Iona Claims Liberty D1A I-95 Title Beating Delaware

Iona College Rugby Football Club traveled to Newark, Delaware to face the Blue Hens of the University of Delaware in a Liberty D1A, I-95 match Saturday, October 7. The match featured the top two teams in the Conference, with Iona having a 3-0 record, while Delaware was 2-1.

Iona College was aggressive with their attack scoring 50 first half points, with the final score 81-0 over Delaware. With the win, Iona went undefeated in the Liberty D1A Rugby Conference I-95 Division and won the inaugural title. Delaware finished their conference season with a 2-2 record and are currently in second place with Fordham still having a match remaining.

Next week both teams will play Rugby East powerhouses, Army and Kutztown. Iona will host Army for their homecoming, while Delaware travels to Kutztown.

First Half

The opening kick went within the Delaware 22 meters and the Blue Hens went through multiple phases, but the Iona Rugby defense kept the offense in check. A blocked clearance kick and a Delaware penalty led to an Iona try by center Mike Scarcella that was converted by Mike Marro for a 7-0 lead three minutes into the match.

Delaware advanced the ball inside the Iona 22 meters, but a handling error thwarted their attack. Iona cleared and after a lineout at the Delware 22 meters, Dylan Evans broke two tackles for a try. Marro was successful with the conversion for a 14-0 lead.

Delaware gathered the first of several restarts they would take on the day and attacked within the Iona 22 meters. A penalty relieved the pressure on Iona as they cleared the ball. Iona soon scored their third try on a dummy by John Powers for a 19-0 lead.

The restart by Leo Bacchieri, who was playing fly half for the second time, was high and taken directly by Mike Pimpinella, a wing. The combination of these players on the restarts will be one to watch in the future. Delaware again had another attack opportunity inside Iona territory, but an errant kick gave the ball back to Iona.

The next Iona try was a controversial one. Delaware had a scrum inside their territory and with the ball inside the eight man’s foot, the ball was picked up by an Iona player and resulted in a try by Tyler Ringwood. Marro then converted for a 26-0 lead.

The restart was then turned over by Delaware and two passes later Mike Scarcella had his second try. Mike Hay had a long run from the restart and finished, taking a pop pass near the line for a try. Marro added the conversion and the lead was 38-0.

The restart did not travel 10 meters, so Iona used a scrum at midfield as a platform to attack. Marro found a seam, sold a dummy and Nawdipha finished with a try for a 43-0 lead. In the closing minute, Iona added a try by Matthew Crowe in the left corner and Marro converted for a 50-0 lead at the break.

Second Half

Many substitutions were made during the second half. Delaware had five to begin the last forty minutes. Henry Carr intercepted an Iona pass and Mike Pimpinella also had a nice break, but the ball was lost forward on the tackle. In the next Delaware possession, the Blue Hens attacked from a lineout, using picks n’ goes by the forwards before a Blue Hens player was driven into touch five meters from the line. Iona won the ensuing lineout and after a Delaware penalty for side entry, Iona cleared.

In the 58th minute was the first score of the half, as scrumhalf Connor Buckley added a try, increasing the lead to 55-0. Four minutes later, flyhalf John Powers offloaded to Elliot Collins for a try under the posts, giving Marro an easy conversion.

The combination of Leo Bacchieri and Mike Pimpinella seemingly worked their restart magic, however the referee indicated that the ball was taken just prior to reaching 10 meters.  After an Iona knock on, Delaware kicked a high ball to Colby Marshall, who weaved his way through space and Mike Marro finished with a try under the posts and conversion, as the lead was 69-0.

Iona added two more tries the last six minutes of the match. The first was as intercept leading to a try by James LaVar and conversion by Marro. The final try had James LaVar scoring in the corner for a 81-0 lead, which ended as the final score.

DJCoil Rugby Comments

Congratulations to Iona for winning the Liberty D1A I-95 Division and to Delaware as their improvement is evident. They are moving in the right direction. The Delaware support is there as evident from the number of fans that were at the match.

The coaches and referees spend many hours giving back to the game that they love. That is something that is instilled in players and the coaches from both Delaware and Iona are fine examples.


Iona College Men’s Rugby Club is a talented and experienced team who dominated their Liberty D1A Rugby Conference, scoring 62 or more points in each of their conference matches. Their centers, Mike Marro and Mike Scarcella, are explosive and key players in leading the attack. There were thirteen tries scored against Delaware, with ten players involved in the scoring.

Delaware’s team largely consists of Freshman and Sophomores. This season, their offense has improved from last year and they have a number of talented players that have joined the team. One aspect of the match that was a strength was on restarts. Three restarts were cleanly taken, a fourth was taken at 10 meters, a referee judgement call and two others were mishandled.

While Iona kept mistakes to a minimum, Delaware will need to minimize them as they continue to improve.

Bruce McLane is one of the finest coaches in the U.S. and has a very experienced coaching staff that has developed Iona into an excellent rugby program. Struan Murray is also an excellent coach. He is assisted by Associate Head Coach Tom Conard and Mitch Vannoy.

Comments by Coaches

Bruce McLane, Iona College Rugby Head Coach

Comments by Bruce about the Liberty Rugby Conference I-95 Division were made prior to the match against Delaware in an interview about Iona College Rugby. In this interview, he discussed the differences in coaching high school, club and college rugby. He also discussed the USA Rugby Super League, Rugby East, Liberty D1A, and rugby values.

In reflecting about the impending match against Delaware, he indicated that the winner of the match would be the Liberty Conference I-95 champions for it’s inaugural season. Delaware had a 2-1 record with 11 points and Iona was 3-0 with 15 points. That being said, you want to win the title the way you are supposed to, undefeated.

He also spoke about Xavier High School Rugby and key contributors, in a separate interview. One of his quotes about players was to “Never be afraid of immersing yourself in what rugby has to offer.”

Listen to the Audio Below

Struan Murray, University of Delaware Men’s Rugby Head Coach

I asked Struan to reflect about Delaware’s first season in the Liberty D1A Rugby Conference and I-95 Division. This consisted of four matches against Fordham, Rutgers, Stony Brook and Iona. His comments are paraphrased.

Fordham was was first league match and we feel like the team could have performed better. The match against Rutgers was the team’s best performance and the team continued to take positive steps forward against Stony Brook.

Delaware is a predominately young team and will need to develop greater consistency in their effort for them to excel. That potential is there.

The team that started against Iona had 5 freshmen, 4 sophomores and 3 juniors on the squad. Some of these players had several year previous experience, while others have the athletic prowess and attitude to excel. Rugby is a team game and requires the support from the entire team.

Some of the newer players that have been key contributors include, freshman scrumhalf Luke Persanis, No. 8  Joe Meehan, flanker PJ Wicks,  and Anthony Rapposelli at lock. Sophomores include Jared Wilkins at hooker, Mike Pimpenella at wing and Leo Bacchieri at flyhalf (second match there).

When Senior Nick Jimenez needed to leave the match due to an injury late in the first half, his leadership was missed.

Struan also commented about Iona saying that they are a good team, who don’t beat themselves and make very few mistakes. “I think that their coach is probably the best coach in the country, and whether he agrees or not, is immaterial. That’s why his teams are good. Players play for him and his players want to make him proud.”

I think Delaware is getting there. Delaware is improving as a team and will be a young team next year. The team has the potential to be a good team, but top teams always give full effort and that consistency will be needed as the team develops.

Delaware and Iona Squads

Delaware: 1 Nick Lintner (C) 2 Jared Wilkins 3 Zephir Lambert 4 Anthony Rapposelli 5 Matthew Romeo 6 Patrick Wicks 7 John McCurdy 8 Joseph Meehan 9 Luke Persanis 10 Leo Bacchieri 11 MJ Stovell 12 Nick Jimenez 13 Connor McGee 14 Mike Pimpinella 15 Anthony Donatelli

Reserves: 16 Stefan Losten 17 Henry Carr 18 Mike Healy 19 Will Baker 20 Quentin Bouvier 21 Jang Yi 22 Jihad Holmes 23 Patrick Montes

Iona: 1 Rhys Humphrey 2 Tyler Ringwood 3 Nandipha Dubo 4 Corey Gardner 5 Phillip Raviele II 6 Michael Hay 7 John D’Allara 8 Dylan Evans 9 Connor Buckley 10 John Powers 11 James LaVar 12 Michael Marro 13 Michael Scarcella 14 Matthew Crowe 15 Colby Marshall

Reserves: 16 Riley Burke 17 Wolfgang Mejias 18 Elliot Collins 19 Andrew Aglione 20 Henry Aquino 21 Christopher Kaspar 22 Andrew Donohue 23 Michael Robertson

Photos by Keith Killeen – Delaware vs. Iona

Delaware vs. Iona Rugby

Photo: Keith Killeen – Nandipha Dube Try

Delaware vs. Iona Rugby

Photo: Keith Killeen

Photo: Keith Killeen

Delaware vs. Iona Rugby

Photo: Keith Killeen

Other Articles

DJCoil Rugby articles by Doug Coil, are available on the Webpage or Facebook. Other Social Media sites to follow or subscribe include Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for interviews.

About Author

North American Rugby News With A USA Slant