Middlebury continues it’s unbeaten run with a 60 – 8 win over St. Michael’s College away from home. Middlebury dominates early but then the game becomes very scrappy as the first half progresses, knock-ons and penalties galore. St. Mike’s adapts well to Middlebury’s play and frustrates the visitors in the second half, grabbing a consolation try. In the midst of the disheveled play The MCRC manages to hustle out try after try and closes the game with one of the best worked team tries of the season. The Middlebury 2nd XV is also victorious 41 – 12 continuing their unbeaten run.
The MCRC chooses to rest several players this weekend, namely lock Drew “Mouse” Harasimowicz ’11, flanker Zach Bills ’11, halfback Ross “Stanky Legg” Berriman ’12 and fullback Geoff Kalan ’12.5. The team is also without South African prop Cameron Wilson ’14 who injured his knee in last weekend’s game. The original diagnosis saw Wilson returning within a few weeks but after further tests it appears he may be out for the rest of the season.
Solid performances by all the new starters: Sebastien Damberg-Ott ’12.5 marks his first start this year with two well worked tries; Allan “The Natural” Stafford ’13.5 at fullback hits the line at pace, sliding by defenders with ease; the workhorse Luke Dauner ’13 makes great tackles and is solid around the breakdown–he is definitely thriving with his move from the loosies to the second row a la Nat “Sheed” Kelner ’12; Mike Pappa ’11 dominates in the front row and on pick and drives; Don “Is It the Shoes” Song ’13 orchestrates the offense well at 9 man.
Middlebury kicks off and quickly wins a penalty in the St. Mike’s half. Song takes over punting duties with Kalan out and easily finds touch. The forwards secure the lineout, maul it up and Damberg-Ott grabs his first try for The MCRC. Captain Brian Sirkia ’12.5 misses the conversion, 5 – 0 Midd.
Kenyan winger and top try scorer Kennedy Mugo ’12 bursts up the middle with the ball fending off multiple defenders with his strong stiff arm and setting up the ruck, Song to Sirkia who spreads the ball wide. Another ruck 10 meters out and Sirkia dummies the outside option and pops back inside for center Sam Harrison ’11 to crash it through and touch down. Sirkia converts, 12 – 0 Midd.
Fullback Stafford hits the line at pace and cuts through the St. Mike’s defense then passes to Mugo who sets up the ruck. “Sheed” Kelner picks off the base and crashes over the line for Middlebury’s 3rd try of the day. In a shout out to the resting Berriman on the sideline, “Sheed” throws down a “stanky leg” celebration. Sirkia converts, 19 – 0 Middlebury.
After this 3rd try the play structure disintegrates, especially around the breakdown. Middlebury is pinged for multiple penalties and every time they seem to have possession they fumble. St. Mike’s improves their tackling and further disrupts Middlebury’s play. Sirkia tries to get creative to make something and chips the ball cross field into the try zone. The St. Mike’s player should have touched the ball down to win his team a 22 drop out but instead tries to play the ball and knocks it on into the hands of a Middlebury player who pops inside to Sirkia who immediately spins the ball out wide to Stafford coming on at pace. Inevitable try scored from 5 meters out; Sirkia fails to convert the tough kick from the corner, 24 – 0 Middlebury.
From 30 meters out Daniel Jerome Powers ’11.5 makes a breakaway pick from the ruck, dummies left and cuts into the open center-field. DJ Powers is an absolute ballmonger, specializing in picks and cleaning up looseballs. Try under the posts and Sirkia cannot miss, 31 – 0 at half time.
No changes at the half for Middlebury. The Blue is desperate to sure up the sloppy play but St. Mike’s seems to be gaining confidence from breaking up the continuity. Penalties, warranted and arguable, also continue to slow down Middlebury’s attack. For the first time this year Sirkia leaves the field before the final whistle making way for Dusty Attwood-Dupont ’13.5 who has not played on the A side since the opening warm up game against Harvard 4 weeks earlier. After struggling at inside center and then being slowed down by an injury Attwood-Dupont appears to have found his calling at outside half. His ability to set up his teammates is a joy to watch and his game will only improve now that he is healthy and in his niche.
Middlebury wins a penalty and Song goes for touch. The forwards win the clean ball, set up the maul and drive it home–Damberg-Ott picking up his second of the day. With Sirkia out, Sam Harrison takes over kicking duties but fails to convert the kick from wide, 36 – 0 Middlebury.
Despite being down St. Mike’s must sense Middlebury taking their foot off the accelerator and immediately they counter, feeding off of Middlebury’s frustrations at not completely dominating possession. A St. Mike’s player breaks off of a ruck and beats several poor arm tackles. This break catches Middlebury totally off guard allowing St. Mike’s to score under the posts. Somehow the kicker misses the easy conversion…still the team in purple is overjoyed–a well deserved try, 36 – 5 Middlebury.
The rucks are somewhat of a mess with the ref calling the tackled player to roll away at a very strict level. Both sides struggle with this strictness and the ball is left exposed a the breakdown to be kicked around–luck of the draw where it ends up as tacklers and tackled players hustle out of the way to avoid giving away more penalties. With Middlebury having the lion’s share of possession this is obviously a bigger issue for the Blue.
Still struggling to get things going the way they would like Middlebury turns to some creativity from prop Chris “Calves” Vandergrift ’11. The pacey prop takes a quick tap penalty from just outside the attacking 22. He makes a great offload to namesake Chris Marshall ’11 who connects with the flying Kenyan Mugo who scores the try. Harrison misses his second of the day, 41 – 5 Middlebury.
Former soccer player Jack Maher ’12 makes gets his first cap for The MCRC coming on at the wing for Tommy Campanella ’12. Maher has quickly adapted to rugby this semester, showing natural athleticism and the confidence in his own ability to play at this level. Second row Graeme “Spanish” Daubert ’12.5 is also brought on for Damberg-Ott with Dauner moving into the loosies.
Song, taking a page out of Vandergrift’s book, takes a quick tap on a penalty and is tackled by an offside player. Middlebury advances to the new mark and elects to go for touch. From the lineout 5 meters out the Blue pack sets up the maul and this time Luke Dauner shears off to the left to find acres of space: try time! Great way to cap a great performance by Luke. Debutant Maher takes over the kicking from Harrison and converts, 48 – 5 Middlebury.
Dylan “Blackwells” Whitaker ’13 comes on for Harrison at inside center. Whitaker is second only to Harrison when it comes to tackling–defense first for Middlebury in the centers as shown by the few points they have allowed all season. St. Mike’s is able to squeeze out a few more points on the day when they elect to kick a penalty from in front of the posts, 48 – 8 Middlebury.
Another Midd player gets his first cap: Brendan “Lights, Camera, Action” Mahoney ’11 comes on for Song at 9 man. His freshman year few would have believed Brendan would get on the field for the Middlebury 1st XV but 3 years on he has shown the power of hardwork, determination and a great attitude.
Whitaker’s defense is on showcase as he makes a superb tackle in the St. Mike’s 22, poaches the ball and breaks to the try line…he is just held up at the crucial moment. The resulting St. Mike’s scrum is stolen by the ever-dominant Middlebury pack and Dauner breaks blind with the ball. Outside center Ben Cmejla ’11 takes the pop from Dauner and dishes to Maher on the wing who scores in the corner. Maher is unable to convert his own try but will be ecstatic to have scored his first try for The MCRC, 53 – 5 Middlebury.
The game ends with the play of the day, a moment of team brilliance that truly showcases Middlebury’s quality. From a lineout inside their 22 Mahoney spins a lovely leading ball to Dusty at 10. Dusty skips to Cmejla who has been the most consistent of all the Middlebury backline players this year. Cmejla rounds the first set of defenders and passes to Stafford coming from the back. Stafford draws the final defender and sets up Mugo for the try. What an absolute beauty! Maher converts, 60 – 0 Middlebury. Final whistle.
The final result was never in question but Middlebury will still feel like they have work to do to get to the point this team knows they can play at. The final play is the perfect example of how frighteningly good this team can be.
Lineup: Pappa, Powers, Vandergrift, N. Kelner, Dauner, Damberg-Ott (Daubert 65), R. Kelner (c), Marshall, Song (Mahoney 70), Sirkia (c) (Attwood-Dupont 50), Campanella (Maher 55), Harrison (Whitaker 65), Cmejla, Mugo, Stafford
- Tries – Damberg-Ott ’12.5 (2), Harrison ’11, N. Kelner ’12, Stafford ’13.5, Powers ’11.5, Mugo ’12 (2), Dauner ’13, Maher ’12
- Conversions – Sirkia ’12.5: 3 for 5; Harrison ’11 0 for 2; Maher 2 for 3
- Penalty Kicks – none
- First try: Damberg-Ott ’12.5, Maher ’12, Dauner ’13
- First cap (competitive): Maher ’12, Mahoney ’11
Spotted At the Game: Roy & Nina Silverman P’09 (parents of two time national champion Ari Silverman)
The strength of the Middlebury B side backline is staggering especially with the powerhouse Ben “Sturgees” Stasiuk ’13.5 at outside center. Sturgees picks up the triplet of tries in the first half of rugby giving his team an unassailable lead. Fullback Jebb “The Febb with a Bbeard and Bbloody Nose from New Mexico” Norton ’13.5 is once again solid at the back, calmly dictating the defense and smartly joining the attack. In the first half Norton is denied a clear try on a marginal forward pass call but in the second half he gets his try with a swashbuckling turn of pace to round the entire opposition. Still man of the match honors go to Vincent Mariano ’14. The freshman hooker is making a name for himself on the field.