The Navy men’s rugby team continued their undefeated run with a resounding 47-10 victory over Rugby East-rival Penn State on Saturday at Segra Field in Leesburg, Va. The Mids fell behind 3-0 after an early penalty kick by Penn State, but they scored the next 47 points in the contest to win their second match over the Nittany Lions this season.
“We’re happy to get another win against a tough Penn State team that beat us in Leesburg last year. We’re continuing on our journey with a 14-0 record which is good, but not happy with allowing the try in the final moments,” said director of rugby Gavin Hickie. “I think we turned the ball over too many times in key areas that we have to address going into Army next week.”
Navy committed a pair of penalties in the first two minutes of the match, giving Penn State a penalty kick. Penn State’s kicker sent the ball through the uprights just 2:43 into the match to give Penn State a 3-0 lead.
A penalty against Penn State gave Navy a free kick near midfield and Lewis Gray set up a Navy lineout near Penn State’s 22-meter line by kicking it out of bounds. The Mids won the lineout and formed a maul to get inside Penn State’s five-meter line. Roanin Krieger dove into the try zone, but was penalized for not releasing, erasing the score.
Krieger wasn’t phased by the penalty and would be a key part of Navy’s first try. Krieger received a kick in Navy’s defensive side of the pitch and kicked it downfield. The kick took a Navy bounce and rolled out of bounds for a 50-22 kick, giving Navy a lineout inside Penn State’s 22-meter line. Navy would lose the ensuing lineout, but earned an opportunity for another after Penn State kicked the ball out of bounds. Navy won the lineout and pushed inside Penn State’s five-meter line with a maul. Out of a won scrum, Gray split two defenders to score Navy’s first try in the 10th minute. Krieger made the conversion kick following the score, giving Navy a 7-3 lead.
Penn State had a chance to get deep into Navy’s defensive zone with a kick from midfield. The kick would travel out of the back of the try zone, giving Navy a scrum from where the kick was attempted. Navy was called for a knock-on penalty moments after the scrum, giving Penn State a scrum near midfield. Ben Haugh came up with a steal on the scrum attempt and ran the ball inside Penn State’s 22-meter line. A great pass from Landon Opp would set up the second try for Gray in the 17th minute. Krieger’s second conversion kick put the Mids ahead, 14-3.
The Mids earned another free kick from the halfway line after a maul penalty against the Nittany Lions. Gray once again kicked the ball out near Penn State’s 22-meter line for a lineout. Navy mauled themselves near the try line and Dean Neeley would dive into the try zone for Navy’s third try of the contest in the 28th minute. The Mids went ahead 21-3 after the conversion kick from Krieger.
Penn State began pushing into Navy territory using its kicking game. A Nittany Lion attempted to continue the trend with a drop kick near the 10-meter line in Navy’s defensive zone, but Gray corralled the kick and broke through Penn State’s defense. The senior made a cut down the left sideline and made a quick pass out to Ratu Osea Melibua. Osea Melibua put on the jets following the feed from Gray and ran into the try zone untouched for Navy’s final score before halftime. The conversion kick from Krieger gave Navy a 28-3 lead at intermission.
Following the second-half kickoff by Navy, Penn State attempted to kick the ball out of its defensive side of the pitch. Osea Melibua dove for the kick and blocked it, sending the ball out of bounds to award Navy a lineout. The Nittany Lions retook possession inside its five-meter line after a Navy turnover and kicked the ball to push Navy back behind the 22-meter line. Krieger received the kick in the middle of the pitch and used his speed to get around Penn State’s defense down the left sideline. The Nittany Lions couldn’t catch Krieger and he scored a try just 1:10 into the second half. His conversion kick would hit the upright, keeping the score at 33-3 in favor of Navy.
Another knock-on penalty by the Nittany Lions set up a Navy scrum on its offensive side of the pitch. Navy drove down the field and got its sixth try on a diving score by Opp in the 44th minute. The ensuing conversion kick by Krieger put Navy ahead, 40-3.
The score remained the same over the next 30 minutes before a turnover by Penn State gave Navy another try. A dropped pass by the Nittany Lions was picked up by AJ Young, who sprinted down the field and scored in the 74th minute. Opp took over kicking duties and made the conversion kick to give the Mids a 47-3 advantage.
Penn State scored its lone try of the match in the 78th minute and made the conversion kick to make the score 47-10.
“Overall pretty happy with today, but we have a huge focus on ourselves as we go into our match against Army,” said Hickie. “We have to go up to West Point to try and get a win in just a six-day turnaround and we have to get locked in.”
Krieger led the Mids in scoring with a season-high 15 points on a try and five conversion kicks. The freshman has scored in double figures in four games this season.
Gray also posted double figures with his two tries. Gray now has a team-leading 15 tries this season. The senior also leads Navy in scoring with 153 points.
Opp finished with seven points on a try and conversion kick. He has 24 points this season on two tries and seven conversion kicks. Osea Melibua scored his first try of the spring and has scored nine this season. The scores by Neeley and Young were the first scores for the two Mids this season.
Navy travels to West Point, N.Y., for a matchup against rival Army Friday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. The match will not count towards the Army-Navy Star Series, presented by USAA.