Men’s rugby takes first round of National Collegiate Championships, fall in second round

By Zane Miller and By Zane Miller

The Falcon men’s rugby team fell in the second round of the National Collegiate Championships Sunday afternoon to the St. Joseph’s Hawks 29-10, eliminating them from the playoffs. However, the team did take the first round Saturday night, edging the James Madison Dukes 10-7.

“It’s just unfortunate,” Falcons head coach Tony Mazzarella said. “We prepared as much as we possibly could, it’s not that we weren’t good enough, it’s just that we weren’t good enough on the day, so it’s unfortunate, but there’s a lot to be proud of and we’ll go from there.”

The team struggled with getting offense early on Sunday afternoon, as St. Joseph’s jumped ahead 12-0 early, however the team rebounded as they scored a try late in the first half to make it a 12-5 game. It looked as though the Falcons might be able to make a comeback, scoring a try to open the second half, however, the team missed the opportunity to tie the game up as the ensuing conversion kick was no good. From there, St. Joseph’s added to their lead, getting a try and conversion to make it 19-10 and did not look back, adding a pair of tries late to seal the 29-10 victory.

“We were fighting to try to make sure to get the ball out wide,” Junior hooker Phil Bryant said. “Playing on the football field made it a little bit tighter parameters and their defensive line was very effective, so we tried to do a little skips and kind of just got the ball out wide, sometimes just trying to do that, either the wind messes it up or it’s just an overthrow or an underthrow.”

On Saturday, however, it was a much more low scoring match for both sides as the game was rain delayed over four hours from its original start time and moved to Doyt Perry Stadium.

As the teams went scoreless through halftime, Bryant got the game’s opening score to put the team ahead 5-0, then took a two possession lead not long after as senior scrum half Mike Powell ran for another try. While James Madison attempted to make a comeback late with a try, getting the conversion kick as well, they would run out of time as the Falcons held on 10-7 to move on to the next round.

“We had to buckle down,” Mazzarella said. “There were pretty bad weather conditions, but we just had to go to a little different ground and pound game plan and just chew it up, not the best conditions but sometimes you’ve just got to win ugly and that’s what they did.”

Despite getting the loss on Sunday, the team is optimistic for what they can do in 2018.

“We’re going to build on what we accomplished,” Mazzarella said. “We’ve got some positions to find with some graduating seniors, but we’ve got a good base with some freshmen and sophomores and we’ve got some really good juniors coming back, so we’ll have some position opportunities and we’ll be going from there.”