Marshall Rubgy team faces Xavier

After an impressive win in its season debut against Eastern Kentucky University, the Marshall University rugby team faces Xavier University 1 p.m. Saturday at the 29th Street field in Huntington.

The two teams played twice last season.

After drawing the Herd 22-22 in the first matchup, the Musketeers capitalized during Marshall’s second half skid by controlling field position with pinpoint kicking.

However, Marshall rugby alumni Darrian Smith, who is a member of the coaching staff, said the Herd’s recent practices has the team prepared to face the Musketeers.

“We’ve played them for the past three years, and I believe they have one win on us,” Smith said. “Every year, Xavier knows our weakness and exposes it. All we have to do this year is figure out what those weaknesses are.”

Smith said over the years, the Herd has become familiar with the Musketeers as well.

“Typically with Xavier, they play back-ball,” Smith said. “And our backs are lacking in defense. Every other team we face plays pack-ball.”

Jake Harter, a team captain for Marshall, said Xavier’s kicking ability will be a major factor in Saturday’s game.

“They’ve been very good kicking wise,” Harter said. “That’s why we’ll be gearing a lot of our practices and our drills towards kicking.”

Harter added that the Musketeers are unlike most of the team’s the Herd faces.

“They play a different type of game than most rugby team’s play, especially us,” Harter said. “We’re big on running our big guys and gaining short yards. We pick the ball up after we’re down, get back up and run again.

“We’ve changed our practice this week though because they are a kicking team. They like to spread the field out to where it’s almost like a seven on seven game because they have a big influx on their backs. From what we heard, it’s going to be a much faster game then we’re used to.”

Smith said this weekend’s game will likely have big implications in the Great Lake South Conference.

“A win puts us at number one in the conference,” Smith said. “We have to worry about this game every year. It’s not like we don’t have to worry about the EKU’s or Cedarville’s, but Xavier is usually the team that sets us back.”

Scott Bolger can be contacted at [email protected]