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JMU Edges Pitt for Keystone Title

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JMU Edges Pitt for Keystone Title

James Madison University capped off their fall in DIAA rugby with a conference championship as JMU defeated Pitt 39-27 Sunday to win the Keytone.

A DII program just last year, JMU avenged their October 17 loss to the Panthers (31-27). 

The game, however, was much closer than the score indicates, as the final play of the game was a turnover and try for JMU. The score was 32-27 until then.

"We made some adjustments defensively against them," said JMU head Coach Mark Lambourne. "We nullified their driving maul and we eliminated the loop play they use. ANd we out-rucked them in the counter-ruck, which is a strength of theirs."

JMU ran out to a 10-0 lead with two tries from all-everything prop Mo Katz. But an interception for a try from Matt Dunleavy, converted by Christian Quiros. Then Quiros knocked over two penalty kicks, one from halfway, to put Pitt up 13-10 at halftime.

But, said Lambourne, that was just a mental lapse, and after the break JMU surged, behind the hard running of lock and player of the game Joe Taylor.

Gabriel Harrison, Christopher Hernandez, and Chris Marcelin scored tries to, with Matt Narzikul converting two of those to make it 29-13 with about 15 minutes to go. Then, against, JMU appeared to slack off and Pitt took full advantage. Tom Brunt went over, with Quiros converting, and then the forwards bundled Joel Skundrich over, and against Quiros was good on the kick to make it, all of a sudden, 29-27.

"It was tight but we were not panicking," said Lambourne. "Full credit to Pitt for coming back. But we kept at what we needed to do."

Harrison slotted a penalty to make it 32-27, and thus force Pitt to score a try to tie it - something very important given how well Quiros was kicking. And then it was a case of defending until the end. With time essentially up, JMU was able to turn the ball over, kick downfield, and Narzikul won the race to tbe ball for the try that ended the game.

"It was a great game," said Lambourne.

And an impressive result for James Madison, which had beaten St. Joseph's 33-13 on Saturday. JMU will now look to play in some early-season 7s in the New Year before returning to 15s for the DIAA national playoffs. After that, Madison will likely look to 7s again, where they won the USA Rugby national DII championship this past spring. Now in DI, they have to be considered a contender.

James Madison 39

Tries: Katz 2, Harrison, Hernandez, Marcelin, Narzikul

Convs: Narzikul 3

Pens: Harrison

 

Pitt 27

Tries: Dunleavy, Brunt, Skundrich

Convs: Quiros 3

Pens: Quiros 2