Mary Washington clinched the No. 1 spot in the Chesapeake Conference with a convincing 48-7 road win over James Madison on Saturday in Harrisonburg, VA.
With the victory, UMW is 7-0 and cannot be caught in the standings, even if the Mothers lose next week.
Mary Washington weathered some physical play from JMU and some early missed passes to pull away late against the second-place Dukes.
"We knew that JMU would counter-ruck really hard and to their credit they stole a few, the difference was that we did not get rattled and adjusted," UMW assistant coach Tyler Stephens said.
The Mothers defense continued to be stingy this year, not allowing a try until the 43rd minute. Head coach Min Sae Chae has made defense a yearlong project and it is paying off.
The first half ended with UMW leading 22-0 behind tries from fullback Bradlee Nicholls, wing Nathan Neri, and No. 8 Matthew Gordon.
The second half opened with James Madison scoring a converted try at the 43-minute mark. Mary Washington regrouped and posted tries by Daniel Northwood, Jordan Sacks, Gordon, and Nicholls.
The players of the game were UMW's 6-foot-4, 230-pound freshman flyhalf Michael Sacks (pictured) and junior scrumhalf Harry Masters, both of whom played a very physical game at a fast pace.
UMW hosts a very good Mount St. Mary's team at home next week at the Battleground in Fredericksburg, VA.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech got by Salisbury 21-5 on Saturday to improve to 5-2, the same record as James Madison. However, Madison has one more bonus point and remains in second place. Mount St. Mary's took on Maryland in a game for fourth.
Mary Washington now has clinched a spot in USA Rugby's D1AA playoffs, and the Chesapeake's second-place team probably will, as well. That runner-up team will be determined by a No. 2 vs. No. 3 playoff on Nov. 11. MSM and Maryland went into the weekend with an outside chance at reaching that playoff game. The Mount beat the Terps 40-20 and hold onto a chance to overtake either JMU or Virginia Tech in the top three.
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