Week 5 Match Previews

D1A Rugby: Week 5 Match Previews
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MID-SOUTH

Arkansas State (3-0) @ Life (3-0)

The Barnburner for Week 5, the Arkansas State Red Wolves travel to Marietta, Georgia to face the Life Running Eagles in the most anticipated match of the year to this point. Last season, Arkansas State came away with a 28-26 victory in their regular season match up that pushed them to the Mid-South championship. In the 2011 matchup Arkansas State scored three tries and kicked through three penalties while Life scored four tries and converted three.

Both squads are returning multiple All-Americans from 2011, thus the match will be a great showcase of young rugby talent. The two teams also faced off in the semifinals of the College Sevens National Championship in December. Life won the match against ASU on the last play of the game and eventually took home the inaugural College Sevens National Championship. The plot leading up to this match couldn’t be thicker!

Life is lead in scoring by the national points leader, Joseph Cowley, who has scored 76 total points on the season. Arkansas State is lead in scoring by the national points second placeholder, David Caswell, who has scored 50 total points this season. Both players are extremely capable with the boot therefore each team will have to play wise when the ball is in their own territory.

Notre Dame (0-3) @ Texas A&M (1-2)

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish look for their first win of the season as they travel to College Station, TX to face the Texas A&M Aggies. In the first three games of the season Notre Dame has struggled to put points on the board, tallying just 29 points in the three games. On the contrary, Texas A&M has scored 108 points this season, including 85 against Oklahoma in week 2. In order to have a fighting chance at a winning season, Notre Dame must win on the road this week. Thomas Hickey and Ryan Robinson are the only Notre Dame players to score tries thus far in 2012 and if they are to get a win this week, others are going to have to step up.

Michael Mills leads Texas A&M against Notre Dame as the Aggie captain and main point scorer with 43 points from two tries, twelve conversions and three penalty kicks. Luke Carter is the Aggie’s leading try scorer as he scored two against Arkansas State and two against Oklahoma for a season total of four. For the Aggies to win they must get the ball in the hands of their speedy playmakers. But, if Notre Dame is able to contain the ball the luck could end up in the hands of the Irish, on St. Patrick’s Day of all days.

RUGBY EAST

Kutztown (0-0) @ Ohio State (0-0)

Both Kutztown and Ohio State have yet to play a rugby match in the 2012 D1A season. This weekend offers the Rugby East Conference teams to build on their hard work and good showings in last year’s campaign. The Kutztown Bears will travel to Columbus, Ohio this weekend to confront a Buckeyes squad where both teams will be looking to start off their 2012 campaign with victories.

Coming off of a stellar sevens campaign this past winter, Kutztown is hoping to transfer their performance in the Olympic version of the game to the blooming fifteens season this spring. Known for their conditioning and discipline, the KU Bears will seek to make a statement in a strong Rugby East Conference with their first match. Led by flyhalf Tim Acker, the Bears will boast a strong attacking back line and also an experienced set of forwards. The Rugby East Conference should keep their guard up as the Bears are looking to do some damage within D1A this year.

Ohio State had a good pre-season as they met Division 1-AA powerhouse Bowling Green and put the Falcons away comfortably with a 24-7 victory. However, as other teams commit many weeks to a pre-season build up with multiple games, the Buckeyes only have one match under their belts heading into the D1A season. As they may not have the match experience yet, the Buckeyes sure do have the talent and explosiveness to upset many teams in Rugby East. The Buckeyes are based around a big and experienced forward pack supported by a fast back line hoping to make up for the loss of Nate Ebner. They are more than capable of making a large impact within Rugby East though, as their program has grown substantially in funding and sheer numbers on their roster. This opening game for both teams should be stellar as both the Buckeyes and Bears are hoping to test themselves early in the D1A season and see where they fit within the spectrum of top collegiate rugby.

Penn State (0-0) @ Delaware (0-1)

D1A competition will roll on this weekend within the Rugby East Conference with a matchup between reputed program Penn State and a young but surprising University of Delaware team. This will be Penn State’s first conference match of the season and Delaware’s second, as they lost to Army two weeks ago.

Penn State will hope to record a victory in their first outing of the regular season as they had an impressive preseason with matches against Arizona State and BYU. Penn State impressed against the top seeded team in the nation showing strong defense and determination in keeping the Cougars with a relatively tight score. Penn State then met Arizona State and put up a good showing against the Sun Devils as the Nittany Lions notched 35 points to ASU’s 16. A short but all-in-all impressive preseason should allow Penn State to perform well in the early rounds of D1A competition. As always Penn State will be the ones to beat in Rugby East and they should find themselves comfortable at the top of the table along with Army come playoff time. The Lions are led by senior scrumhalf and All-American Chris Saint, who hopes to prove that his hard work and that of his team has not been in vain.

Delaware on the other hand had one of the longer preseason campaigns in collegiate rugby. Before their early season loss to strong Army side, they recorded a tight win over the University of Maryland where they were tested by a fast Terrapins side. Delaware used the game to leanr about what they needed to work on before the tough Rugby East competition got under way. They then took on Wilmington Rugby Club overcoming the men’s side 33-5. The Blue Hens entered their D1A campaign two weeks ago against conference power houses Army in Westpoint. The Blue Hens defended Army’s attack well but in the end lost to their speed and experience. The score line could have been much worse though, as the Blue Hens showed supreme discipline on defense and capitalized on the few opportunities they had.

The match this weekend will test who will be at the top of Rugby East as the season is still getting under way for many programs and offers many players the chance to shine at the top levle of collegiate rugby in an underrated conference.

WESTERN

Arizona State (1-1) @ Colorado (1-1)

The ASU Sun Devils will face the Colorado Buffaloes in beautiful Boulder, Colorado in what is sure to be a heck of a ball game. In the first D1A match last year the Sun Devils were able to run away from the Buffs 48-19. Colorado was down 12-19 at the half of that game but a second half lapse by the Buffs in multiple facets of the game allowed ASU to score 29 second half points in their win. Last year’s win for ASU over Colorado proved to be a strong push forward for the club as they were able to finish 5-2 in Western Conference play, with one of the losses coming to national semifinalists, Utah, and the other coming to national runners-up, BYU.

Coming into the St. Patrick’s Day match, Colorado is led in scoring by Tony Quattrini, Chris Martin, and Sean Kilfoyle who each have four, two, and two tries respectively. Jean-Claude Trublet de Nermont has taken care of kicking duties for the Buffs thus far this season and is hoping to add to his total of eight conversions made already this season.

Arizona State, on the other hand, has the large majority of their tries concentrated between Zach Utley and Nathan Chapman who have each scored three tries this season. In their match last weekend against Wyoming Chapman scored all three of his season tries for a hat trick. Leading the Sun Devils with the boot is Adam Sandstrom, who has kicked through four conversions and three penalty kicks.