A wrenching 35-33 loss on a Friday night at Stony Brook three weeks ago left St. Bonaventure’s men’s rugby team with dim hopes of qualifying for next spring’s national tournament.
Their hopes burn a lot brighter today.
Brockport edged Stony Brook, 27-23, on Saturday, clearing a new path for the Bonnies to secure the Empire Rugby Conference’s
automatic berth in the 16-team national tourney in April.
Coming off of a 57-5 win over Iona last weekend, the Bonnies (6-2-1) close their regular season at 2 p.m. Saturday vs. visiting Rutgers (2-7) at McGraw-Jennings Field; the game was originally set for Nov. 3 but postponed because of Hurricane Sandy’s effects on New Jersey.
With a victory — one in which they score at least four tries to gain a bonus point — the Bonnies will tie Brockport (7-2-1) for second place with 38 points, but claim the national tourney berth because of their 29-19 win over Brockport in September.
“After the Stony Brook loss, we did a lot of reflecting as a team, especially our seniors, and realized one match can’t summarize a season, let alone a career,” said coach Clarence Picard. “We stopped worrying about our opponents or outside pressures, and decided to play as hard as we can for each other. That was our only focus against Iona, and we will keep that mindset against Rutgers.”
Army (8-0-2) clinched the regular-season title, but aren’t eligible for the Division I-AA playoffs since they also have a team in Division I-A, which competes in the spring. The Bonnies tied Army, 15-15, and would have won the league title outright had they beaten the Cadets.
Senior flyhalf and kicker Kevin McCorry is third in the Empire Conference in scoring with 73 points, but the Bonnies feature a balanced offensive attack; nine players have scored at least two tries, with freshman Charles Meagher leading the way with five scores.
“Everyone knows we haven’t had the dream season, losing some close games and dealing with injuries, but that doesn’t matter now,” said Picard. “Our young players are maturing at the right time, and we are finally healthy. We couldn’t ask for anything more heading into the season finale with a playoff bid on the line.”
The Bonnies won five state rugby titles while a member of the Division II New York State Rugby Conference: 1993, 1998, 2004, 2007 and 2008. Last year, the Bonnies won the Empire Conference’s west division before falling to Stony Brook in the league finals.