NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The #2 Norwich University men's rugby team continues its search for its first-ever Rugby Northeast Championship this weekend in Providence, Rhode Island. The Cadets are coming off their second straight undefeated league regular season and first Rugby Northeast regular season title in their inaugural year in the league.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: The top-seeded Cadets (8-0, 7-0 RN) will take on fourth-seeded UMass Lowell (5-2, 5-2 RN) in the Rugby Northeast Semifinals at 11:00 a.m. at the Ray Treacy Track and Field Complex at Providence College. The winner of the match will move on to Sunday's Championship contest which is slated for 2:00 p.m. with the loser playing in the Consolation match at 11:00 a.m. There will be $5.00 entry fee and a merchandise tent inside the complex as well.
In the other semifinal contest, the #2 seed University of Southern Connecticut takes on #3 seed Middlebury College at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. The winner of Sunday's championship game earns an auto-bid into the 2017 USA Rugby Division II National Tournament. The champion also will earn a first round bye in the tourney. The runner-up also gains an auto-bid, but will have to travel to face either SUNY Geneseo or SUNY Oswego in the First Round.
EARLIER THIS SEASON: The Cadets own wins against all three teams in the tournament, defeating Southern Conn. State 40-5 on the road on September 16th, UMass Lowell at home 54-7 on October 7th and Middlebury 22-10 on the road October 28th. Norwich has won 15 consecutive league contests dating back to last season.
Against UMass Lowell, senior flyhalf Keegan Frick (Thornton, Pa.) started the scoring with a penalty kick to give Norwich an early 3-0 lead. Sophomore flanker Nate Rolling (Taylorsville, Utah) scored the Cadets' first try of the afternoon (converted by Frick) to make it 10-0 before Frick added his second PK for a 13-0 lead.
Rolling added his second try of the match (converted by Frick) and junior prop Taualupe Tau (E. Palo Alto, Calif.) added two consecutive tries (one converted by Frick) to give NU a 32-0 lead at intermission.
Senior center Alejandro Galea (Bath, Maine) scored two consecutive tries (one converted by Frick) to open the scoring in the second half and make it 44-0. Junior wing Yao Dyson (Bristow, Va.) added an unconverted try to put the score at 49-0.
The Riverhawks scored their lone try with roughly four minutes remaining before Cadet junior flanker Austin Manhey (Ballston Lake, N.Y.) nabbed a try on the last play for a 54-7 final.
At Southern Conn. State, senior scrumhalf Tom St. Pierre (Warwick, R.I.) scored two tries and the NU defense held SCSU to just one, unconverted try.
Frick started the scoring with a penalty kick to give NU an early 3-0 lead. Senior fullback Anthony Candrilli (Richmond, Va.) scored a try to make it 8-0 before the Owls got on the scoreboard with a try to cut the lead to 8-5.
St Pierre then added his first try of the day to give Norwich a 13-5 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Cadets got tries by Rolling, St. Pierre, Manhey (converted by Candrilli) senior lock Ryan Wagner (Newtown, Conn.) and freshman William Rambin (Fairfax, Va.) for the 40-5 final.
At Middlebury last weekend, the Panthers broke open a scoreless game with a try 25 minutes in that was answered by senior prop Matthew Ulufanua (Ewa Beach, Hawaii) minutes later. Frick added the conversion for a 7-5 NU lead. The Panthers went on to score on the last play of the half to carry a 10-7 lead into the intermission.
In the second half, junior prop Eoghan Savano (Kenilworth, N.J.) blocked a Middlebury kick attempt in the try zone and fell on it for a Cadet try and a 12-10 lead. Wagner added a try for a 17-10 lead before senior center Jay Inzenga (Exeter, N.H.) sealed the game with a try on the final play of regulation for a 22-10 final.
NORWICH EYES USA RUGBY PLAYOFFS RETURN: Last season, the Cadets advanced all the way to the USA Rugby Division II Semifinals after topping Bentley University 30-17 in the Round of 16 and Rowan University 38-22 in the Quarterfinal round. Norwich ultimately fell to eventual-champion University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 58-29 in the semifinals. NU claimed third place in the tournament, its highest in school history, with a 40-17 victory over then-defending national champion University of Minnesota-Duluth in the consolation game.