Middlebury had this away game wrapped up by the end of the half leading 45 – 0 after 40 minutes. 9 tries for the Blue with a hatrick in the first half coming from backs captain Eddie “Laser” Cahill. Forwards captain Chris Mutty also got in on the scoring as did 9 man Don Song ’13, winger Sam Harrison ’11, fullback Geoff Kalan ’12.5, winger Kennedy Mugo ’12 and lock Andrew Crawford Jones ’12.5. Flyhalf Brian “The Try Guy” Sirkia ’12.5 went 6 for 9 on conversions and 3 for 3 on penalty kicks.
The 2nd most important factor in the big win for the Blue came from the Middlebury forwards:
St. Mike’s were a big, strong side as expected but Middlebury’s forwards dominated the scrums, consistently and corparately getting lower than the Colchester side’s pack and driving them off their own ball or wheeling the scrum thus forcing the turnover. Starting hooker Brett Woelber ’09.5 was quick to react and stole several of St. Mike’s put ins at the scrum. The Midd forwards cadence on their defensive and offensive drive was outstanding as 8th man Chris Marshall ’11 provided a firm anchor with Rowan Kelner ’12 out though illness. Marshall has struggled with injury throughout his rugby playing at Middlebury, having fractured an orbital bone this time last year, fractured his sternum in the spring at the Nationals and tweaking his ankle early this fall. This was his first game since that ankle injury and he had a blinder, bringing the high level of intensity we have come to expect from the Minnesota native and forming somewhat of a dynamic duo with blind side flanker Zach Bills ’11. The pair were a defensive nightmare for St. Mike’s and led Middlebury’s dominace at the rucks. Bills poached numerous balls at the breakdown, adding an enviable tactical facet to his usually powerful impact gameplay – looks like Berriman ’12 & Rowan’s tricks are spreading throughout Middlebury’s horde of loosies. It was great to have Marshall and Bills both back on the field but Marshall was forced to leave the field after accidentally receiving a cleat to the face from a teammate. Thankfully, the cut was not too deep and he had no concussion like complications; after a long delay at the hospital Chris had 10 stitches and the makings of a story-filled scar above his right eye. Unfortunately for Williams, Chris Marshall will be back next week to cause more havoc – and the Middlebury faithful are also looking forward to the return of Rowan Kelner who is set to make a full recovery this week. Marshall was replaced by Connor Burleigh ’10.5 (initially a blood sub that could not be treated in time for a return) 15 mins into the second half; simultaneously Nat Kelner ’12 (Rowan’s identical twin) came on for Berriman, who aggravated an old elbow injury but should be fine for the Williams game, and Daniel J. Powers ’11.5 came on for Bills. The Middlebury forward’s dominance extended to the lineout play: Mutty and Berriman connecting well.
In this writer’s opinion the key to Middlebury’s first half dominance and the overall success of the game was the tactical kicking from 9 and 15 – Sirkia and particularly Kalan were at their strategic best, pinning St. Michaels into their own 22. When Sirkia and Kalan are on song, as they have been against U-Conn and now St. Mike’s, this iteration of The MCRC has a quality that has not been seen at Middlebury in the past decade. Until this year the linchpin of Middlebury’s success was a backline of supreme authority: brilliant power runners through the center (Epeli Rokotuiveikau ’04, Loseke Losambe ’07, Trey Stewart ’09), space creating wizadry in playmaker roles (Kevin Immonje ’03, Ngetha Waithaka ’04, Matt Volz ’07, Max Levine ’09), pure unalderated pace with a change of acceleration that threaded the finest of holes (Robert Heinsch ’05, Spencer Cox ’08) and out & out finishers on the wing (Doug Haber ’04, Charlie Zabriskie ’04.5, Tommy Heitkamp ’06.5, Spencer Paddock ’09) – I could name countless others but you get the point. Now don’t get me wrong this team has players in that mould – most notably captain Cahill who is currently satisfying all of the above criteria with awe inspring ease – but they are not wholly relying on a backline that can run circles around everyone…that aspect of their game appears in reminiscent flashes but is not at it’s historic consistence, yet. I predict this will be in Middlebury’s favor as they develop a style of play that begins at the boot, picking out their targets with assassin accuracy from the backfield and playing rugby in the attacking half. Incredible work by Sirkia and Kalan to keep Middlebury in positions from which they could attack the St. Mike’s goal line.
The second half saw a drop in the dominance as Middlebury eased off the gas with so many points on the board. Numerous substitututions (both tactical and injury based) brought on some wonderful invidual energy but Middlebury needs to work on channeling this into their team game – extremely difficult when the game is “already won” but important as they look to develop two “A sides” so to speak. At half time wingers Cahill and Harrison were replaced by Mugo and Zach Withers ’11 (back from injury), this was followed by the loose trio overhaul noted above (N. Kelner, Burleigh and Powers on for Berriman, Bills and Marshall), Mike Pappa ’11 on for Woelber (Mutty slid in to Hooker), Brendan Leanos ’10 on for Colin Meany (Kalan moved up to inside center, Leanos at the back). Having made the 7 allowed regular changes, Middlebury were granted one further front row change by the ref so on came Ben Winter ’10 at tight head prop with 10 mintues to go for his first competitive A side cap (Chris Vandergrift ’11 off after a phenomenal day in the scrum). Despite the changes Middlebury still managed to score 21 points in the second half with 3 converted tries from Mugo, Song and Mutty. As Middlebury opted for more of an open field running game St. Mike’s were able to get more involved just failing to convert several attacking plays on Middlebury’s goal line. St. Mike’s has always been a strong running team, smashing it up the centers and hitting hard – in the first half Middlebury did not even give the chance to show this side of their game but in the second half they finally got in on the action producing a noteable backline run from their own 22 into Middlebury’s. Great tackling from the Middlebury players kept St. Mike’s out and ensured the shut out.
Scoring highlights to come!