BC Blowout Clinches MCRC Perfect Season

By Owen Teach

On the final week of its regular season schedule, the Middlebury College Rugby Club (MCRC) traveled to Boston College on Saturday, Oct. 26 with the hopes of securing an unbeaten record and knocking off the only side to beat the Panthers last season. In yet another dominant display in the club’s impressive season, MCRC battled gusty conditions to down the Eagles 35-15 and to cement a 6-0 regular season record.

Despite the win against BC, the Panthers had already secured their second straight East Coast Rugby Conference championship following a 78-22 thrashing of the University of Albany the previous week on October 19. By virtue of the club securing a “bonus point” – or an additional point in the conference standings by scoring four tries in a win – in each of its first five wins of the season, MCRC distanced itself enough from second-place American International College through only five games.

For co-captain Ben Stasiuk ’13.5, the title-clinching win against Albany offered little distraction to the team as it prepared for BC.

“We didn’t even really mention winning the conference at all in our practices or meeting leading up to the game,” he said. “Actually winning the conference last week was kind of anticlimactic – we just checked Twitter feeds online of another game and realized that we won. I think everyone, after losing to BC last year, was 100 percent focused on that game. Last year was a devastating loss and, in terms of preparation, winning the conference didn’t faze us. I think we all felt like we would not have won unless we beat BC and had a perfect season, which we did.”

Assistant Coach Junior Tuiqere also touched on the importance of the BC contest to the side.

“The current seniors had never beaten BC, so they had this urgent drive to beat them for the first time,” Tuiqere said. “Their sense of urgency and desire to [beat BC] pushed the whole team to accomplish this goal.”

Last November, the Eagles handed the Panthers a 13-11 loss and derailed MCRC’s potent offense in the process. On Saturday, however, Stasiuk pointed to several factors that allowed Middlebury to dominate the contest.

“Overall our team is better this year than we were last year especially in our forwards, where we are bigger, stronger and well-disciplined compared to last year,” Stasiuk said. “Similar to last year, we got railed pretty hard with 15 penalties in the first half. Last year we got really frustrated, and we didn’t make the changes necessary to adapt to the ref to change the game around. This year in the second half, especially in the scrum, we adjusted to stop getting the penalties and allow ourselves to score some points. We also didn’t anticipate the change of pace in last year’s game. BC is a very ‘crash ball,’ attacking team and we weren’t as ready for it last year as we were this year. The week before the game we practiced defending forwards game oriented rugby and we played well.”

Tuiqere also pointed to penalties as a decisive trend in this year’s game.

“We started out the game by allowing BC to dictate the pace of the game as we were ‘trying too hard’,” he said. “As a result we made some silly errors and infringements that led to penalties. During half time we adjusted our game plan to go back to basics and do all of the little things correctly. This showed in our second half performance.”

Co-captain Allan Stafford ’13.5 offered another explanation for the change in results.

“I don’t think BC’s team was as good this year as they were last year,” Stafford said. “Their tackling last year was amazing while this year we broke through a lot of tackles. This year we are just a better team overall, all the way through.”

That assertion is highlighted in the team’s point differential on the season, far and away the most lopsided in the conference. The Panthers, with 305 points in six games on season and only 74 points against, boasted both the league’s most potent offense and stingiest defense. By comparison AIC, the league’s next highest-scoring side, put up 170 points.

Furthermore last year’s team, while finishing as 5-1 conference champs, played a number of games decided by two points or less. This year, MCRC never won by less than 16 points.

A quick glance at the ECRC’s individual scoring leaders tells part of the story, as the top three scorers in the conference come from Middlebury. Jake Feury ’16 finished with a whopping 110 points (including 13 tries), while Adam Schreiber’s ’14 43 points and Stafford’s 40 round out the leaderboard.

As the team shifts its focus to a the national tournament that kicks off on November 16, Assistant Coach Ben Wells reflected on the undefeated regular season and its implications for MCRC’s place in D1-AA.

“I think that two straight ECRC championships, which means back-to-back trips to the National playoffs, shows that we belong in this division, which a lot of people disagreed with when we made the move in 2011,” said Wells. “Every time we participate in a national tournament it helps with our recruiting as many high school rugby players have never heard of Middlebury.”

“The trajectory for the club is straight up,” Stasiuk said. “Some great young leaders on the team have us on a path of greatness for a while.”

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