Rugby East’s 2018 All-Conference Team selections have been made and it is Conference Champions Army, leading the way with six selections in the 1st XV.
2018 was the most evenly contested year for Rugby East in quite some time. They crowned a new champion for the first time since 2015. They also ended the year with three teams ranked in the top ten nationally and five in the Top 20. They have put themselves up with the likes of the Mid-South as contenders for the toughest conference in all of D1A.
Despite, the parity seen in the conference, only five of the seven teams were represented. The two teams missing the cut were Buffalo and Wheeling Jesuit. Army as conference champions led the way with a total of nine selections to the All-Conference teams, six found their way onto the 1st XV; while three, were selected to the 2nd XV. Penn State and St. Bonaventure were next in line, each team seeing six of their players making the squads. Penn State saw an even split of three on each team and Bonnies saw one player selected to the 1st XV and five on the 2nd. Kutztown had five selected, two on the first and three on the second. Notre Dame College had four players selected, with three making the top side and one on the second.
The individual honors of; Most Valuable Player, Back, Forward and Freshman of the year came from three different schools. Eamonn Matthews of St. Bonaventure was voted MVP of Rugby East in 2018. The scrum half was instrumental in the Bonnies’ most successful year at the D1A level. Directing traffic around the field and showing tremendous leadership as team captain. The MVP award is just another in a long line of accolades that the senior has racked up. Prior to this award he had also made the 2015 High School All-American team and the U-20 All-American teams.
Forward of the year went to Army’s Paul Adams. The loose head prop had been an absolute force all year around the scrums and helped set the tone for the most dominant pack in Rugby East. Outside of his work in the scrums, he made his living off dominating points of contact and his tireless work in and around the breakdown.
Back of the year went to Kutztown’s Aaron Gray. Part of Kutztown’s lethal back three, Gray used his speed and elusiveness to help create opportunities for his team and shift momentum’s tide. He also proved himself to be a top-class finisher, crossing for four tries on the year.
Freshman of the year was split between Kutztown’s Thorne O’Connell, the only freshman to make the first XV, and St. Bonaventure’s Alex Chura. Both of these players were exceptional in their first year on campus. O’Connell proved to be an absolute nightmare for opposition to plan against. Presenting himself as an all-round player he could dictate play with ease and was able to consistently set Kutztown up with brilliant opportunities. Chura, despite only playing in four of the six conference games, clearly left a mark. He was instrumental to the success Bonnies had, with an ability to insert himself into attack seamlessly he kept the defense guessing at all times. In 2019, he will be one to look out for if he can stay healthy and feature in all of his team’s games.
Full Team list below:
1) Paul Adams (Army)
2) Matthew Meehan (Army)
3) Marco Carrabotta (Army)
4) Mike Jennings (Penn State)
5) Robert Niscior (Army)
6) Cullen Barelka (Notre Dame College)
7) Andrew Guerra (Notre Dame College)
8) Robert Irimescu (Penn State)
9) Eamonn Matthews (St. Bonaventure)
10) Thorne O’Connell (Kutztown)
11) James Mbony (Army)
12) Luke O’Malley (Penn State)
13) Sam Sutera (Army)
14) Aaron Gray (Kutztown)
15) John Bradfield (Notre Dame College)
1) Anton Lupari (St. Bonaventure)
2) Maxim Bennett (Kutztown)
3) Kyle Ciquera (St. Bonaventure)
4) Andrew Finken (Army)
5) Casey Renaud (Kutztown)
6) Jack McClean (Penn State)
7) Chris Starkweather (St. Bonaventure)
8) Bailey Abercrombie (Army)
9) Cory Graham (Notre Dame College)
10) Connor Dellapina (Penn State)
11) D’Montae Noble (Kutztown)
12) Cory Ratka (St. Bonaventure)
13) LJ Koi-Larbi (Penn State)
14) Jason Green (Army)
15) Alex Chura (St. Bonaventure)
Awards:MVP- Eamonn Matthews
Back of the Year- Aaron Gray
Forward of the Year- Paul Adams
Freshman of the Year- Thorne O’Connell & Alex Chura
Selections were made by votes cast by Rugby East Coaches.