It was a case of too little, too late for the Wheeling Jesuit Rugby team, falling behind early to last year’s DII national runners up, Salisbury University, but rallying to come within 8 points with only minutes left, before falling 55-40.
Wheeling Jesuit's USA Junior All-American Prop, Freshman Max Lum (Advance, N.C.), led the Cardinals with three tries, and an all around outstanding individual performance, both defensively and with ball in hand.
In an exciting, back and forth game that saw 14 tries and nearly 100 points between the two sides, a Wheeling Jesuit comeback was not quite enough to topple Salisbury, who are riding a 14 game winning streak - including wins over Delaware and Maryland - and are on track to return to the DII Championship.
“This was a big learning experience for our boys today.” said WJU Head Coach Eric Jerpe. “The guys were flat before the game and Salisbury jumped on us because of it. We’ll study the film on this game hard, and learn from the mistakes. With such a young team, learning opportunities like this are extremely valuable. Our boys really dug deep though, and battled tough till the end. We’re proud of that effort.”
Tries came fast and furious in the first 10 minutes of the game. Salisbury wasted no time getting on the board with a kick ahead try in the third minute. WJU and Max Lum answered right back with a try just minutes later, then SU would return the favor. Not to be outdone, Sophomore Dante Walters (Sacramento, Calif.) scored off a quick-tap penalty and the Cards led 14-12 after just 10 minutes.
The Cardinals slow start would begin to show however, when Salisbury rattled off four unanswered tries in the next 20 minutes to give the Seagulls a 36-14 lead that WJU wouldn’t be able to recover from.
Momentum began to shift back to the Cardinal’s side just before halftime however, when Lum rumbled in for two more tries before the break, and Junior Corbin McInnis (Charlotte, N.C.) scored off an intercepted lineout just two minutes into the second half to cut the SU lead to 33-36.
Freshman Lamont Ham-Gadson (Philadelphia, Pa.) added another try for WJU as time wound down, but Salisbury would score a try as time expired to take home the 55-40 win.
Wheeling Jesuit will face Mary Washington on the road next week, before returning home March 30th to face the Ohio University Bobcats at James LaRosa Stadium.
Wheeling Jesuit 40
Tries: Lum (3), Walters, McInnis, Ham-Gadson
Cons: Titus: 5
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