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Who Has the Best Defense in D1AA?

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Who Has the Best Defense in D1AA?

UMass and Virginia Tech on D. Photos Bobbygotposi and Olly Laseinde.

Who has the best defense in Men’s D1AA rugby this fall?

Could it be MAC leaders Bowling Green, who are allowing a paltry 9.0 points per game? Well, what about the #2 team in that conference, Louisville? They are allowing 7.4 points per game.

Kansas isn’t quite at that level, allowed just over 10 per game. 

Well, with apologies to those teams, we’ll take a look at Virginia Tech and UMass.

Virginia Tech has allowed 13 points in four games, which averages out to 4.25 points per game. 

Much of this was accomplished in the last few days as they played three games from October 13 through October 20.

“The depth has definitely been tested with injuries and the matches, but it is really strong this year even outside of the 23 that are fielded each week,” said club president Hunter Danesi, who plays No. 8 and prop, is central to the defense, and also serves as the team’s Head Coach. 

Danesi is one of two major returning players who were NCR All Americans, with wing/flyhalf Will Richey being the other. He serves as the assistant coach.

Lock Gavin Lockwood is also part of this effort and Danesi calls him “one of the most athletic and best all-around players on the team.“

Experienced scrumhalf Brandon Eng, and flyhalf/fullback Ben Hondros add some flair to this team.

But make no mistake, it’s the Hokies’ ability to prevent tries that sets them apart.

The other team on our list is probably UMass. The Minutemen are now 6-0 in conference play having allowed 47 points. That’s 7.8 points per game, not as good as Louisville but 45% of those points came in one game, against Rhode Island. (And no UMass did not select a less experienced team to face URI.) We can’t completely discount that Rhode Island game, but it is worth noting that in the other five games UMass has given up a total of two tries.

Strangely, UMass, like Virginia Tech, played three games in a short period. This was because they had to make up a postponed meeting with UConn, and played Yale on October 13, UConn on October 17, and Boston College on October 21, during which they allowed one try and four penalty goals for a total of 19 points.

“To get through Yale, UConn, and Bc in nine days was probably the best collective effort out of a team that I’ve been a part of,” said UMass Head Coach Phil Ciccarelli. “UConn is a very tough team and obviously Yale and BC have been class all season. We have great depth which allowed us to lean on some of the reserves to give the starters rest with such a short turnaround.” 

UMass is a team of players with a variety of rugby backgrounds, but they have a common pride in defense and a will to win.

“They work incredibly hard at training, and have really put in the effort to make this season truly enjoyable,” said Ciccarelli. “Big things to come.”

For both teams.