For MSM, wins over Belmont Abbey and Thomas More in the preseason were promising, and a 4-2 Rugby East schedule that included wins over St. Bonaventure and Queens put them in the upper echelon of the conference.

MSU, meanwhile, made the Big 10 final and logged wins over Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, and Illinois to finish 2nd in the conference. This season was a huge step forward for the Spartans.

Key for both, though, is hitting a wall against a highly-regarded opponents. For Mount St. Mary’s, that was Life University. For Michigan State, that was the Big 10 final against Indiana.

“We learned a lot from the IU match,” said Michigan State Head Coach Jim Rogers. “We knew we were underdogs, and we needed possession of the ball to keep it close. Unfortunately, we weren’t really able to get the ball for any time in the first half, which is what led to the (55-21) scoreline.”

But MSU did end the game with a couple of tries that showed they can play at that level.

“I thought the fight we put in was great and we never gave up,” said Rogers.

MSU has been practicing in snow leading up to this Bowl Game in Charlotte, NC. They will welcome the warmer weather.

Mount St. Mary’s is a team with similarities to Indiana, added Rogers. “They’re fast, they pounce on any mistake made, and are very good with the ball in their hands. So we have to limit mistakes and keep possession of the ball.”

The Mount will be making some changes. Fullback Logan Wild will slide in at flyhalf and be asked to run the attack in tandem with talented scrumhalf Chris Cleland. Freshman Bastain Brunello will move to fullback in what is an interesting tactical move.

A move forced by injury sees sophomore James Stelluti come in to replace injured outside center and captain Jude Fangmeyer. Head Coach Jay Myles will likely ask Stelluti to run hard and straight.

“He is a hammer in search of a nail,” Myles said with enthusiasm.

Another who might fit that description is Dylan Staub, who is new to rugby this season but has taken the #7 job well after the injury to Hayden McKay.

So it’s a young MSM team seeking to prove itself, and if they can keep the defensive pressure on they will do well. It will help to have learned from a loss to Life U.

“We need to run the plan and run it at the pace we want to play,” said Myles. “We certainly learned tat against Life and how they play at pace. It was eye-opening for us.”

So this Bowl Game is a chance for both to show what they’ve learned, and both are grateful for the chance.

“We’re obviously excited to play outside of the conference, it’s a new challenge and someone different,” said Rogers.

“Hats off to Paul Santinelli and Paul Keeler at CRAA,” said Myles. “We are really enjoying being in CRAA and playing the types of games we’re playing.”

Michigan State vs Mount St. Mary’s in the Battle For The Castle kicks off at 6PM ET Saturday and is live on The Rugby Network.