Army Edges Iona Rugby

Iona College Rugby Edged by Army on ESPN3

Army West Point Men’s Rugby team defeated Iona 17-13 before a large homecoming crowd at Mazzella Field in New Rochelle, N.Y. The match was streamed on ESPN3.

The Black Knights record is now 4-1, 3-1 in Rugby East, while Iona suffered their first loss and are now 7-1, 4-0 in Liberty, after claiming the Liberty I-95 division last weekend. In their previous two meetings between the teams, Iona defeated Army 43-26 on October 17, 2015, and last year, Army defeated Iona 16-5 in September 20016.

Iona vs. Army West Point Recap

Iona took a 10-0 lead, with Army fighting back to knot the match at 10 all at the break. Iona recaptured the lead with a penalty kick before an Army converted try was enough for a 17-13 victory.This physical match was dominated by aggressive defenses by both sides, which disrupted the flow

This physical match was dominated by aggressive defenses by both sides. The pressure exerted by both teams, resulted in knock-ons from contact and numerous penalties disrupted the flow of the game. Both teams were fit and used good line speed in the attack, but it was a defensive battle on the day.

First Half

Iona took the early lead in the third minute from a penalty kick by Santi Mascolo and increased their lead to 10-0 four minutes later when James LaVar added a try, converted by Mascolo.

Army narrowed the lead to 10-3 in the 12th minute, as Jon Kim slotted a penalty kick.

For the next twenty minutes, there was back and forth play by both teams until the Gaels captain Mike Scarella was sent to the bin for a late hit. Army immediately tried to capitalize but was held up in-goal. After the ensuing 5 meter scrum, there was a turnover by the Gaels.

Army had the momentum, as Nathan Brooks grounded the ball for a try and after Kim’s conversion, the score was knotted at 10 all.

Mike Tolkin Halftime ESPN3 Interview

Mike Tolkin, former Eagles Head Coach who has been assisting the Gaels as a coach, was interviewed on ESPN3 about what Iona would need to do in the second half. He indicated that they would need a more sustained attack, protect the ball better, and sort out their lineouts.

Second Half

The Gaels were soon back to full strength after Scarcella returned from the bin. The first of decisions by both sides to forego attempts to add points through penalty kicks then occurred. The Gaels committed an infraction, but Army elected to kick for touch. Their scoring opportunity was lost after a turnover from an Army scrum.

Iona also did not attempt a penalty kick, but after their efforts were not rewarded, they changed tactics and Mascola slotted a kick in the 47th minute to grab a 13-10 lead.

Several minutes later, it appeared that the Gaels might increase their lead, but Colby Marshall knocked on the ball near the line. Army then attempted a clearance kick from the ensuing scrum, but the ball was blocked. Instead of opting to take a penalty kick, the Gaels took a quick tap and lost possession into contact.

In the 60th minute, Army went through multiple phases and grounded the ball for a try. Kim converted for a 17-13 lead that the Black Knights would not relinquish.

The last twenty minutes of the match included numerous penalties by both teams and the defenses were stellar. After warning Army for multiple penalties, James Mbony was issued a yellow card in the 73rd minute and Army would need to play the rest of the match down a man.

Iona used the remaining time to attack, as they need a try to recapture the lead. They advance the ball to within meters from the line, but Army repelled their assault and secured a 17-13 victory.

Conclusion

Both Iona and Army played with their hearts and bodies, leaving everything on the pitch. The defenses of both teams shined, as they created numerous turnovers into contact. The aggressive play by both resulted in too many penalties that disrupted the flow of the match but was still an exciting match, a worthy one for being shown on ESPN3.

Next week, Iona will travel to play Massachusetts, while Army travels to play Kutztown.

Keith Killeen Photos

Army Edges Iona Rugby
Photo: Keith Killeen
Army Edges Iona Rugby
Photo: Keith Killeen
Army Edges Iona Rugby
Photo: Keith Killeen
Army Edges Iona Rugby
Photo: Keith Killeen
Army Edges Iona Rugby
Photo: Keith Killeen

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  • James McHale

    On a day of brilliantly beautiful weather……….Albeit an untimely first loss for the formidable Gaels of North Ave., nonetheless, a well-written article capturing the essential highlights, along with the spirit of the day for the benefit of those of us who were precluded from attending……….Iona RFC will bounce back from this one!……Nicely done, djcoilrugby.com!……..Jim McHale, IRFC, ’77-’81