Friday, September 30, 2016

Rugby East Drop: Friday Night Action in Morgantown

by Ryan J. Trost
This is American Rugby – Rugby East

Wheeling’s goal this year is clear. They expect to get deeper into the playoffs than they have ever been. As a team and as individuals, they have bones to pick with Top-20 voters and others who perhaps haven’t believed in them yet. That emotional fire is a dangerous element, if not channeled smartly though.

Last week’s Iona match proves as much. It was a game their head coach, Tommy Duffy described as one of the chippiest he has seen as a college coach. It is also a game in which his team was trailing 19-7 at around the 33 minute mark. Allan Hanson then took matters into his own hands, closing the half on a ten point swing. First, he slotted a penalty goal, making Iona pay for an infringement at the ruck. Shortly after regaining possession, Hanson slipped the gap off a breakdown, stepped the tracking defender and then finished the move by wrong footing on the Iona Fullback at the five meter line.

Still down 19-17 at half time, Duffy calmed his troops, “Our guys reacted instead of just playing. We had to go out in the second half and start playing our game.” The rest is history. 27 unanswered points, a 44-19 win.

Take the jump to read more.

That was last week though. Tonight they are travelling to Morgantown to take on their in state rival West Virginia Mountaineers. Having been dropped from the D1A Top-20, the Cardinals have again been handed some extra motivation to perform well. “We want to be in that conversation with Penn State, Army and Kutztown,” said Duffy. “… but we’re not changing our system for them. We prepared the same way for Iona, for St. Bonaventure and for Lindenwood-Belleville).”

There is no doubt the team has been working hard and that they know they have the voters’ attention. They are still a week out from taking on those bigger teams in the conference though, so the challenge is going to be on maintaining their focus despite the emotions, and getting some of their mid-classmen and freshman more time on the pitch.

Knowing that Kutztown is on the schedule in one more week and that blowout wins over WVU have resulted in rising Top-20 ranks for others, don’t expect any let up from Jesuit tonight. They are looking to put in the full 80’s of intensity that will be required of them against the top ranked teams before they actually meet them.

For WVU, who has had a very tough early season, it doesn’t any easier quite yet. John Baker’s crew is happy to be playing at home and Friday night games have usually resulted in better crowds at the pitch. Those early lessons from taking on Penn State, Army and KU will hopefully reep some rewards against their cross state foes.

“We knew this year wouldn’t be easy,” said Baker. “Most of the guys view the losses as reason to get back to the grindstone, which I am impressed with.” That work ethic is exactly what WVU needs at this stage in their D1A growth. With CJ Burnes, Luke Ellis and Sam Krizner returning from injury they at least know they are on the right path in that regard. As with other lower ranked teams in the conference, the goal for the Mountaineers is long term growth and improvement. Tonight’s match should provide another excellent opportunity for that growth, in a fast contest against a very hungry opponent.

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