OLEAN, N.Y. – The Navy men’s rugby team (11-0, 9-0) completed its fall journey on Saturday in Olean, N.Y., with a 28-8 victory over St. Bonaventure (6-2, 6-2) to finish its first varsity season undefeated and win the Rugby East North Division Title. Navy’s defense shined in the win, holding the second-best offense in the Rugby East to just eight points.

“We knew this game would be a tough test for us. We were under pressure for large parts of the first half, but we dealt well with that pressure and were able to take our points when given the opportunity,” said director of rugby Gavin Hickie. “We worked hard for this win as we have all season.”

Credit: Navy Athletics

The Mids struck first in the 17th minute, getting a try and conversion kick from Lewis Gray to take a 7-0 lead. St. Bonaventure scored its first points in the 20th minute on a penalty kick to get back within four, but Navy took back control with a pair of scores in the final eight minutes of the first half. Dale Sturdifen scored Navy’s second try in the 32nd minute, and Roanin Krieger made a penalty kick to end the first half to give Navy a 15-3 lead at the break.

Despite both teams having explosive offenses, the defense was the story of the second half, with no scoring occurring again until the 69th minute when Sturdifen scored his second try of the match to put Navy up 22-3. Krieger made the conversion after Sturdifen’s score and added a pair of penalty kicks in the final 10 minutes to grow Navy’s lead to 25 points. St. Bonaventure scored its only try in the 80th minute to end the match to cap off Navy’s first fall varsity season.

Krieger led Navy in scoring with 11 points on three made penalty kicks and a conversion kick. His three-made penalty kicks are the most made by a Mid in a match and give him five total this season. Gray scored his first try since Navy’s match versus Air Force back on Sept. 30 for his 12th of the season. Sturdifen raised his try total to five, all of which have come in the past four matches since he returned from injury.

Navy ends its first varsity season with several achievements. The Mids defeated both academy rivals Air Force and Army, along with its nine other opponents, to finish the season 11-0. Navy’s perfect record also helped them claim the Rugby East North Division Title over some of the best teams in collegiate rugby. As a team, Navy finished as the best offense in the Rugby East and outscored its conference foes 378-106. Gray ends the year as the league’s top scorer with 108 points in eight conference matches. Navy will enjoy some time off before it gets back to action in the spring to begin its quest for a national championship.

“We set out on our journey back in August and challenged ourselves each week to be the very best we could be. We grew as a team throughout the season, and it’s been particularly satisfying to witness our individual and collective growth,” said Hickie. “We added coach James Willocks in the summer. Through his outstanding work, our senior class guidance and captain Jack McMahon’s phenomenal leadership we reached our summit and finish the season undefeated. We are extremely excited for the spring and while we will allow ourselves to celebrate our success, we will be back to work very soon, as we still have plenty to do.”

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