The know and the unknown meet in a mysterious venue as Bentley University of Waltham, Mass. takes on American International College of Springfield.
Both teams are 2-0 in the new Rugby Northeast league – Bentley is an established DII contender, while AIC is still relatively new on the scene. Both teams are also very different in the way they play.
Coming off a big win over St. Michael’s, Bentley Head Coach Josh Smith was pleased to see his team rack up 55 points through nine different try-scorers.
"Our boys really punished St Mikes off mistakes and turnovers, but we are still a work in progress," warned Smith. “AIC is a talented team and they have some money to work with.”
It’s AIC who will want to spread the field and look for a high-scoring match, while Bentley will want to slow things down.
“We will need to use our forwards to control things at the breakdown and make them attack from far out,” said Smithy. “Our guys need to use their experience to control the game.”
The game will be played at AIC’s home field, a multi-purpose turf field and stadium, which is used by all the sports teams. The Yellow Jackets draw more fans for their rugby games than they do for their football team, and Saturday night’s match under the lights promises quite an atmosphere.
“We’re able to use the scoreboard and PA system,” said AIC Head Coach Josh Macy. “We’ll have the national anthem and player introductions. Home rugby matches are big events on campus.”
AIC plays a wide open, run and gun game that uses some impressive pace on the outside. Turnovers and sloppy kicking can turn into five points very quickly for them.
Central for AIC’s attack it their 8-9-10 triumverat of Colin Bartolomeo, Jordan Schmitz (both products of the Glendale, Colo. U19 program) and South African flyhalf Duke Makina.
Makina isn’t a traditional flyhalf, as he’s a big load of a player who thunders through tackles, but he has learned the art of controlling the offense, and has plenty of athleticism to work with.
“We build through the middle and send things through them,” said Macy. “But it’s important that everyone the team gets a touch. Everybody is expected to perform with ball in hand.”
AIC lost 17-16 in a preseason match against DI-AA Harvard in September, and that last-second loss fueled in their opening matches. But this is a true test.
“That Harvard loss was a good learning experience for us,” Macy said. “And we’re always looking for those benchmarks. Bentley will be another one.”
“The atmosphere is going to be great,” added Smith. “They get massive crowds. It can be intimidating for players who aren’t used to it, but we’d talked about it and the guys will be ready.”
Notes: Bentley and AIC may be relative newcomers to the upper-echelon of DII college rugby, but the institutions have been around a long time. AIC was founded in 1885, Bentley in 1917. Both teams have had freshmen jump into starting and starring roles early this season. Currently in Rugby Northeast play, Bentley is 2-0, with a +85, AIC 2-0 and +80.
Videos of Bentley v. St. Michael's and AIC v. Providence.
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