Rowan rugby opened their conference schedule Sunday away at #3 ranked, reigning conference champions St. Joseph’s University.
The Profs fielded an extremely young team, half of whom were underclassmen, including four freshmen. Undaunted by their opponent’s reputation, the young Rowan squad took the fight to St. Joe’s with a display of fierce physicality. The tough tackling and hard running put the Hawks on their back feet and led to an early try from lock Morgan Watt.
The Hawks showed their talent and experience, however, by striking back with two tries. The second occurred after a Prof was sin-binned. The two sides then traded tries (Rowan prop, Vito Nucci, scored for the Profs after barged through the St. Joes’ pack) and the score stood at 17-12 in the Hawks favor.
The second half brought renewed vigor from Rowan as the clever kicking of freshman flyhalf, Hunter Musson,repeatedly pinned St. Joe’s inside their 22. The forwards began dominating scrums and the lineout was humming. Things began to click for Rowan and the pressure resulted in another try from the forwards as they outmuscled the Hawks’ pack. The try was beautifully converted by John Dormann and the Profs were back in the lead.
Unfortunately, the Profs difficulty in securing kickoffs led to pressure, penalties and eventually a St. Joe’s try. With less than ten minutes remaining, Rowan poured on the pressure and repeatedly assaulted the Hawks’ try line leading to multiple penalties against St. Joe’s. However, the Prof’s’ youth caught up with them and they were unable to convert the relentless pressure into points. The game ended in a 24-19 loss.
The coaching staff was encouraged by the performance of the young team, particularly the four freshmen who all played very well. The dominant display by the forward pack also points to a bright future.
Next up is IUP away on Saturday. IUP won their opener over Pitt and the Profs will be facing a tough challenge.