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Thursday, November 19, 2015

ACRC Preview: UMass vs. North Carolina State

As part of our ACRC Bowl Series preview we look at UMass from the ECRC and North Carolina State from the ACRL.

Traditionally the East Coast Rugby Conference has been dominated by AIC. That was no different this year as the Yellow Jackets once again ran the table. However, teams like Boston College, and this year UMass, have been making runs. Led by a core group of players UMass took several teams by surprise this year on their way to a 5-3 conference record. They were number two in the ECRC in scoring and their defense ranked third. Their only blemishes on the season were losses to AIC, Boston College, and New England College. They earned big wins over several conference and non-conference opponents.

Joe Jenkins in particular as been strong for the Minutemen as the team's leading scorer. Toward the end of the season he ranked as the number three scorer in the conference behind Lui Sitama from AIC and Joey D'Antonio from Boston College. Most of his work came from conversions but he did chip in with three tries and eight penalties. If UMass can get the most out of Jenkins and fellow standout John Rossini they are probably favorites to win.

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The Wolfpack come into the match as the team with the second best record in the ACRL. Their only loss on the season came to emerging powerhouse Clemson. They also drew with Virginia but finished with four wins in the season. Overall, North Carolina State haven't had trouble scoring being able to put up points and their defense hasn't been bad either. Their biggest result arguably came against Maryland were they prevailed 26-22. Like most college team, NC State has brought in some rugby newcomers and it appears that is paying off. The team has been focused and should give UMass a run for their money.

Players to watch on the Wolfpack include flanker and team president Stephen Glass, front row TJ Dixon, and Jernigan Cameron.

An advantage for both of the teams heading into the match is that they were both challenged hard during their conference schedules. They also have similar strengths, with several front-row players being standouts. As the opening match in the competition it should be a good one.

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