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Penalty Kick at the Death Sees Navy Past Army

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Penalty Kick at the Death Sees Navy Past Army

Navy remains undefeated. Katie Mayer photo.

WEST POINT, NY—Sophomore Roanin Krieger made the biggest penalty kick of his collegiate career to claim a 23-21 win for the Navy men’s rugby team over Army Friday night at the Anderson Rugby Complex in West Point.

The Mids trailed 21-20 with time up when they got a penalty and Krieger walked it off. While this is a long-standing rivalry, this game also was a new chapter as the inaugural men’s rugby Star Match, part of the Army-Navy Star Series presented by USAA. This is Navy's fourth-straight victory over Army.

The victory also secured the Commander-in-Chief Trophy played as a series between West Point, the US Naval Academy, and the US Air Force Academy.

Here are the final standings:

Commander-in-Chief W L T PF PA PD BT BL Pts
Navy 2 0 0 73 29 44 1 0 9
Army 1 1 0 38 45 -7 0 1 5
AIr Force 0 2 0 25 72 -47 0 1 1

“The rivalry always outweighs rankings and form. Army has lost only once on its home field since we beat them here last year,” said Navy Director of Rugby Gavin Hickie. “It was always going to come down to the final few minutes and champions find ways to win, which is what we did. We have a lot of work to do, but this is a great way to finish out our fall campaign”

The Black Knights put the first points on the scoreboard in the sixth minute with Dominic Tianga going over and Johnny Haley converting. Army struck for a try and nailed the ensuing conversion kick to jump out to an early 7-0 lead.

Navy wouldn’t surrender any additional points in the first half and scored 17 itself to take a 10-point lead into halftime.

Krieger gave the Mids their first points in the 19th minute on a penalty kick to trim the deficit to 7-3.

Tanner Russell scored the first Navy try in the 29th minute to give the Midshipmen their lead of the match. Krieger converted to make it 10-7.

EIght minutes later Vaughn Schmitz was over and with Krieger's conversion Navy seemed to be pulling away at 17-7.

So Navy held a comfortable lead after 40 minutes, but Army responded with a fast start in the second half—the Black Knights marched the ball down the field and over the line less than three minutes into the second period with Benji Kemp scoring. Haley's conversion was good and it was 17-14.

Now Army had the advantage and Navy was having trouble piecing together exactly what they wanted to do. The tradition in this rivalry is the players put their bodies on the line like at no other time. Making sure the other guys can't have nice things. With Army struggling through a tough season that included a tie and a three-point loss—both games they would have liked to play over—they were best suited to try to keep the game close.

Navy, for their part, probably got caught up in that and drawn a little out of their game plan. The result? Army put Patrick Oglesbee over at 51 minutes and Haley slotted the extras and the Black Knights led 21-17.

The Black Knights continued to hold strong defensively to keep the Mids away from the tryline over the course of the next 19 minutes. Navy put the pressure on, but finally realized that maybe a try wasn't in the offing. When Army was penalized with about 10 minutes to go Krieger was called upon to go for posts and he was good with the kick—now Army's lead was a mere point at 21-20.

The Black Knights maintained their one-point lead past the 80th minute and only needed to make the ball dead to close out the game. But the Mids got possession and remained composed despite the pressure. Slowly they worked the ball down the field and when Army once again were penalized—four minutes after the hooter—Krieger calmly put the ball through the uprights for the game-winner.

For Navy's Hickie, the Midshipmen did not play particularly well, but, he added, "champions find ways to win and that's what we did. Tonight was monumental for our journey. We can't wait until spring."

Playing still without captain and No. 8 Ben Haugh, Navy pulled this one out, but they do miss Haugh.

For Army this was a disappointing loss but also a nice step forward. They perhaps found that extra bit of warrior spirit.

"We've been improving on our discipline and when we don't hurt ourselves we're a good side," said Army Head Coach Matt Sherman, whose side scored more tries than did Navy, crossing the tryline three times to Navy's two. "We did many things well enough to earn victory. Tactically we weren't prepared to close out the game; that's on me."

Krieger accounted for 13 of Navy’s 23 points on the night, finishing the fall with 150 in total. The Navy record for a season (held by last year's Rudy Scholz Award winner Lewis Gray) is 166, so Krieger is nicely placed to break that mark in the spring.

SInce Navy became a varsity program in the fall of 2022, the program is yet to lose a match, now sitting at 29-0.