ANNAPOLIS, MD. – Two undefeated rivals squared off at the Prusmack Rugby Center for a Saturday afternoon contest, and it was Navy men’s rugby (10-0, 8-0) emerging victorious over the Army Black Knights (7-1, 6-1) by a final score of 27-14. The win is the Navy’s 10th straight and puts them in a position to win the Rugby East North Division Title next week.

“We’re continuing on our journey at 10-0 now. A big win for us beating Army, something we haven’t done in the past couple of years,” said director of rugby Gavin Hickie. “We put a plan in place along with trust and faith in each other and were able to execute. The wind played a much bigger factor than we thought it would, but going into halftime, we were very confident about being able to play a territorial battle. I’m extremely proud of this team. They’ve dug deep since day one, and now we’re 10-0 and beat Army so we’re over the moon.”

Credit: Navy Athletics

Army put Navy in a difficult spot early in the match by pushing inside Navy’s 22-meter line, but Navy’s defense continued to push Army back. Navy eventually pushed into Army territory and Ryan Bullock bulldozed his way into the try zone in the 13th minute for the first score of the contest. Lewis Gray made the easy conversion kick to put Navy up 7-0.

Army managed to respond and keep the pressure on Navy by forcing them back up against its own try zone. The Mids committed a penalty, which led to an easy try for the Black Knights in the 20th minute to tie the match at 7-7. Navy had opportunities to score another try over the next 15 minutes, but Army’s defense held strong to keep the match tied. Gray broke the tie in the 36th minute on a penalty kick from Army’s 22 meter line to put Navy back ahead 10-7. The Black Knights quickly pushed deep into Navy territory, but it Roanin Krieger made a huge tackle to force Army’s ball carrier out of bounds a few meters away from the try zone to end the half with Navy in the lead.

The wind picked up in the second half and provided a big advantage for Navy due to Army having difficulty kicking the ball out of its zone. Navy also used the wind to its advantage on kicking in the 45th minute when Gray nailed another penalty kick to put Navy ahead 13-7.

Navy continued to keep the ball on Army’s side of the pitch and made two huge plays inside Army’s 22 meter line. Tanner Russell blocked a kick attempt by Army out of bounds to keep the ball deep in Army territory, and then Vaughn Schmitz got a steal on the ensuing lineout to regain possession. Sean MacLaney punched it in at the 50:05 mark for another Navy try, and a conversion kick form Gray gave Navy a 20-7 lead. Army opted to go with some of its substitutions and the move paid off as the Black Knights battled back to regain lost ground. A knock-on penalty by Navy set up Army in Mids’ territory, and the Black Knights used excellent passing to score a try in the 65th minute to get back within six.

Navy kept its composure and continued to use the kicking game to its advantage to keep Army out of its zone. The offense kept pushing closer and closer to the try zone before Dale Sturdifen provided a huge momentum changer. Ben Haugh made an impressive pass out to Sturdifen as he was getting tackled, and Sturdifen sped past Army’s lone defender in the area for a try. Gray had to kick his conversion on the left sideline and behind the 22 meter line, but it still wasn’t a problem for the senior who made it right down the middle to give Navy a 27-14 advantage. The defense held strong in the final 10 minutes to extend Navy’s winning streak to 10 while handing rival Army its first loss of the season.

Gray’s leg was big for Navy in the win, making all three conversion kicks and both penalty kicks to lead Navy with 12 points. MacLaney and Sturdifen both scored their third tries of the season, while Bullock scored his second.

Navy will conclude its fall season next Saturday in Olean, N.Y., when the Mids take on St. Bonaventure at 1 p.m. A win over the Bonnies would secure the Rugby East North Division Title for Navy.

Box Score

  • 13:40 – Navy – Try – Ryan Bullock (5-0) Conversion – Lewis Gray (7-0)
  •  20:35 – Army – Try (7-5) Conversion – Army (7-7)
  •  36:20 – Navy – Penalty Kick – Lewis Gray (10-7)
  •  45:12 – Navy – Penalty Kick – Lewis Gray (13-7)
  •  50:05 – Navy – Try – Sean MacLaney (18-7) Conversion – Lewis Gray (20-7)
  •  65:05 – Army – Try (20-12) Conversion – Army (20-14)
  •  70:05 – Navy – Try – Dale Sturdifen (25-14) Conversion – Lewis Gray (27-14)

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