For the second year in a row, the US Military Academy won a close game against an undefeated opponent at the end of the D1-A season to clinch first in the Rugby East Conference Saturday.
A year ago it was a seven-point victory over Navy. This year, it was a one-point thriller 20-19 over previously unbeaten Penn State.
Down 19-13 with time winding down in a game that was marred somewhat by very wet conditions, Army got a try from top-scoring winger Kyle Ulses. Flyhalf Will Holder slotted the difficult conversion to seal the win 20-19.
"It was a tough game all day," said Army Director of Rugby Rich Pohlidal. "We planned for the weather because we knew it was coming, but that didn't make it easy. We tried to cut back on the 50-50 passes and reduce the offloads, change our angles a little bit and concentrate in the forwards. I guess it worked. Penn State played really well and we had the ball at the end and were able to score and win."
Army led 13-5 at halftime thanks to two Will Holder penalties and a try from center Karl Crist. But tries from John Hellman and Mike Erickson, both converted by Joe Baker, put PSU ahead with the game coming to a close. That's when Army scored their only points of the second half.
"We spent too much time in our end, and we had a tough time getting out of it," said Pohlidal.
Army clinches 1st in Rugby East. Penn State is second.
Army will host Arkansas State in the quarterfinals, while Penn State now travels to Life University.
Tries: Crist, Ulses
Convs: Holder 2
Penn State 19
Tries: Spellman, Hellman, Erickson
Convs: Baker 2