By Matt Montalvo
- SUNY Buffalo – 13
- SUNY Binghamton – 18
After a rough game against St. Bonaventure on Saturday, several Binghamton players were still battered and bruised going into the Sunday game against SUNY Buffalo. In response to this, there were several new faces in the Devils starting line-up. These players were Junior Flanker Pete Johnson, Senior Flanker James McKenna, Freshman Lock Bryan Shankman and Sophomore Outside Center Dan Smith.
From the moment the whistle blew, the veil of fatigue from the game the day before was lifted and the Devils came out of the gate firing. After applying early pressure on Buffalo, the Devils were able to capitalize on a penalty kick 10 meters away from the goal post. Senior Inside Center Nick Esposito converted the kick and the Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead 3 minutes into the first period.
Seeing Buffalo had come out a bit lax, the Devils attack the game line with pace and were able to gain positive yards each time. Around the 6th minute, Senior Fly Half Spencer Mendelson did a pick and go and was able to weave his way through the Buffalo first line of defense. Once Mendelson broke the game line, he then forced the Buffalo full back to commit towards attacking him before passing the ball to Senior Wing Matt Montalvo who slide in for the first try of the day. Esposito missed the conversion but the Devils were up 8-0.
In response to these quick scores, Buffalo’s offense finally woke up and began having their forwards aggressively attack the game line. Eventually, Buffalo’s forward play took its toll as they were eventually able to punch in a score from a meter out (conversion missed) 8-5 Devils. Although the Devils were able to amass bits and pieces of an offensive assault, the Buffalo pack heavy offense was beginning to take its toll on the battle worn Devils. Then before the half ended, Buffalo was able to score off a quick tap and go from the five meter line but missed the conversion (8-10 Buffalo).
For the start of the second half, the Devils made several substitutions and brought in Senior Flanker Andrew Nenos, Sophomore Flanker Christian Randell, and Senior Lock Evan Haber which disarmed Buffalo forward oriented offense.
With possession drifting back towards the Devils, the backs were once able to work their magic and reawaken the offense. Off a successful strip made by Esposito and Smith, the Devils were able to utilize a quick red wing which resulted in the ball ultimately landing in Junior End Wing Max Khalilullah’s hands. Max then scored in spectacular fashion as he has multiple times this season. Max received the ball several feet from the sideline and once he saw the full back commit towards him, Max gave the ball a boot which danced along the end line but remained inbounds. Max then came blazing down the sideline, picked the ball up and while being tackled placed outstretched his hands with the ball over his head and laid the ball down in the try zone (Esposito missed the conversion), and now the Devils were in the lead 13-10.
The Devils offensive onslaught did not stop there though. Several minutes later, with the Devils about 5 meters out from the Buffalo try zone, Mendelson was able to overpower several Buffalo defenders and find the try zone (conversion was missed) which made the score 18-10. While the Devils were still playing suffocating defense, they were unfortunately playing it in their half of the field. Eventually the Devils conceded a penalty which Buffalo opted to kick for points from 15 meters away. The kick was good and now the score was 18-13.
With a playoff spot on the table for the Devils, the team locked up their defense and played much smarter rugby. With Buffalo continuing to attack in the Binghamton half of the field, it looked like only a matter of time before the Devils defense would bend. However, that would not be Binghamton’s fate thanks to a heroic strip and offload from Senior Eight Man Nick Palazzolo to Montalvo which resulted in a full field sprint resulting in the ball being fought over in Buffalo’s side of the field. Palazzolo was incredible off line outs with winning both our throw in and Buffalos throw ins and at one point was able to steal a ball by reaching over Evan Habers (first lifters) shoulder and knocking the ball over to the Devils side.
From that point on, the Devils offense took control and was able to keep Buffalo on their heels. When the whistle blew, the Devils defense had held and the Devils had clinched a Division 1 playoff spot in the Empire Rugby Conference Championships with the 18-13 win over Buffalo.
The Devils have one last game against Syracuse this upcoming weekend and we plan to end the season the right way.