Navy Holds Off Tenacious NDC
Navy Holds Off Tenacious NDC
Navy defeated Notre Dame College 36-21 Saturday at NDC, moving to 5-0 in the Rugby East and putting the Midshipmen in position to win the conference.
“We came here a few yers ago and scraped by; It’s one of the hardest places to come and play,” said Navy Head Coach Gavin Hickie.
Playing into stiff breeze Navy started off pressuring in the NDC end and stayed there. Notre Dame College defended doggedly but they weren’t able to use the wind properly to get clear. As a result, Navy’s pressure was never really lifted, and eventually a penalty set it up for Lewis Gray to put it over.
Navy continued to threaten the NDC goalline, but a possible try was disallowed for a double movement. That helped the Falcons get out of trouble, and some little passes back and forth, ganging direction and opening up space to run, got them into Navy territory. There the Midshipmen were penalized and Lachy McDonald slotted the goal.
The Falcons restarted into Navy territory and soon thereafter got a penalty for offside on a lineout; once again McDonald kicked it and the Falcons led 6-3.
That seemed to indicate to Navy that they were in a game and they couldn’t afford to get into penalty trouble. The Mids broke through the middle and got close to the line. With a penalty called against NDC, Navy opted for the scrum and lock Reece Thacker eventually charged over. Gray converted and it was 10-6.
NDC answered almost immediately with another McDonald penalty goal and then back came Navy. Flanker Jack McMahon thundered up the middle and then the ball was sent quickly to Ratu Osea Melibua to finish it off. That made it 15-9, and that’s how the half ended.
With the wind being in Navy’s favor for the second period, NDC had to be feeling as if they left some chances unclaimed.
The first portion of the second half saw Navy take command. Prop William Webb went over after the backs probed on one side. The forwards finished it off from there.
Back came Navy but they let a couple of good scoring platforms falter—a scrum perfectly set up for an eightman pick didn’t quite work as the ball kind of shot out of the scrum. A five-meter lineout wasn’t secured, either. But NDC’s kicking was a bit high, leaving the kicks vulnerable to the wind. Navy kept up the barrage and No. 8 Ben Haugh powered through after they opted to tap it from a penalty.
Gray’s kicking was on point and it was 29-9. Haugh scored his second and Navy led by 27.
But Notre Dame College finally found some possession and territory, and as a result worked their way into the Navy half. A brilliant piece of skill from scrumhalf Remy Thomson who grubbered through and outpaced three Navy players to pounce on the ball. That made it 36-16 with the conversion.
Navy penalties led to an attacking lineout and the forwards bashed it over for another to make it 36-21—Lukas Duhigg doing the honors.
Ultimately, Navy wasn’t in that much danger, but Notre Dame College’s hard-nosed goalline defense and their commitment to playing a full game were admirable.
“We showed in the last 20 minutes that when we actually have ball in hand we can actually do something," said center Hugh Johnston. "But credit to Navy they kept ball in hand. Just too many tackles for us.”
Against Army NDC had to make 100 more tackles than did West Point. It was something of the same story here. The Falcons, with flanker Cameron Mills and the front row of Tanner Smith, Hamish Watson, and Riccardo De Stefani were certainly willing to do the dirty work.
But as Johnston said, the danger men, including him and fullback Asher Hannon, just didn’t see enough attacking ball.
For Navy, the end wasn’t ideal.
“We need to maintain that intensity through the game and through the squad,” said Gray. “It was a good win but we can do a lot better.”
“In some ways it was frustrating,” added Hickie. “To deal with that wind in the first half and then come out firing in the second half was good, I’d say we had 60 minutes of good, dominant rugby and in the last 20 minutes don’t know if we switched off a little bit because we thought we had it won.”
The back row of Haugh, McMahon, and Tanner Russell was really very good, and Gray, while not in the try-scoring logs, embraced a less glamorous role with gusto.
Tries: Thacker, Malibua, Webb, Haugh 2
Convs: Gray 4
Notre Dame College 21
Tries: Thomson, Duhigg
Pens: McDonald 3