Iona and Delaware Meet in Bowl Series Satellite
The 2015 ACRC Bowl Series brings first-class collegiate rugby competition to the Rugby Athletic Center in Charlotte, NC on Nov. 20-21. But the Bowl Series also encompasses a meeting farther north, as Iona College hosts the University of Delaware in New Rochelle, NY.
The Iona-Delaware bowl throws together two D1 programs that have done a great job of icing the competition in recent months. At the Bowl Series, the ice comes back around as both teams participate in the rebooted ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The Challenge was co-created by Iona rugby alum Pat Quinn and the ACRC Bowl Series is proud to support the efforts of Quinn, the ALS Association and Iona College in combating ALS.
Iona Breaks Out
Iona achieved national attention this fall with the most talked-about upset victory of the year—a 43-26 defeat of top-raked Army on Oct. 17. Coming in ranked in the national top 20 for the first time in school history, the victory over Army catapulted Iona to 13th and solidified their place among the nation's rugby elite.
Spectators at last year's Bowl Series were given an early indication of what might be in store for the Gaels. Iona moved from the Empire Conference to the D1A Rugby East in 2014 and faced an uphill climb in their inaugural season of Rugby East competition. After a 2-4 fall, Iona fought hard in a see-saw contest with Boston College at the 2014 Bowl Series.
Though the Gaels lost 29-19, Iona’s strong performance against BC was a harbinger of things to come. The hard work has paid off for the team this fall with huge victories over Rutgers, Fordham, West Virginia and, of course, Army.
Iona coach Bruce McLane expects a fast-paced attack from the Blue Hens.
"Definitely expect them to open it up and use the ball and try to strike wide and use their handling and 7’s influenced game to put us under stress, where we’ll try and take the opposite approach and not play into their hand," he says. "We’ll need to try and bottle up their speed and skill with a strong defense."
Delaware on the Rise
Delaware has also been enjoying a strong fall as the team returns to D1 play for the first time in over three years. The Blue Hens have scored wins over Princeton, Rowan and St. Joes and hung tough against national powerhouses Army and Kutztown.
Asked why he’s excited to play Iona, Delaware coach Struan Murray replied simply, “they are good.”
“Any team that beats Army and runs Kutztown close is a big challenge and one that we look forward to,” Murray says. “They are disciplined, very well coached and very aggressive. Both in defense and attack they will challenge us.”
Key for Delaware will be a balanced approach. “The game will ebb and flow and we need to be calm under pressure and try to stay accurate and aggressive,” Murray says.
Murray points out that Iona has done an excellent job this fall of controlling matches and the Blue Hens need to focus on using resources well and attempting to guide the pace of the game.
Bowl Series Spells Opportunity
The Bowl Series, Murray says, offers a great opportunity for teams to prove themselves against topnotch competition.
“We get to play a great team, our players get to be in the spotlight and for our Seniors it is validation of their decision to stay and wait for us to get back,” Murray notes. “One-off games are always exciting and to do it in New York where many of our players are from is even better. I'm so excited for them to be able to represent themselves and the University.”
Iona's McLane agrees.
"Bowls are an amazing way to end a season, as the ACRC pits teams in appropriate games to challenge you at the business end of the season," he says. "The games last year in the inaugural bowl series were outstanding and this second year has excellent marquee matchups like Kutztown v Indiana that anyone would love to see."
The Iona-Delaware game will be live streamed along with the other matches from Charlotte on the ACRC Bowl Series website. The game will take place midday on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY.