Men’s Rugby Falls in 7s Final, MCWRC Shuts out Tufts


Sarah Minahan ’14 jumps to receive a throw-in during the team’s 33-0 win over Tufts. (Courtesy/Molly Benedetto)

By Tom Clayton

Saturday Oct. 6, the Middlebury College Rugby Club (MCRC) fell in the finals of the East Coast Rugby Conference (ECRC) Sevens tournament in Amesbury, Mass. in extra time, 12-7 to Northeastern. With the win, Northeastern received a bid to the USA 7s tournament in College Station, Texas in November. The Middlebury College Women’s Rugby Club (MCWRC), meanwhile, traveled to Rutland. Vt. after the team’s home field proved too wet to play on. Once on dry ground, however, the women dropped Tufts 33-0.

In the ECRC tournament, the men, who usually play rugby union rules, had a chance to compete in a different style. Sevens, or seven-a-side rugby, is a fast-paced brand of rugby in which teams of seven compete for two seven-minute halves. The Blue otherwise play an ECRC season of 15-a-side rugby with two 40-minute halves. Both games are played on the same size pitch, yet the differences in player count and duration account for the drastic difference in style of play.

“We handled the adjustment to the sevens game extremely well,” said Coach John Phillips. “We had a very good week of practice working on our attacking ball skills.”

A potent attack propelled the Blue through pool play. MCRC beat Albany 38-5, Southern Connecticut 35-0 and AIC 38-19. In the quarterfinals, they shut out the University of Connecticut 59-0 and in the semifinals they beat defending champions Boston College 29-3.

On a day full of concentrated, hard-running matches, the Blue called on its depth and stamina to outrun the field.

“The whole 15-man squad was outstanding,” said Phillips. “There was no let down when we sent on the subs.”

In the finals, it took Northeastern extra time to break a long run down the sideline into the try zone that broke the 7-7 tie and gave the Mad Dogs the 12-7 win. In games lasting only 14 minutes, one play can prove decisive. When the 15-man sides met two weeks ago, MCRC beat Northeastern 23-20 in a thrilling contest at home.

“We have started to develop a strong rivalry with [Northeastern],” said Allan Stafford ’13.5.

The MCRC continues its ECRC play this weekend in Storrs, Conn. at UConn and will finish the regular season with three home games in successive weeks against the University of Albany, American International College and Boston College.

The women, meanwhile, improved to 2-1 in conference play with their trouncing of Tufts.

For the first 20 minutes of the match, the MCWRC pressed the attack towards the Tufts line, dominating possession and field position, but were unable to score.

Scrum half and captain Jess Berry ’13 finally dove into the try zone to put the first points on the board midway through the first half.

“I was happy that we were finally able to find a gap in their defensive line,” said Berry. “We worked really hard to wear them down, and it finally paid off and got us in a good position before the first half ended.”

In the second half MCWRC broke through the Tufts pack and never looked back. Tries came from Melanie Haas ’13, Julianna Gardner ’13, Emily Duh ’14 and Ali Hentges ’15. Hentges’s diving score was the first of her career.

On top of her first-half try Berry converted the two-point kick on all four second-half tries for a match-high total of 13 points.

A home match against Bowdoin this Saturday, Oct. 13, followed by trips to Williams and Bates await MCWRC in the coming three weeks.