Rutgers Men’s Rugby Travels and Edges Delaware

September 10, 2016

Rutgers Men’s Rugby Travels and Edges Delaware

Doug Coil

The University of Delaware hosted Rutgers University Men’s Rugby Club in the Fall season opener for both clubs. Rutgers emerged with a hard fought 15-12 win and will feel good as they prepare for their Keystone Rugby Conference season against Villanova in two weeks. Delaware will regroup this week as they prepare for a Rugby East match away next week against Iona College.

The match was a defensive battle where Rutgers played 12 man rugby and took advantage of scoring opportunities through aggressive play. Delaware controlled two thirds of the possession, yet Rutgers used excellent coverage defense to continually thwart Delaware attacks.

The match had numerous handling errors by both sides and numerous penalties predominately by Rutgers. Four yellow cards and a red card were issued with all but one yellow, issued to Rutgers.

Rutgers battled to the end and deserved to win. Delaware were knocking on the door at the end, but came away just short of a victory.

Match Recap

Rutgers kicked off to begin the match and Grayson Haynes took possession for Delaware. After the first of a number of penalties issued for high tackles, Tom Abram kicked for territory. Several phases later, Joost Elling went over for a try and a 5-0 lead five minutes into the match. The conversion by Anthony Donatelli went wide.

Rutgers then came back going through over ten phases before inside center Chris Sweeney touched down in the left side corner. This made the conversion attempt difficult for Kieran Walsh and it was missed. The match was knotted at 5 all.

Delaware then went through multiple phases before an errant pass went backwards and Will Baker recovered, but lacked support. Nolan Soto picked up the ball and had clear sailing down the wing for a try in the corner for Rutgers. Once again a conversion from near touch was missed, but Rutgers had a 10-5 lead at sixteen minutes.

For the next ten minutes, Delaware had the majority of possession, but could not capitalize from Rutgers penalties and had difficulty penetrating Rutgers coverage defense. Both teams utilized their larger forwards in joining the back line and using crashes entering into contact.

It was a hot, humid night and Delaware made their first of their front row substitutions at twenty five minutes when Zephir Lambert went in for Stefan Losten at prop.

It was a night of infractions and the first yellow card of the night went to Rutgers flanker Glen Johnston for repeat infractions, high tackles. This occurred with less than thirteen minutes remaining until halftime.

Once again Delaware attacked and Rutgers coverage defense was up to the task. In the 40th minute, after a Delaware scrum, Rutgers turned over the ball and used quick hands to get the ball out wide to the wing Nolan Soto, who broke a tackle and raced 60 meters in for a try. The conversion was missed in front of the posts, but Rutgers now increased their lead to 15-5.

Rutgers then withstood another Delaware attack. Jamil Pollard, the Rutgers eight-man who had a prominent role in Rutgers attacks, was sent to the bin after a high tackle on John McCurdy. Delaware was unable to capitalize and at halftime the score remained 15-5 in Rutgers favor. The last try by Soto proved to be the decisive try of the match.

Delaware made four substitutions to begin the second half. Nick Lintner came in at loosehead prop pushing Matt Hess to Lock, as Grayson Haynes left the match. Jack hand came in at fullback, Dylan Duffy at Hooker, and Karl Malate at wing in place of Jihad Holmes. Rutgers also made substitutions during the second half in the forwards and centers.

The first fourteen minutes of the second half saw both teams having attack opportunities, but play generally was toward the middle of the pitch. Finally after several phases, Tom Abram kicked to the wing and Jack Hand raced down the wing, but could not control the ball before it went into touch. Rutgers would have a 5 meter defensive scrum after Delaware replaced tight head prop Zephir Lambert with Ian Mengers.

Rutgers won the scrum, but was penalized at the breakdown for reaching in. Delaware’s Matt Hess took a quick tap and went in for a try, which was then converted by Jack Hand. This narrowed Rutger’s lead to 15-12 at fifty four minutes.

For the next almost twenty minutes, the ball went back and forth between the teams. Rutgers Kieran Walsh and Connor Mahoney handled the ball along with penetrating forward runs. Mahoney also kicked high ball and for territory after a few Delaware penalties. Rutgers also had numerous scrums after losing the ball forward by Delaware. These scrums were killed the clock as the referee reset collapsed scrums without assessing penalties.

Delaware continued to press to add points, but handling errors and the inability to find gaps in the defense continued to be a concern. With seven minutes remaining in the match, Delaware’s Adam Desch was issued a yellow card for a no wrap tackle. Delaware would be down a man for the remainder of the match. Two minutes later, Nathan Soto, who scored two first half tries for Rutgers, also went to the bin when he did not allow the ball to be released in the breakdown.

After a Delaware possession went into touch, Rutgers had a lineout, but the ball was not straight, giving Delaware a scrum. Delaware went through several phases before Rutgers Pierce Donegan was issued a red card for a tip tackle with a minute remaining on the clock. Delaware tried to find a way to pierce the defense, but their attack was thwarted about three meters from the line, as Joost Elling went into contact and lost the ball forward. That was the last play of the match, as the referee whistled that time had ended with Rutgers holding on for a 15-12 win over Delaware.

The match was a defensive one with the Delaware’s two tries and Rutgers first one coming after multiple phases. Rutgers other two first half tries came from the aggressive opportunistic play of Nolan Soto on a pick and an offload in which he found space and outpaced the defense for tries. As the last try prior to halftime was the difference maker, he is my Man of the Match.

Both coaches indicated prior to the match that they were receptive to post match comments. It is always easier to to discuss the match with the winning coach, while the other coach may take the time to unwind before making comments.

Both coaches offered candid perceptions of the match, with Struan Murray providing a tough love team assessment.

Rutgers Head Coach, Mark Dobbs

“For the first half we played very well. We kept the ball in for the first surge by them, in which we gave up five penalties. We kept the ball in hand, tackled well and came up. We really avoided kicking the ball as we tried to keep possession and we were effective.

We ran out bigger forwards into them and our two bigger centers, as they were quicker than us on the outside. We tried to keep the ball in the middle of the field by our pack and the centers. We got ahead and got a few scores from our winger after loose play.”

The second half saw no scores, It was a lot sloppier. The forwards and bigger backs were tired. We used all our substitutes and substituted fitter players in outlasting them despite 18 penalties”

Paraphrasing Coach Dobbs, we were pleased with the win, with being fast to the rucks and with the backs connecting well with the forwards. The penalties – high tackles and diving over in the rucks, we can work on in practice. We also want to work on fitness. We will be ready to begin the Keystone Rugby Conference season in two weeks against Villanova.

University of Delaware head Coach, Struan Murray

“We came out flat. The problem in coming out flat was that Rutgers came to play and they were super aggressive. What they were doing was attacking the rucks in numbers and were basically saying to us adjust and stop us.

We didn’t adjust, so you have to credit Rutgers, as they took the game away from us. I don’t think that we lost the game, they won it. They took the game away from us, as they were very physical and our guys took a lot of backwards steps.

When you come out flat, it is incumbent on the Senior leadership to step up and make some decision to change, slow it down a bit, whatever it may be. I didn’t think that they did a good job of it. That was due to the pressure that Rutgers applied to us.

The team that played better won. Rutgers showed a lot more fight. I think that 15-12 was a flattering score line.

While we possessed the ball for probably 75% of the game, we didn’t do anything with it. We weren’t crossing the gain line, we were static and they were able to be aggressive in defense. Everything that happened with possession became almost useless.

It’s disappointing because when a team is aggressive, you’d hope the team would step up to the plate and fight back. I think Rutgers took us out of our game. We did not have answers for what they were doing.”

In response to my indicating to Coach Murray that Rutgers were playing 12 man rugby, he said ” If you have a particular skill set, it is down to you to play it and down to the other team to stop it. They played to their strength and couldn’t stop it.

They let Delaware carry the ball into contact and they threw bodies in and tried to turn the ball over and we didn’t adjust.

It may have looked ugly and we may have tried to play some rugby, but the facts are today our team should have been able to decide on the field that we didn’t need to play as much rugby, we needed a little more vanilla. We needed to run straight and hard. We had lateral movement and Rutgers ate us up.

Again you have to give Rutgers credit. They wanted the game for 80  minutes. They had three guys issued yellow cards and another red carded and somehow we couldn’t beat them, so credit Rutgers.

In discussing the number of high tackle with Stru he said “When so many bodies going into the ruck, it is incumbent on the players to deal with it. We could have solved the problem by lowering our body height and they wouldn’t have been able to disrupt. We didn’t and they kept doing their job. The better team won.”

In paraphrasing Coach Murray in talking about beginning Rugby East play next week at Iona College, he said that Iona and Delaware are similar, but it is their mindset. What we saw today, it what Iona will bring and then some. They are aggressive, blue collar in that they never stop working. They have  a center that if you don’t pick up his work rate, he will run over you.

We have a lot of work to do. Not only were we not the favorites, but after this, it not about who is the favorites, it’s about saying mentally we lost this game, nobody died. We need to word hard for three nights and see what we can do. The rest will take care of itself.

DJCoil rugby comments

Both coaches were very candid about their team’s play. They comments are telling.

Rutgers is a good team that is well coached and they should do well in Keystone Rugby Conference play.

Delaware is also well coached and is a young team with a few Seniors blended into the mix. They will improve as they gain more experience in the tough Rugby East D1A Conference. I expect them to be very competitive.


It is expected that in a few weeks that I will meet with Coach Murray and interview him for the DJCoil Rugby You Tube Channel. I did so with Rutgers Head Coach Mark Dobbs prior to the match last night.

DJCoil Rugby You Tube Interview: Rutgers Men’s Head Coach Mark Dobbs


Delaware Lineup: 1 Stefan Losten 2 Jared Wilkins 3 Matthew Hess (c) 4 Joost Elling 5 Grayson Haynes 6 Henry Carr 7 Adam Desch 8 Will Baker 9 MJ Stovell 10 Tom Abram 11 Jihad Holmes 12 John McCurdy (c) 13 Matthew Ramierez 14 Anthony Donatelli 15 Ryan Killeen 16 Ian Mengers 17 Nick Lintner 18 Zephir Lambert 19 Dylan Duffy 20 Zach Allen 21 Jack Hand 22 Nick Jimenez  Connor F. 23 Karl Malate

Rutgers Lineup: 1 Nick Dillon 2 Luke Kringler 3 Joe Chang 4 Peter Wargo 5 Derrick Flitcroft 6 Glen Johnston 7 Calen Fields 8 Jamil Pollard 9 Kieran Walsh 10 Connor Mahoney 11 Sam Sobolov 12 Chris Sweeney 13 Mike Hogan 14 Nolan Soto 15 Mike Nezgoda 16 David Dudek 17 Pierce Donegan 18 Michael Ntigbu 19 Alec Prieto 20 Ethan Mabilog 21 Nick Iaconelli 22 Ray Murphy 23 Ryan McKeever


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