The Rugby East was decided Saturday with one lopsided victory and one that was determined by a last-minute conversion attempt.
Kutztown finished its Rugby East campaign 3-0 with a 71-10 defeat of Wheeling Jesuit to claim the league title and automatic bids to both the American Collegiate Rugby Championship postseason this fall and the DI-A playoffs next spring.
The Golden Bears, playing without standout wing Robert Stortz (who suffered a torn ACL against James Madison a week earlier) and stud inside center Gareth Lourens (who was simply resting) led 34-5 at halftime.
Wheeling, which favors a pack-oriented game, couldn’t contain Kutztown’s dangerous backline attack, and the Golden Bears carved up the Cardinals all afternoon. Center Bruce Dolan scored two tries for KU and was named man of the match.
The closer contest featured Penn State and Davenport, with the Nittany Lions pulling out a 15-13 victory. The Panthers led 8-5 at halftime, but a converted try and penalty in the second half, and some stellar defense, was good enough for the Nittany Lions.
“Davenport ran very hard, gave us some trouble early. Guys were not doing the best job of tackling, and they were putting us under pressure,” said Penn State coach Don Ferrell.
“But both teams had extended periods of defense on the try line. Both teams were camped out on each other’s try line multiple times. Couldn’t get over the line. Good defense. It was just a really exciting match, actually.”
During the waning minutes of the game, Penn State had a drop goal attempt charged down that Davenport took to the other end of the field. The Panthers wound up scoring a try in the corner to come within two, but the touch-line conversion was missed, and Penn State held on for the win.
Ferrell lauded the play of freshman flanker Malcolm May.
“He had another really big day for us,” said Ferrell. “The last two matches he’s really starting to come into his own, doing a nice job as a true freshman playing in some pretty big time matches. He’s really come up big.”
Saturday’s results will see Penn State finish second in the Rugby East, regardless of what happens in next week’s bout between Wheeling Jesuit and Davenport. The Nittany Lions are hoping to take the ACRC’s only at-large bid to the postseason.
“We think it sounds like a good tournament,” said Ferrell. “We’re supportive of it and we’re hoping to be included.”