Rowan righted the ship and returned to the their winning ways Saturday with a 36-3 win over IUP. Although the scoreline flattered Rowan, the first half was a slugfest with IUP bringing the fight to the Profs. The crimson hawks had the better of the opening exchanges and took an early lead off a Prof penalty 30 meters out from their own posts. Soon after, IUP was threatening the Rowan line again as ill discipline allowed IUP to probe deep into Prof territory. It looked as if the crimson hawks would score again, but a try-saving tackle from fullback Sean Pomeroy prevented further damage.
The Profs sputtered through a first half that was littered with dropped balls and penalties. IUP was able to force the young Rowan team into playing the IUP style and causing the Profs to commit many unforced errors. However, Rowan did eventually manage a try from flanker, James Mejia, after a prolonged period of pressure highlighted by a dominant scrum performance. The pack repeatedly drove the IUP forwards off the ball at scrum time. However, the scrummaging was the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal first half.
Fortunately, the Profs emerged from halftime as a seemingly different team. The key play in the match happened only minutes into the half when Man of the Match, Sam Portner, intercepted a crimson hawk pass and dotted down under the post. Flyhalf Hunter Musson converted and the Profs seemed to breath a sigh of relief.
The Profs began to assert their dominance with a patterned attack and structured defense, but IUP made the Profs work hard. Freshman sensation, Musson, began to assert control with long raking kicks that forced IUP onto the back foot. The smothering Prof defense repeatedly drove IUP backwards and led, incredibly, to another intercept try from flanker Portner that was converted by Musson.
Dominance of territory and possession by the Profs, despite an unfriendly whistle from the referee, led to more scoring opportunities. Eventually, kiwi lock, Morgan Watt powered over from close out for a try. The final try was a thing of beauty from another standout freshmen, wing Jonathan Mitchell. Under yet more Prof pressure, IUP was forced into a hurried clearance that was gathered by Mitchell who immediately counter attacked. Sensing that the crimson hawks had over pursued in their kick chase, he chipped the ball over the defense, gathered his own kick and cantered under the post for an easily converted try.
Although the performance was far below their potential, the young Prof team (a third of the gameday 23 were freshmen) did find a way to win and also overcame many distractions during a short week of preparation.
The coaching staff was also pleased by the performance of the players who seized their opportunity playing for the A-side for the first time such as hooker Dan Van Clef (voted hardest worker) and Jake Zoppina. In addition, John Bohlin (voted road warrior) was outstanding in his first appearance at outside center after starting at flyhalf in 2017.
Competition for A-side spots will be intense in the coming weeks as the Profs continue their quest for a conference championship.
The Profs host the West Virginia Mountaineers next Saturday in what promises to be yet another stiff challenge. We invite all supporters to come early and learn about the game of rugby when defensive coach, Bill Stom, will conduct a short clinic before kickoff explaining the basics of the game to parents and supporters who are new to the game. There will also be a bbq afterwards for the parents of rugby players.
Come out and support the Profs!!