Due to finishing 4-2 in the regular season, the NC State men’s rugby team qualified for a play-in game against the Salisbury Sharks, who finished the regular season with a 3-1-2 record, good for the third seed in the Chesapeake Collegiate Rugby Conference (CCRC).
The Wolfpack defeated the Sharks by a score of 24-15, leading by as much as 14 points in the game, behind tries from the likes of senior Brandon Corkery and more points added on by CCRC leading scorer junior Tom Stockton.
Now, the team will take on St. Joseph’s in the first round of the Fall D1AA College playoffs. Making it this far for a team that lost some senior talent last season, as well as introducing a new group of youth on the team.
St. Joseph’s finished the regular season with no losses, tearing through its conference with a record of 8-0. The St. Joseph’s Hawks play in the MARC, a conference that includes the likes of West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Delaware. The Hawks won their games by a combined 364-117, a plus-247 point differential.
The Hawks also never scored less than 29 points in a game, and never allowed more than 25 points. For reference, NC State has scored as little as 10 points in a game, and allowed more than 25 points three times over the course of the sevens season.
St. Joseph’s also has five players that have at least three tries on the season, Matt Lydon and Matt Riotto each have three, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Ahern have five, and Gaelen Kelly leads the team with six tries. Ahern also leads the team in total points, with 62.
Meanwhile, NC State’s senior Mende Carlton leads the Wolfpack with 11 tries, while senior Darren Murphy has five of his own. While Ahern has 62 total points on 17 conversions, Stockton has 71 points on 19 conversions.
While St. Joseph’s is an excellent team with a plethora of players that can score or be the No. 1 option for a game, NC State matches up well with the squad, and should press the team despite St. Joseph’s dominant record.
Getting Carlton involved early should be a huge emphasis on the outside, while getting Murphy and other strong inside players such as junior Mayo Ogunmola involved will also be crucial to the team’s success.
The game against St. Joseph’s will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, as the first match of the quarterfinals at ECU’s rugby field one. After this, the team will either play on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 11 a.m. again or 1 p.m. depending on if they win or lose. The loser of the match plays at 11 a.m. on Sunday, while the winner advances and plays at 1 p.m.