In a warm up game against the BC Eagles the Middlebury Men’s rugby A side lost by 24 points to 13. This is the A side’s first loss on their home field since fall 2004 where they lost to Yale in the New England Semifinal – the only occasion Middlebury has failed to capture the New England title this century. Despite dominating possession for long spells The MCRC struggled to convert possession into points. All credit to BC for their solid defensive play and strong attacking moves. Their tactical kicking from their own half was spot on and Middlebury seemed to have few answers in terms of counter attacks. Many lessons to take away from this game and Middlebury will have to revisit some areas before their season opener against regional rivals UVM on Saturday, September 19 at home. There were also some strong positives that the team will look to build on, particularly their play at the breakdown: great tackling, rucking and poaching from their loose trio and centers. BC’s 24 points came from 3 converted tries and one penalty kick. Middlebury’s points came from 2 unconverted tries, R. Kelner ’12 & captain Eddie Cahill ’09.5, and a penalty kick from Canadian half back Sirkia ’12.5. Detailed match report below:
Middlebury’s centers, Hurley ’11 & Cahill ’09.5, worked hard in the first half to find holes in a solid BC defense and between the Irish transfer’s vision and captain Cahill’s speed BC were made to work hard on defense. Great rucking by the Blue pack assured ball retention and some smart lineout plays caught the Eagles off guard but for all this Middlebury struggled to put points on the board, whereas BC took their opportunities in clinical fashion.
The Eagles moved the ball well down their line and their opening try was a well worked weak side attack from a scrum that left the Middlebury defense staggered and outnumbered. Very little most teams could have done against this well executed play. The BC kicker added the easy two points: 0 – 7 BC early in the first half.
Before the BC try, a few minutes after kick-off, Middlebury had a penalty awarded near the BC 40, which would have been a decently long attempt for goal, into the wind, but directly in front of the posts this seemed within both Sirkia’s and winger Sam Harrison’s striking range. However, Middlebury chose to go for the 7 points and set up a lineout near the BC 22…a somewhat risky move, which proved unsuccesful on this occasion, but appropriate in a warm up game where long term goals are more important than the result.
After the BC try Middlebury came back firing and retook their hold on the gameplay. They were awarded another penalty in the BC half, a much closer goal scoring opportunity but at a tougher angle. Again, Middlebury chose to setup an attacking lineout and go for the try instead of the easier 3 points. This time their gamble paid off: sophomore blind side flank Rowan Kelner finishing off a series of pick’n'go’s by the Middlebury pack. Sirkia was unable to convert the try but Middlebury were finally on the scoreboard, 5 – 7 in BC’s favor. Despite the success of the earlier gamble, when Sirkia was offered a 3rd penalty kick within striking range he could not turn it down and slotted home the 3 pointer with just over 5 minutes left in the half. 8 – 7 to Middlebury.
Going into halftime with the upper hand offers a great psychological advantage, especially scoring right before the half. Middlebury’s advantage was unfortunately shortlived as the Blue gave away a needless penalty in their own half. The BC kicker went 2 for 2 in converting this attempt, 8 – 10 BC. HALF TIME.
No changes were made to the Middlebury lineup at half time but 10 minutes into the second half Kenyan center Harry Mwaki Magotswi ’11 was brought on at outside center, Ed Cahill slid out to the wing where we have become accustomed to seeing the speedster play over the past 3 years; winger Zach Withers ’11 came off the field. This was Withers first game for the A-side and he should be proud of a good first outing, making the transition from the slower B-side level where his talent was duly noted last year; fans of the Blue should look forward to seeing more of him! Brett Woelber ’09.5 was also brought in at hooker pushing forwards captain Chris Mutty ’09.5 to prop. Mike Pappa ’11 stepped off the field. The versatility of our players will be key with a potentially long and challenging fall season ahead.
Cahill utilized his new found space on the wing to punish the BC defense with a swift one-man counter attack – kicking the ball down the touch line. The deceiving bounce of the rugby ball had everyone (except Cahill) confused, even the Middlebury linesman who in anticipation of the ball bobbling out lifted his flag only to see the ball sit early and clearly stay within bounds. Needless to say the BC players were furious at the confusion as the ref waved off the linesman. Credit to BC for quickly containing their frustrations and getting back to the game. Hard to say if the BC defenders would have been able to stop the exhorbitantly fast Cahill even if the flag had stayed down. Surging past defenders to arrive at the ball first, Cahill then showed some of his “footy” skills, playing the through ball and touching down to complete the try. Terrific game overall by the backs captain, the only surviving player on both the 2007 and 2009 national championship winning teams. Having taken over kicking duties for the 2nd half Sam Harrison was unable to convert Cahill’s try but The MCRC were once again ahead 13 – 10.
This would prove to be Middlebury’s last points as the momentum increasingly swung in BC’s favor and their two converted second half tries were well deserved, capitalizing on some grave mistakes by the Middlebury team.
As the half progressed, Middlebury looked to bring in several new players including freshman Don Song with 20 minutes left. Song is a Vancouver high school teammate of Brian Sirkia and this game reunited the pair – Song at scrum half and Sirkia moving to fly half – utility back Ben Cmejla exiting. Nathaniel Hall Kelner ’12 (twin brother of 2008-2009 Rookie of the Year Rowan Hall Kelner ’12) came on with 10 minutes left, taking over blind side flanking responsibilities from his brother who moved to #8 with Zach Bills ’11 exiting. Both these subs played well.
Final score 13 – 24 to Boston. Great job by the Eagles and best of luck to them this year – a classy side that played hard but with great sportsmanship. Middlebury has some work to do but they come out with a lot of positives including a standout performances by South African flankers Ross Berriman ’12 and Irish inside center Darragh Hurley ’11. The pieces are all there for another succesful year – the puzzle just needs to come together on game day.
Middlebury Line-Up: Pappa (Woelber 50), Mutty, Vandergrift, Harasimowicz, Hinckley, R. Kelner, Berriman, Bills (N. Kelner 70), Sirkia, Cmejla (Song 60), Withers (Magotswi 50), Hurley, Cahill, Harrison, Leanos.
Points: Trys – R. Kelner, Cahill; Pens – Sirkia
Ref: Chris “Gusto” Davis
Spotted at the game: Dr. Ike & Laurie Levine (P’09), Bill Yoquinto (P’08), Craig Wilson Sr. (P’07), Caleb “Big Baby/Urikai” Constentein ’06 (prop & 8th man), Max R. Levine ’09, Sam Tormey ’09