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ECRC - AIC Wins Close One

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ECRC - AIC Wins Close One

Two tries from Khabir helped pace AIC. David Barpal photo.

AIC started their ECRC season with a hard-won victory over a tough NEC squad.

American International had their longtime Head Coach Josh Macy move to Lindenwood, and are operating under previous assistant, and current interim Head Coach Rob Guiry.

Certainly questions remained about how the team would handle the transition, but, as Guiry told Goff Rugby Report, it was “business as usual.”

“We graduated three starters last year and bring back 11 seniors for this year,” said Guiry. “It's a veteran group that has put AIC on the map in the past past three years. They won't let it falter. I bring a different coaching style than Josh but the goals and expectations of the program remain the same.”

It took a little while for both teams to get going. It wasn’t until the 18th minute that anyone scored. NEC took the lead when No. 8 Jake Harland went over, with flyhalf Andrew Ramsden converting. The Yellowjackets replied in the 24th minute with a try from Kurtis Werner, but NEC replied with a try from center Nic Van Nes (Ramsden converting) and led 14-5 late in the first half. But then, a yellow card to NEC put the Pilgrims a man down, and AIC, as they often do, struck quickly. Marcus McIntyre scored, and then with no time left in the half, AIC got a penalty, tapped quickly, and put Royaal Jones in space. The freshman raced around the outside to make it a 19-14 AIC lead.

“We were in the lead almost the entire first half, but just like that we were behind,” said new NEC Head Coach Tal Bayer. “That’s what AIC can do - they can score from anywhere.”

Several of those who can score from anywhere started their rugby careers at Perry Street Prep, where Bayer was their coach. Bayer said he felt no animosity being beaten by his former players.

In the second half, two events put a stamp on it all. Five minutes into the second half Jihad Khabir (one of those Perry Street kids) broke through and around to make it 24-14, and then NEC got a red card  that put them down a man for the final 30 minutes. The Pilgrims hung tough and got a try in right after Khabir’s second, but it wasn’t enough, and AIC held on 29-21 to win the President’s Trophy rivalry game.

“The guys really toughed it out and didn’t fold when we got the red card,” said NEC co-captain Isaiah Lopez. “A lot of the boys are really young, but I’m proud of them.”

Added Bayer - “we were down a man for half the game and you can’t put yourself in that position. We’ve got some very young players, but I like the character and the vibe of this team.”

Also in the ECRC, Connecticut got off to a winning start, beating Albany 30-20. Albany led 14-13 at halftime and 17-16 into the second half, but two quick UConn tries put the Huskies up to stay.