The Air Force Academy won the Shea Cup over Navy Friday night, defeating the visiting Midshipmen 30-20 on the Terrazzo at the USAFA campus in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The game was held in conjunction with the Navy v. Air Force football game, which was played on Saturday. This was the second Air Force rugby game held on the Terrazzo, a massive green quadrangle in the center of campus. A big crowd braved a freezing mist that left the goalposts covered in a coating of ice - a fate probably suffered by some slow-moving fans, as well.
Navy went up 10-0 early, but the Zoomies replied with two tries apiece from center Eric Schreck and fullback Huston Harrison to take the lead, and then held on.
Air Force did a superb job of keeping possession, holding the ball about 60% of the time. No. 8 Larry Lundin was outstanding both on defense and in attack.
"This was a great game," enthused Navy Head Coach Mike Flanagan. "It was great to be able to come out here and play at the Terrazzo. It was a big game for them I think. Our problem was that we've been concentrating a lot on 7s, and I think it's on me to manage how we balance that."
Navy's two young locks, Dave Dolinar and John Thornton, showed well. The sophomore pairing looks set to be a big part of Navy Rugby for a while. Rickey Feller combined well with Jack McAuliffe at halfback for Navy.
This game was for the Shea Cup. Lt. Col. Kevin Shea, who attended the Air Force Academy, and played rugby there. He later cross-commissioned into the US Marine Corps, and coached at Navy. He was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.
For more on Lt. Col. Shea, see our report on last year's game here.
The trophy itself was found in an antique shop in Iowa by Rich Bristol, whose son, Jack, plays at Air Force and who works with the team.
"I saw the silver cup and thought that it would make a nice rugby trophy," Bristol said. "I bought it not knowing how it would be used."
As time went on several ideas were being floated around for a challenge trophy between military academies. Lt. Col. Shea was the perfect name to be honored with the trophy, as he was connected to the rugby programs at both Air Force and Navy, and therefore this became the trophy for the annual Air Force-Navy Game.
The base was made by Compleat Stair in Kennesaw, Ga., owned by Bristol's brother Rob and where his other brother Rick works. Rick is a former Marine, and built the base out of black walnut on the company equipment with a hidden message to the Marines under the silver cup. The cup was finished in time for last year's game.
"The players of both teams have really embraced this and have begun to realize the meaning of Kevin Shea's legacy," said Bristol. "This will be quite a long enduring tradition."
Air Force is set to visit Army and play a full A-side v. A-side match for the first time in many years. Then, with an anticipated Army v. Nay game coming, likely in the spring, we will see a complete Military Academy series for the first time in many years.