LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Rugby East’s second-to-last weekend of the season is in the books, as four teams competed in their final conference matches of the season. East Champion Penn State finished its perfect season with a hard-fought win over Kutztown.
Wheeling Jesuit also won its final game, as did Iona. The Gaels beat St. Bonaventure, but both teams left with moral victories after honoring a friend of the two programs and mentor in the community.
Iona 17 – 12 St. Bonaventure
A fixture that was expected to be closely contested lived up to its billing when Iona outscored St. Bonaventure three tries to two to beat the Bonnies, 17-12.
Gaels captain John D’Allara scored the game’s first points off a maul. The Bonnies responded by tying the match at five-all thanks to a cross-field kick by fly half Christian Artuso that found the arms of wing Chaz Schwenk, who ran it in for the try.
Iona took the honors of first to score in the second half, as well. A blocked kick led to Nick D’Allara’s try, and Santi Mascolo’s conversion put the hosting Gaels ahead, 15-5. Not long after, Iona returned deep into the St. Bonaventure’s half and sent Jon Petteruti over the line for its biggest lead, 17-5.
The Bonnies, playing up a man thanks to a red card issued to a Gael, gave themselves a chance to win when Schwenk scored his second and Artuso’s conversion split the uprights. Unfortunately for St. Bonaventure, Iona was able to withstand the last-minute attempt to steal the win and preserve a 17-12 victory.
Even more memorable than the back-and-forth 80 minutes between the two long rivals was the well-received presentation for honorary Gael and longtime Xavier High School coach John Kelly. Several players from both Iona and St. Bonaventure who played under the guidance of Kelly, who is also the father of 23-time capped Eagle Seamus Kelly, honored their former high school coach with an award acknowledging the community’s appreciation for his time on the sidelines.
Kelly also happens to suffer from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which the Gaels have been adamant about educating people on since Iona Rugby alum and Ice Bucket Challenge creator Pat Quinn developed the disease.
Wheeling Jesuit 65 – 17 Delaware
The Cardinals won their program-best sixth Rugby East game when they closed out their third season in the conference with a 65-17 win over Delaware.
Hooker Peter Malcolm continued to lead from the front and scored two of Wheeling Jesuit’s four first-half tries. The Cardinals continued their assault on the Blue Hens into the second half, as two tries from Tray Wardlaw helped push Wheeling Jesuit’s lead to 48-5 15 minutes into the second half.
Delaware did have some promising moments that led to a brief, but sustained, success in the Cardinals’ half. Backs John Hand and Matt Ramirez dotted down to take a slight dent out of Jesuit’s lead, 48-17.
The Cardinals would end the contest in an offensive flurry, though. Alston Burton completed a hat trick and lock August Murphy added two late tries to beef up their final margin of victory to 65-17.
Buffalo 45 – 24 West Virginia
After coming up empty-handed in the win column during its first two seasons playing out of Rugby East, Buffalo won its second conference game of the 2016 season by taking care of West Virginia, 45-24.
The Bulls’ top players showed up to play in the team’s second-to-last fixture of its conference season. All-Conference standouts John Grasso, Colton Kells and Maninderjit Singh each scored tries.
Although his effort alone wasn’t enough to keep his team in the game, West Virginia’s best player put his best foot forward, too. Full back Luke Ellis, who was coming off a two-try performance against Iona, found the try zone twice more against the Bulls.
Buffalo would do well to remain persistent on the attacking end. Hooker Antonie Maisons’ try and Luca Wrabetz’ conversion would be the team’s final points scored at the 71st minute, and the Bulls would return home with a 45-24 win.