Army opened Rugby East play 1-0 Saturday with a 24-19 defeat of Kutztown in Kutztown, Pa.
It was a cold and blustery spring day, and the stiff breeze played havoc with the lineouts, blowing thrown balls off course. Nearly every toss from the sideline was redone and resulted in a turnover.
“We talked about it,” said Army Coach Richard Pohlidal. “With a headwind like that, well that’s pretty stiff to work against.”
Army senior flyhalf and capped Eagle Will Holder managed the wind and went 4-for-4 on penalty kicks after missing his first conversion. Holder added 14 points to his team’s total on the day.
A few mishandled passes in the Kutztown back line cost them some scoring opportunities and in one instance led indirectly to an Army try.
Another dropped ball early in the first half was recovered by Army and carried to the KU five-meter line where the defense stiffened and repelled several attacks by the Army forwards. Led by scrumhalf Aaron Bush and senior lock Aaron Retter, the Cadets pounded away repeatedly at the try line but could not manage to ground the ball.
This was the first of two tries held up during the match by the Golden Bear defense. A rolling maul attempted by Army during this time was repelled by Kutztown and could only manage to crab sideways.
“Two really good packs,” said Kutztown Coach Gregg Jones. “We had to spend a lot of energy on defense at the goal line. I credit the forward packs on both sides for giving it all they had. It was a great game.”
The first try of the game, sandwiched by Holder penalties, came after a couple of missed scoring opportunities by both sides.
A Kutztown lineout was called not straight and Army won the subsequent scrum. After a bobbled exchange from the scrumhalf to the flyhalf, the ball was eventually secured. Army fullback Kyle Ulses then unloaded to wing Chris Beck after a long run moving the ball across the pitch. In a ruck on the tryline, Retter gathered the ball and grounded it for the score. Will Holders’s conversion kick was no good.
The teams exchanged several kicks next with Holder eventually returning a kick from Kruger and unloading to Bush, who crossed the tryline and nearly centered the ball before being injured on the tackle. He was forced to leave the game. The conversion by Holder was good pushing Army’s lead to 18-0.
Just before halftime, Kutztown wing Bruce Dolan intercepted an errant Army pass near the 50 and scampered the rest of the way for an airborne try. Kruger’s kick was good, making the score 18-7 at intermission.
A couple of offside infractions by Kutztown led to the first score of the second half with Holder nailing a penalty kick from 5 meters out near the KU sideline.
Kutztown then moved the ball through several consecutive phases before a poor Army lineout resulted in a turnover and the Golden Bears winning a scrum on the Army side of the 50. Kruger chipped the ball ahead, Dolan retrieved it, battled through several tacklers and scored. That made it 21-12.
Following a sustained offensive assault led by Kruger taking a quick tap on an Army penalty, KU inside center Gareth Lourens scored after being tackled and not held near the try line. The kick was converted by Kruger to draw the Bears within two.
Subsequent attempts to cross the try line by both sides were thwarted by a combination of Referee Tom Lyon’s whistle and ferocious defensive play until an offsides penalty called against Kutztown inside its own 22-meter offered Army kicker Will Holder the opportunity to seal the victory. Final Score 24-19
“The Army defense was stellar and it shut down our back line.” Said Kutztown Coach Jones. “We made a lot of mistakes on the goal line when we had opportunities to score and we gave them away. We didn’t get a lot of possession in the first half, and when we did we kind of panicked, couldn’t keep the ball in hand and came up short. A good game with two very good teams. One of them has to lose, and unfortunately, it was us.”
Tries: Retter, Bush
Convs: Holder (1 for 2)
Pens: Holder (4 for 4)
Tries: Dolan (2), Lorens
Convs: Kruger (2 for 3)