September 14 - Friday Night Rugby returns with a clash of Indiana rivals battling it out under the lights as Marian takes on Notre Dame Friday at Stinson Rugby Field in South Bend, Ind. at 7pm EST. The Knights enter with a 1-0 record, defeating Kentucky 30-18 September 2. The Fighting Irish are 1-2, with a win over Trine being sandwiched by losses to Navy in Dublin, Ireland and Wisconsin in Madison.
Marian is in its second season in DI and fourth as a team. In their inaugural season, the Knights finished third in the Big Rivers, the first and largest varsity-only conference in the country, and ended the year ranked No. 14 in the Coaches Poll.
There’s no shortage of returning talent, with players like All-American flanker J.D. Farrell, South African fullback Zivan Mynhardt, who is coming back from an ACL tear, and Tommaso Lorenzetti, a standout scrumhalf as a freshman who’s since moved to flyhalf. The Knights also have some promising freshmen in flanker Blake Fincher, an Indiana native, prop Hunter Branham, and R.J. Fine, an Alaskan native who scored three tries with the second side in his first organized XVs match.
“I think it's a great opportunity for us not only as a program, but we are going up against another Indiana school,” said Harley. “We recruit against a lot of the same kids. Of course, everybody knows Notre Dame. While we might be smaller, we are mighty.”
Notre Dame is making its long-awaited Friday Night Rugby debut, as the scheduled match against Boston College last year was canceled due to weather. The Fighting Irish opened their season in Dublin against Navy, as a sort of curtain-raiser for the gridiron game also being played between the two schools. Notre Dame’s seconds played against vaunted Trinity College’s U20s. Notre Dame lost both games handedly. Nonetheless, the trip was wildly successful experientially and painted the rugby program in a good light with administration.
“We have a really good reputation on campus as a team that handles themselves really well. This was without a doubt the most we had ever really been highlighted by the University,” said Notre Dame head coach Justin Hickey.
“It was a tough ask for sure, but the guys were great all the way in preparation. On the field, it was humbling. There were a lot of unforced errors … we let ourselves down with ball security.”
In their match against Trine, 20 of the 26 players didn’t make the trip to Dublin, giving most of those who did a rest. The dominant win provided some optimism for the rest of the season, with young playmakers playing a prominent role. Freshman No. 8 Jake Waterhouse, a lock on the South African U18 national team, and lock Jon Barnes, a member of the Jamaican U18 team, stood out, alongside flanker Marcos Kantaris.
“Stuff like this can give us more exposure, make the stage a little bigger,” said Hickey. “We really expect that the Marian game is going to be a tough opponent and a good experience.”
- Written by Joey Knese