Coming off of a tough loss in the closing moments to Air Force two weeks ago, the Fighting Irish were set to take on their next service academy, Navy, in their second night game in the history of Notre Dame Rugby. On a cold Friday night, the two teams took the field. This match was shaping up to be a physical one, and that it was. Within the first 5 minutes the first ‘high tackle’ was recorded, and the Navy Captain was binned. The Irish were quick to capitalize on the lack of numbers in the scrum. The Irish drove a scrum 10 meters into the try zone where Flanker Bobby Manfreda picked up the ball and touched it down. Byron Henry made the conversion, Irish 7 Midshipmen 0.
After more phase play and a multitude of tactical kicking by both fly halves, Navy saw their first break come on a turned scrum. The Navy 8-man picked up the ball and made a quick dish to their oncoming scrum half, who then made an offload to keep the ball inbounds. After a couple picks, the forwards powered over the line. The conversion was made and the game was tied going into half time.
After the break, the momentum stayed with Navy. After a couple of line breaks, the Midshipmen were banging on the door of the Irish try zone. They were momentarily kept out by a handling error, however the managed to win the opposing scrum and the 8-man picked the ball and leaped over the line to score. The conversion was made, Midshipmen 14 Irish 7.
The Midshipmen kept up the pressure and were on the offensive. Fueled by another line break, the Midshipmen showcased their passing skills and worked the ball deep into Irish territory. When the Irish finally settled into their defense, it was too late; a couple of picks by the forwards put the ball over the line. They converted, and the Midshipmen were up 21 – 7.
With about 10 minutes to play in the game, the momentum began to shift again and the Irish realized the urgency at hand. After a few sloppy penalties, the Irish were inside the Navy 22. Reserve fly half Chris Pesigan skipped a ball out to outside center Ryan Mitchell who broke the line to within Navy’s 5 meter. Winger Rob Mungia was the first to the ensuing ruck and picked the ball and dove over the line to bring the Irish to within one score. Pesigan with the conversion, the score was 14 – 21 with 7 minutes to go.
After another yellow card left the Midshipmen’s numbers lacking, Pesigan skipped the ball out again to Mitchell who made a quick pass to Fullback David Penberthy who beat the last man and went into the try zone. Pesigan converted the try, the score was tied 21 – 21 with 5 minutes left to play.
The comeback was not completed however. Like their play against Air Force, the Irish found themselves on the defensive for the remaining 5 minutes of the half. In a valiant stand, the Irish defense held until the closing moments of the match, when a Navy forward picked the ball off a ruck and dove in. Final time blew as the Midshipmen closed out their victory 28 – 21.