The accolades keep coming for the Navy men’s rugby team. After completing the fall campaign undefeated with an 11-0 record and champions of the Rugby East, Navy is the top-ranked team in the College Rugby Division 1-A Rankings, the College Rugby Association of America (CRAA) announced Tuesday, Nov. 15.
“We are aware rankings can change very quickly, but for everyone who has ever run out to Hospital Point, got on a bus to the Prusmack Rugby Center and all of our phenomenal alumni, this is for you,” said director of rugby Gavin Hickie. “You’re the reason we currently stand at number one. We have some very special people around our team and we are extremely grateful for their support.”
After six years at the helm, coach Hickie has brought Navy rugby to number one in the Division 1-A rankings for the first time in Navy’s 59-year history. Navy was ranked 19th when Hickie arrived in 2017 but he has elevated the program to the top level of collegiate rugby. Alongside coach Hickie this season was assistant director of rugby James Willocks, who proved to be a major addition to the team.
“The addition of coach Willocks has been critical to our progression. He has made a very significant impact on our program and the team has responded to his leadership,” said Hickie. “We are here to help develop the best war fighters and warriors we possibly can. We never lose sight of the mission and now ranked number one, our mission just got a lot harder. However, we welcome the challenge.”
Navy had a dominant fall season en route to its number one ranking. The Mids outscored opponents 537-106 and finished as the top-scoring offense in the Rugby East, averaging 42 points per match in the toughest rugby conference. Navy scored at least five tries in eight matches and scored 50 or more points in five. Lewis Gray had a huge role in Navy’s elite offense. The senior led the Mids with 138 total points scored and finished the season as the top-scorer in the Rugby East with 108 points in conference play. Gray ended the year ranked third in tries scored (eight), first in conversion kicks (25) and tied for third in penalty kicks (six) to be the only player in the Rugby East to score at least 100 points. On the defensive end, team captain Jack McMahon led a brick wall that allowed just 11.77 points per game and only surrendered 13 tries in 11 matches. The elite play of both sides of the ball allowed Navy to control every match, trailing for just 6:24 in 880 minutes of play this season.
“Our captain Jack McMahon is a warrior. He drives the standards and expectations of his team,” said Hickie. “He leads by example in every training session and every game. His growth and development as a man of character have been particularly satisfying to witness. Lewis Gray, another warrior in the truest sense of the word is the heartbeat of our team. He’s the hardest worker on our team and has no quit in him. He is quite simply the best collegiate rugby player in the country.”
Highlighted in Navy’s undefeated season were wins over service academy rivals Air Force and Army, both of whom ended the season in the Division 1-A top 20. Navy dominated Air Force 71-0 in Colorado to claim the Lt. Shea Memorial Rugby Cup for the seventh straight season. Navy faced off against Army in Annapolis and won the match 27-14 for its first win over Army since 2019. Both teams entered the match undefeated, but the Mids emerged victorious over the defending national champions. Navy will see fifth-ranked Army again, as well as fourth-ranked California in Annapolis when it begins its spring season in February.
CRAA Division 1-A Elite Top 20
3. St. Mary’s College
9. Central Washington
11. Arkansas State
12. Cal Poly
15. Grand Canyon
16. Air Force
17. Ohio State
18. Texas A&M
19. Colorado State