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Top-seeded Bonnies preparing to host rugby playoff opener Saturday at noon

Nov 18, 2021 |

NCR playoff opener Nov. 20He knows he’s the No. 1 seed and his players know it, too.

But coach Tui Osborne has made it clear to his St. Bonaventure rugby team: “Just because we think we’re the better team doesn’t mean we can go into the game thinking we have it in the bag.”

The Bonnies, who closed the season with signature wins over Penn State and Kutztown, host seventh-seeded University of Mary Washington at noon Saturday at the Marra Athletics Fields Complex in the first round of the National Collegiate Rugby Division I Championship. The game will be livestreamed on the men’s rugby Facebook page.

The Eagles finished 5-1 in NCR’s Chesapeake conference and 5-2 overall; that includes a two-point loss to Penn State, the No. 2 tourney seed, in its nonconference season opener.

After opening its nonconference season with four straight dominating wins, the Bonnies dropped a heartbreaker to Navy, 21-17, and couldn’t match Army’s physicality a week later in a 27-0 loss.

“But to hold a team as strong as Army to just 27 points was a step in the right direction,” Osborne said. “Going forward from there, we just needed to eliminate a lot of the silly mistakes we kept making and become more disciplined.”  

The Bonnies (3-2 conference, 7-2 overall) bounced back with historic first-time wins over perennial powers Penn State (19-15) and Kutztown (17-12), victories sandwiched around a 39-11 win over Notre Dame College, to finish third in Rugby East behind Army and Navy. (The service academies opted to compete in the spring national 15s tournament instead of the NCR tourney.)

“Having the guys respond the way they have, especially coming out of the pandemic, has been really gratifying for our staff,” Osborne said. “We have a good mix of seniors and young players and they have come together well. Our seniors have really become great leaders, not just on game days but in showing the way how to prepare for games.”

Mary Washington, located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, was unbeaten in conference play until losing to Queens (N.C.) University, seeded third in the NCR tournament, in the Chesapeake season finale. Besides Penn State, the other common opponent the Bonnies and Eagles had was Mount St. Mary’s; the Eagles won 42-13 and the Bonnies won 45-27.

“The fact that Rugby East has three teams in the tournament tells you how highly regarded our conference is,” Osborne said of the Bonnies, Penn State and Kutztown, the No. 5 seed. “We’re very fortunate to have the strength of teams in our conference to prepare us for tournaments like this. I do think we have the best conference in NCR.

“But that doesn’t mean we can take anyone lightly. Our theme for this week is clarity and discipline.”

Saturday’s winner will play the winner of Kutztown and No. 4 Iona. On the other side of the bracket, Penn State hosts No. 6 Brown, and Queens hosts No. 8 Northeastern. Both semifinal matches will be played Saturday, Dec. 4, at Penn State Berks in Reading, Pennsylvania.

The title match will be played the weekend of Dec. 10-12 at AVEVA Stadium in Houston, Texas, home to Major League Rugby’s Houston Sabercats.

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About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the #5 regional university value in the North in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 college rankings edition.

 

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