Sep 23, 2023
What looked like heartbreak turned into jubilation as St. Bonaventure narrowly held off Army, 29-26, Saturday afternoon in a Rugby East heavyweight bout, giving the Bonnies their biggest regular-season win in program history.
The victory was St. Bonaventure’s first over the perennial national power, a win that wasn’t sealed until the Black Knights were “held up” in the try zone – the Bonnies’ Matthew Conroy got underneath the ball and prevented it from being touched to the turf — to end the game.
The referee’s whistle set off a raucous celebration in front of a large Family Weekend crowd at the Marra Athletics Fields Complex.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Tui Osborne, head coach of the Bonnies, who was just a few yards away from the final play on his coach’s platform behind the try zone fence. “Army almost always scores in those situations but Matthew made a great play. I was getting ready to give my (post-loss) speech when I saw how close they were to scoring. We’re all just so excited.”
The Bonnies (2-0), ranked No. 2 in this week’s National Collegiate Rugby poll, jumped to a 15-7 halftime lead, and increased their margin to 22-7 after Army mishandled the opening kickoff of the second half. Eddie Nelson had a swivel-hipped line break and off loaded a pass for the score to Chad Hagen just before hitting the ground at the brink of the try zone.
But Army scored the next 19 points to take a 26-22 lead with about 17 minutes remaining.
Undaunted, the Bonnies’ Billy Koina delivered a beautiful pass on the left wing to Matthew Joss, who had enough room to not only score but get to the middle of the try zone to set up an easy conversion for Noah Edwards to give SBU a three-point lead with 8:35 to play.
James Aitken, Reynard Boshoff and Koina scored in the first half for the Bonnies.
“We played an almost flawless first half,” Osborne said. “Unfortunately, we started panicking a little and getting away from our game plan in the second half to let them back in it. But we had the belief that if we just kept fighting, we could get it done.”
The Bonnies travel to State College to play Penn State (0-1) next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Nittany Lions, who were idle this weekend, lost to Army, 26-6, in their season opener last week.