Middlebury beat Stony Brook in the NRU semifinal by 11 points at UMass-Amherst. The muddy, uneven field was drenched with rain and there were literally puddles all over. The rain only let up for the 30 mins after the other semi-final – as soon as our game kicked it began to drizzle and only got worse as the game continued. Neither team’s running gameplay was favored by these impossible conditions. For the second game in a row Middlebury was without their forwards captain Chris Mutty ’09.5 (out due to injury) so Ben Winter ’10 leads the haka.
From the kick-off it was clear that the side with the better tactical kicking and fielding of kicks would control the game but scrumming would also prove crucial with the numerous knock-ons from the wet ball. Middlebury had the run of the first half and should have scored more points with all the pressure they created but the conditions dumbed the Blue’s finishing. Credit also to Stony Brook for some solid goal line defense.
Scoring summary below:
Brian Sirkia ’12.5 opens the scoring with a penalty kick 15 minutes into the game. 26 minutes into the 1st half Geoff Kalan scores a try off a quick penalty tap from 10 meters out; Sirkia just misses the conversion. Great play all game by Kalan who was named Man-of-the-Match for his great tactical kicking, tackling and the try. Highlight play of the game featured none other than Captain Ed Cahill ’09.5, in his second last game for Middlebury: Eddie makes a blistering run from his own half into the Stony Brook 22 evading and fending off at least 6 tackles and defying the terrible field conditions. 6 minutes before the end of the first half Sirkia scores another penalty kick. 11 – 0 to Middlebury at the half.
The second half starts with the rain picking up and the temperature dropping quickly – cold, driving rain – sheer determination and courage are the qualities that get teams through games like these and all 30 men on the field gave their all. Stony Brook comes out firing – their #10 man leading their offense that stubbornly tries to run and spread the ball despite the conditions…and on several occasions almost succeeds. Incredible 15 minute goal line defense by Middlebury as Stony Brook applies all sorts of pressure hinged around good passing from their 9 man. The Middlebury defense also left space for the Stony Brook 10 man to run and offload before being tackled – he took as much advantage as the field and wet conditions would allow.
The Middlebury scrum struggled at moments in the first half but pulled things together in the second half – great work by the entire pack led by new forwards captain Rowan Kelner ’12. Time after time the Middlebury forwards drove Stony Brook off of their own ball lifting the pressure off of the Middlebury defense. Middlebury struggled to get the pick-n-go game at it’s executional best but used the forwards in open play with some efficiency throughout the second half. Stony Brook threw everything they had at Middlebury and were able to keep the ball in hand well on 2 or 3 occasions but the Middlebury defense held firm when it counted most.
15 minutes into the first half Chris Marshall ’11 made his return, subbing on for Zach Bills ’11, also back from injury.
Middlebury will play UVM in the NRU Final tomorrow (Saturday, November 15) at 12 PM at UMass-Amherst. UVM beat UMass-Amherst in the other semifinal 15 – 10. UVM was down 0 – 10 with 20 minutes to go in the second half and somehow constructed an epic comeback. This will be the 3rd time the two Vermont sides meet this fall – what a game this is set to be!
Line-up: Pappa, Powers, Vandergrift, Hinckley, Harasimowicz, Bills (Marshall 55), R. Kelner, Dauner, Whitaker, Sirkia, Cahill, Cmejla, Leanos, Harrison, Kalan
Spotted at the game: Robert “Bogo” Gosney ’09 (prop), Max Ryan Levine ’09 (9 & 13), Alan “Brown Bear” Lim ’09 (12 & 14), Dan Chow (4, 6 & 8)