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Navy Edges NDC In Thriller

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Navy Edges NDC In Thriller


A late penalty goal saw Navy edge Notre Dame College 29-27 Saturday in South Euclid, Ohio, n a game that saw seven lead changes.

The Falcons and the Midshipmen went at it all day, with neither team backing down.

The match started off with Notre Dame College receiving the opening kickoff and kicking deep. The ball held up in the air a little, and the Navy deep three allowed it to bounce on the turf, giving the NDC chasers a chance to regain. From there the Falcons attacked hard and a nice flat ball to onrushing center Christian Olsen aw him charge down the sideline and then offload to  loosehead prop Sam Klimkowki, who finished it off. This opening try was quickly answered with a try from Navy’s Joey Hobbs in the 8th minute. Navy benefited from a series of NDC penalties and some hard running from center Fred Bleakley, and then Hobbs burst onto a flat pass and was over. Lewis Gray converted the try making the score 7-5 Navy.

The next 20 minutes showed no scoring but plenty of physicality as both sides fronted up well. Then in the 27th minute the teams got embroiled in a dustup after two players started appeared to be fighting on the ground after the play had moved on. Several players joined in, and Navy flanker Jermaine Oliver was one of many who got involved, but was the only one to receive a yellow card. The Falcons pressured from there, got another penalty, and then a third right in front of the posts. Flanker Archie Paterson pointed to the posts and his kick was good for an 8-7 for Notre Dame College.

The incident that led to the yellow card was odd, in that if anyone deserved a card it was the guy who started it, Navy fullback Denver Fuller. And when it started, Oliver was right there and wisely didn't get involved. He was only drawn into it when NDC's Olsen and Calum Haddock charged in. How Oliver ended up the villain is a mystery.

Navy responded with two blistering tries in the first half. Bleakley carved through the NDC defense, beating five defenders in the process, for one. And then Bo Kendrick-Holmes powered over after intense pressure from the Midshipmen. Only one of the kicks was converted by Lewis Gray, making it 19-8 in favor of Navy going into halftime.

Navy started the second half carrying the momentum over from the first. In the 43rd minute, Gray attempted a penalty kick for points from 34 meters out, but his attempt sailed just left of the posts, keeping the score at 19-8.

NDC responded well. Olsen stuck his hand out to deflect a pass—90% of the time this move ends up with a deliberate knock-on penalty, but Olsen was quick enough to catch the ball before it hit the ground and keep running, going in under the posts. Paterson converted to make it 19-15. And then the Falcons were back in the lead. Solid phase work produced a penalty, and NDC mauled the ball to the line. Eventually they were held up, but from the ensuing five-meter scrum, No. 8 Mark Mutuku popped the ball to scrumhalf Patrick O'Shea and he did the rest. Try Notre Dame College, and a 20-19 lead.

Navy advanced off the restart and camped out on the NDC line for several minutes. After a patient buildup from the Midshipmen, Kendrick-Holmes ran onto a Kevin Strehle pass and was over. Gray slotted the extras and the Midshipmen led 26-20.

Back came Notre Dame College. Again the Falcons were able to ask questions of the Navy defense. Flanker Andrew Guerra would not be denied and thundered through six would-be tacklers before finally going to ground. His support was slow getting there but Navy interfered with the scrumhalf. Penalty, quick tap from the ever-vigilant Haddock, and the lock was through and over. Conversion good and it was 27-26 with 15 minutes to go.

The teams continued to fly at each other with little regard for bodily integrity, and the minutes ticked away. Navy got right to the NDC line only to be rebuffed—Navy passing up a chance at goal in what appeared to be a crucial error. They took the lineout, and NDC forced a knock-on and cleared their lines. The Falcons were shorthanded, but in a position to sealthe clock then. But when they got a kickable penalty that might have iced it, Paterson, their regular kicker, was the man in the sin bin. NDC opted to run a play and keep possession, but lost the ball when the ref called a maul unplayable. 

Navy got the ball back, and moved down the field. Then the superb Bleakley cut through again and fed Hobbs, who was dragged down just 15 meters away. Navy attacked the center, wisely, got the penalty right on the tryline, and Gray ut the kick over. 29-27 with two minutes remaining. NDC had one more shot, but Alex Bollmann was quick over the ball after a tackle and forced a holding-on penalty. Navy got the ball back, and ran out the clock.


"We played well enough to win," said Notre Dame College Head Coach Jason Fox. "However, we made a mistake at the end of the game. We keep the ball and run time out, we win. So once again our mistakes hurt us at the end. I was very proud that the players kept focus after going up 5-0 at the beginning of the game only to be down 19-8 at half and taking back the lead twice at 20-19 and 27-26. It really could have gone either way. We get it in with five to play, we win; they convert on our mistake, they win. I was very happy with the team's effort against an excellent Navy team."

“The coaching staff are immensely proud of the effort put in by the entire squad, not only today but throughout the whole fall season," said Navy Director of Rugby Gavin Hickie. "We designed the toughest collegiate schedule for a purpose and falling 10 points short of beating two of the best teams in the country shows us where we are. The job is not done, but this year’s team have laid down a marker and we will look to progress in the spring. We want to thank all our families, friends and alums for their incredible support throughout the season.”

Navy almost certainly will be ranked highly enough to make the DIA playoffs in the spring. They also have more Mid-South games, plus the annual clash with Army, in the New Year.