Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rugby East Preview: Iona

Pictured: Iona Homecoming 2015

Article & Artwork by Ryan J. Trost
This is American Rugby – Rugby East

Head Coach: Bruce McLane
2015 Fall Record: In Conference (4-3), Overall (8-4)
5th place, Rugby East
Currently ranked outside of D1A Top Twenty

Players to Watch:
John Petteruti, Sr. Flanker 1st Team All-Conference, 2015
Mike Scarcella, Jr. Center 1st Team All-Conference, 2015
Mike Marino, Jr. 8-Man Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2015
John Powers, Jr. Center/Fullback

After a rousing 2015, Iona will face the challenge of its own youth this fall. Three All-Conference performers are returning in 2016, but the Gaels otherwise graduated a substantial leadership group last spring. The forward pack will be much younger, especially in the front row and the concern for Head Coach Bruce McLane is whether or not they can show enough consistency to give themselves a puncher’s chance week in and week out.

With three preseason wins already behind them, McLane is happy with his players’ fitness and attitudes. He knows all too well what lies ahead though. Starting on Sept. 9th, the Gaels first five in-conference matches will sail through the teeth of the conference’s top tier. With a bye week between their KU and PSU matches, Iona’s schedule offers just a bit of breathing room in the middle of the year. They will need to make adjustments quickly, while dealing with the physical rigors of Rugby East’s bigger teams.

Take the jump to read more.

Their much awaited rematch with Army is first up. On the road at West Point, McLane is certain the Black Knights will be seeking redemption. Last year’s upset victory over Army on Iona’s homecoming was a watershed moment for both clubs. Army lost three straight after, while Iona was launched into the D1A Top-Twenty before coming back to earth in their ACRC Bowl loss to Delaware.

Two great things about Iona Rugby in the Bruce McLane era are the atmosphere they’ve built around the pitch and the rivalries they are building on it. Between the touchlines, the team is classically under-sized, but still come into matches with a mettle that’s hard to match. Players like Mike Scarcella are cagey and tough from the first whistle to the last. They create rivalries by beating teams they shouldn’t and by taking quiet exception to narrow bowl losses at the hands of new conference rivals.

They want to show their fans great rugby action, right in the center of campus. For Homecoming this year, McLane asked for (and got) Penn State.  It should be another excellent spectacle just north of NYC that will also kick off the team’s hopefully less daunting 2nd half of the season against West Virginia, Buffalo and St. Bonaventure.

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