LOWELL, Mass. – Three-peat!
The Norwich University men's rugby team won its third straight Rugby Northeast 15s championship and fourth overall 15s conference title in a row with a 32-16 victory over UMass Lowell on Saturday afternoon.
Norwich (6-2) fell behind 6-0 in the early going but rallied back to score 15 straight points before halftime to take a 15-6 lead into the break. The Cadets scored 17 more points to start the second half to make it 32 unanswered points before UMass Lowell could answer again.
Senior Nate Rolling (Taylorsville, Utah) scored two tries, while Michael McLaughlin (Norwalk, Conn.), Kyle Clark (Pataskala, Ohio) and Travis Bartniski (Houston, Texas) each scored one try to lead the Cadets' offense. Jeffrey Minicucci (Bolton, Conn.) added two successful conversions and a penalty kick to round out the scoring for Norwich in the game.
McLaughlin finally got the Cadets on the board in the 22nd minute to cut the deficit to 6-5 and then Clark added another in the 35th minute to give Norwich its first lead of the game at 10-6. Rolling added his first try of the day on the final play of the first half to give Nor up wich a 15-6 lead heading to halftime and all of the momentum.
Bartniski kept the momentum solely in Norwich's corner with a try to start the second half and then a Minicucci conversion pushed the lead to 22-6.
Minicucci stretched the lead to 25-6 with a successful penalty kick. Rolling scored again with a converted try to push the lead to 32-6. UMass Lowell scored two unconverted tries, but it was too little too late and Norwich held on for the 32-16 victory.
Norwich now advances to the USA Rugby Division II National Tournament for the fourth straight year. The Cadets will play a to be determined opponent in the round of 16 on Nov. 23 in Greenville, S.C. at Furman University.
Norwich finished third in 2016 and 2017, before being knocked out in the round of 16 last season.
The Cadets have now won seven straight conference championships combined between 15s and 7s.
Rolling earned Most Valuable Player honors and was presented with the game ball following the game.