The US Naval Academy is into the top eight in the USA 7s CRC after escaping a tenacious Notre Dame squad 19-15.
After looking very impressive in their victory over Army, Navy struggled to capture that mojo in their final match of the day. Notre Dame did a far better job of keeping the ball, and with David Harrington challenging their tackling, and shifty Dominic Corsaro finding gaps.
Navy scored first, turning the ball over in their own 22, after which flyhalf Jack McAuliffe, who had his best game of the day, feeding Nock Hancock for a long-range try.
But Notre Dame came right back, maintaining possession and then sending Corsaro through the middle. He was caught, but Harrington picked from the ruck and dove over. Corsaro missed the easy conversion and the score remained 7-5.
Navy had the ball after the restart, but a silly holding on penalty gave it back to the Irish, and Notre Dame exposed some flimsy tackling by the Midshipmen, who should know better. Corsaro scampered in to make it 10-7.
At the end of the first half, after a series of rucks and tackles that sucked in more and more players from both sides, McAuliffe picked and ran downfield. He seemed to have the angle to score, but was just caught, and after a knock on by Navy, the half ended.
In the second half, Navy tried to settled down their approach, but Notre Dame forced them out of their comfort zone. It took a few minutes for Navy to put together a sequential attack, but once they did, McAuliffe finished it off to make it 15-12 Navy.
McAuliffe then tried to chase down the kickoff, but knocked it on. Notre Dame kept the ball, and did well to work the gaps until Corsaro raced through to give the Irish the lead.
But a key mistake cost Notre Dame. The kickoff did not go ten, giving Navy a free kick at midfield. While Navy didn’t score, they stayed in Notre Dame’s end. A wayward Irish lineout fell right to Joseph Di Pietro, who had green in front of him. But the Navy player didn’t back himself and pulled out of the run. No matter, as Navy did enough to keep the ball, and finally work it to Ron Helms, who sliced in and centered the ball.
Notre Dame had one more shot, but Navy won the ball and Seamus Siefring sent the ball into touch to finish the game off. It was not a great performance by Navy, but they end the day 2-1, and into the Cup Quarterfinals against Arizona.
In the end, the similarities for Navy in all their games was that they never gave up. They fell behind, and always came back – not enough to beat Cal, but certainly enough to beat Army and Notre Dame.
“We stay confident,” said Siefring. “Maybe we need to work on our starts. But we work on playing Navy Rugby. We knew if keep possession, fill the gaps and make the hits, we knew we would win the game.”
Navy does best when they make big hits and force turnovers. They also break tackles well.
“Our team slogan has been ‘elegant violence,’ and we can go through you, and if we can’t go through you, we’ll dance around you, too,” said the (hope to be) future Marine. “This is the best 7s team I’ve been a part of it. I’ve been to all of these tournaments, and I am the most excited with this team.”
Tries: Hancock, McAuliffe, Helms
Convs: Feller 2
Notre Dame 15
Tries: Harrington, Corsaro 2