The Empire Conference match with the most Saturday featured 2-1 St. Bonaventure and 2-0 Binghamton, with the winner claiming the top spot in the division near the midway point of the season.
The Bonnies took advantage, riding a red hot start to a 36-20 win. St. Bonaventure relied heavily on the boot of flyhalf Kevin McCorry, which earned favorable field position and created scoring opportunities.
“We were really focusing on territory and putting some pressure on Binghamton because we knew they could run. We didn’t want to put them in situations where they were able to attack from within 30 or 40 meters,” said St. Bonaventure coach Clarence Picard.
“So we really focused on trying to pin them back, and we were able to create turnovers and we got a penalty kick early to take the lead, and from there we were able to score some tries through the forwards.”
St. Bonaventure raced out to a 24-0 lead, putting Binghamton behind the eight ball. The Devils managed an unconverted try before intermission, cutting the lead to 17. They opened the second half with eight-consecutive points off of a try and a penalty.
“They had some forwards that could really carry the ball and were really strong runners, so they were able to move five meters at a time. At different times throughout the game, when we weren’t able to keep it down in their end, they were able to move the ball on us a little bit. They obviously had scored a bunch of points already, so they definitely gave us some challenges.”
St. Bonaventure extended the lead back out to three scores at 31-15 with a try, effectively putting Binghamton out of reach.
With the win, the Bonnies are more than a win and bonus point ahead of the rest of the league, but ahead lie rematches with everyone.
Buffalo, which gave St. Bonaventure its first loss a week ago, fell 33-13 to Brockport Saturday. The Bulls are now 1-2. UB won the New York State Conference a year ago, but they’re missing some important pieces from that championship team.
“I think we’re struggling because, we didn’t turn over a ton of players last year, but we lost some real key positional guys, and we’re just struggling to fill those holes,” said UB coach Mike Hodgins, “so we’re a little surprised that we’re 1-2, but we are.”
Buffalo has played one less game than St. Bonaventure and holds what could be an all-important head-to-head tiebreaker, so with lots of rugby left to be played, the Bulls aren’t giving up hopes for a second conference title in a row.
“We’ve still got five more games,” said Hodgins. “If you look at the standings now, everybody’s got a loss, so mathematically everybody’s still in it. (The players) got a lot of pride, and they’ve got a lot of game in them, so they’ll bounce back.”