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Dominant Navy Rugby Defeats Life 27-17 in National Semifinal with Ronan Krieger’s Precision Kicking and Solid Defense

With just a few minutes left in the national semifinal on Saturday, Navy, the top-ranked team, was facing off against No. 2 Life at the Prusmack Rugby Center in Annapolis. At that point, the visitors were on the verge of scoring, putting pressure on the Midshipmen’s defense.

Even though a try would not have altered the final result, the Midshipmen were resolute in their determination to prevent the Running Eagles from breaching their try line.

“Maintain the defense, Navy. Finish strong,” urged team captain Ben Haugh passionately.

Despite Life making some progress, Navy managed to force a turnover, securing a hard-earned 27-17 victory and advancing to the Collegiate Rugby Association of American Division I-A national championship for the second consecutive year.

Contributing 12 points through three conversion kicks and two penalty kicks, sophomore fullback Roanin Krieger played a pivotal role for Navy (17-1), showcasing exceptional defensive skills. Junior prop William Webb, freshman center Jake Cornelius, and freshman prop Ian Bullock all added tries for the Midshipmen.

Coach Gavin Hickie was visibly moved by the team’s tenacity and performance in the challenging match. Since their victory over Notre Dame in Dublin back in August, Navy has been striving to return to the national championship game, and this win was a significant step towards that goal.

Navy is set to compete for a consecutive national title on May 4 at SaberCats Stadium in Houston against the third-ranked St. Mary’s College of California.

The coaches agreed that the set pieces played a crucial role in the outcome of the match. Navy’s precision in executing lineouts contrasted with Life’s struggles in that aspect. Hickie specifically praised senior flanker Vaughn Schmitz for his disruptive performance in stealing Life’s lineouts consistently.

“Our accuracy in the lineouts and the effectiveness of our lineout maul were key factors,” remarked Hickie. “Vaughn Schmitz’s dominance in stealing lineouts was instrumental in depriving the opposition of possession and contributing to our success.”

Haugh echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the importance of winning lineouts in securing victory. “A solid defense during the lineouts was crucial for us,” added the senior 8-man.

Life briefly took the lead at 10-7 after a try by senior Karch Hoffman, converted by classmate Bradley Crane in the 28th minute. However, Navy responded strongly towards the end of the first half, with Krieger leveling the score with a penalty kick and Cornelius scoring a try shortly after, putting Navy in the lead for the remainder of the match.

Hickie commended the team’s ability to convert scoring opportunities and maintain composure throughout the game. He highlighted the offensive contributions of Cornelius and senior fly half Landon Opp, as well as the defensive prowess of Bullock and freshman flanker Aidan Gerber.

Looking ahead to the championship game, Hickie acknowledged the need for improvement, particularly in discipline, to face St. Mary’s, who secured their spot by defeating BYU in the other semifinal match.

Despite facing challenges and committing some errors, Navy’s resilience and adaptability have been key strengths throughout the season. The team’s ability to overcome obstacles and evolve, despite changes in the lineup and injuries, has been a defining characteristic.

As they prepare for the championship game, Navy remains focused on their underdog mentality, relying on discipline, hard work, effort, and effective communication to drive their success on the field.