Here Comes Mount St. Mary's
Here Comes Mount St. Mary's
The National Small College Rugby Organization continues to produce strong teams at the highest levels, with some of those teams moving up to higher divisions, and this weekend Mount St. Mary’s showed that they might be in position to be the next.
MSM defeated longtime DII power Salisbury 22-17 Saturday.
Led by the strong kicking abilities of Hunter Kruger, a recruit from the West Shore program in Pennsylvania, the Mount took the lead early on. Capitalizing on two penalties in the early minutes of the match, Kruger banged one through from 36 meters out in the 1st minute and then seven minutes later he did it again to make it 6-0.
Continuous pressure and ball control allowed flyhalf Tyler Myles (West Carroll) to put up a well-weighted kick that was mishandling by Salisbury. A good chase by the Mount created the opportunity for inside center Mike Webb to score. Kruger’s kick made it 13-0, and at 24 minutes it was 16-0 with another penalty from Kruger.
Salisbury isn’t among the top-ranked teams in DII college for nothing and they powered back. The Sharks scored in the 28th minutes, and worked the phases to power through the MSM line and open things up for a nicely-take try through the backline. That made it 16-12.
Salisbury, looking to continue their momentum from the first half, scored the go-ahead try with a pick-and-go from 5 meters out 13 minutes into the second half. The conversion missed but it was a 17-16 Salisbury lead.
The next ten minutes would see both side’s conditioning tested as the teams battled back and forth with long runs punctuated by strong defensive stands.
In the 67th minute a penalty was given inside Salisbury’s 22, which allowed Kruger to make the penalty kick to regain the lead at 19-17. Both teams bashed against each other, and it would end when Kruger would slot over his 5th penalty kick to seal the game.
The result isn’t a fluke, said Head Coach Jay Myles; it’s part of a plan. The team is ramping up its schedule as it looks to move up in the divisions.
“We want to work on team development and player development by finding tough competition, and we got what we expected and then some,” said Myles. “Salisbury’s fitness is so high and their athleticism and physicality so high, they go for 80 minutes.”
Outsized, Mount St. Mary’s relied on their skill to win, and their work with Pro Performance Rugby in Australia, which helped CJ Beasley and Tyler Myles train with the Northern Suburbs club in Australia overt the summer, has paid dividends.
“We decided to be more tactical with out approach, and we knew with Hunter that anything within 40 meters we would take the kick,” said Coach Myles. “Defensively, we knew that by taking space and creating some line speed we would force some division in their backline.”
It worked … most of the time, but they also benefitted from having former HS All American in Luis Turbyfield at fullback to cover line breaks and also neutralize the Salisbury kick chase.
So what does that mean? It means Mount St. Mary’s might be worth a look. With strong support from their administration - the school president has publicly lauded the program and what it means to the school of fewer than 1,800 undergraduates - the Mountaineers are thinking about moving up to DII and ultimately DI, and providing more scholarships to players. This weekend’s result was just a step toward that.
“The boys did very well,” said Myles. “As we continue to go through this path of player development, we know we can keep it going.”