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Navy Beats Army To Go To 10-0

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Navy Beats Army To Go To 10-0

Navy won a big game in front of a big crowd. David Hughes photo.

The US Naval Academy defeated the US Military Academy 27-14 Saturday to improve to 8-0 in the Rugby East and 10-0 overall, beating their heated rivals for the first time since 2019.

On a windy day at the Prusmack Rugby Center in Annapolis Navy scored 13 minutes in when Ryan Bullock broke through and Lewis Gray converted. But Army responded with a period of concerted pressure and then the forwards bashing it over after a quick tap.

That made it 7-7 and a penalty from Gray later made it 10-7.

ON the stroke of halftime, Army was on the Navy line. After the forwards inched closer the Black Knights went wide, and fullback Roanin Krieger raced across to make a try-saving tackle and preserve the lead going into halftime. Navy Director of Rugby Gavin Hickie was under no illusions about how important that was.

"It was massive," Hickie told GRR. "We knew it was going to be a 10 MPH wind and we weren't sure how uch of a factor that would be. Going into the second half with a lead—we were just up—and the wind at our backs ... we were feeling good about that. We're very confident in our kicking game. So without a doubt that tackle by Roanin was a momentum shift."

A Gray penalty nudged Navy's lead to six points at 13-7. But after that the Navy kicking game did indeed take advantage of the wind. It made for a long field for Army and eventually the tries came. Sean MacLaney thundered through under the posts and Gray's conversion made it 20-7. Army responded, as of course they would be expected to, capping off some really good work woth No.8 and captain Lucas Pattinson charging through to make it a one-score game once more at 20-14.

With 10 minutes to go, a superb pass out of contact from No. 8 Ben Haugh set up wing Dale Sturdifen, who had two men to beat, which he did, the group of three crashing over the line in the corner. Gray calmly slotted the difficult conversion, and Navy held on from there.

For the rivalry, what had been something of an Army-dominated series, having won nine of the last 11 meetings between the two, now Navy can point to being a little closer at least, now having split the last four. In addition, Navy has unseated the defending D1A National Champions and taken sole possession of 1st place in the Rugby East.

"We respect Army massively and we have nothing but praise toward Matt Sherman and his players," said Hickie. "But we prepared well for them."

Hickie was reminded that in a recent interview his players had said this was "just another game." He said he was pleased his players said that, but knew it wasn't really the case.


"Not of course it's not just another game," said Hickie. "It's very significant. It's always a challenge for us to contain the emotion of the game, but we did that and I was proud of them."

The game itself was quite disciplined and under control. Emotions were channeled the right way, and that made for an entertaining afternoon. For Hickie, that discipline has been a huge part of his team's success this fall.

"We have to be disciplined," he said. "I have been very, very fortunate to be involved in the game all over this country and I have to say the service academies is a completely different ballgame. We look every weekend at the penalties against us and if we don't reach our benchmarks we beat ourselves up on that. It was a very clean game and that was what we want, who we are."

The other factor for Navy's performances this year, said Hickie, has been the addition of James Willocks. 

"We're 10-0 right now and a large part of that has gone down to James Willocks," said Hickie. "He's made a massive impact in this program as I knew he would."

Next up Navy plays St. Bonaventure, which beat Southern Virginia to improve to 6-1, the same record as Army. But Rugby East's schedule does not have every team playing the same number of games. But if St. Bonaventure beats Navy next week, Bonnies could at least lay claim to being the best in the conference, even if they won't have the points. Still, Navy has their sights set on running the table, and today they took a huge step toward that goal.

Army-Navy Games Since 2004

2004 Spring: Army 10 Navy 0 (Cherry Blossom Tournament); Navy 22 Army 8 (National playoffs)
2004 Fall: Army 24 Navy 10
2005 Fall: Army 30 Navy 22
2006 Fall: Army 26 Navy 18
2007 Fall: Navy 34 Army 32 
2008 Fall: Navy 19 Army 17
2009 Spring: Army 38 Navy 28
2010 Spring: Navy 13 Army 11
2011 Spring: Army 34 Navy 27
2012 Spring: Army 33 Navy 31 
2013 Spring: Army 28 Navy 26
2014 Spring: Navy 43 Army 22
2015 Spring: Army 41 Navy 24
2016 Spring: Army 27 Navy 22
2017 Spring: Army 24 Navy 18
2018 Spring: Army 18 Navy 15
2019 Spring: Navy 17 Army 10
2020 Fall: Army 39 Navy 13
2021 Fall: Army 24 Navy 17
2022 Fall: Navy 27 Army 14