In their first of 3 spring warm up games Middlebury defeats Southern Connecticut State University by 23 points to 15. Middlebury dominates the scoring in the first half with 20 unanswered points but late in the second half Southern rallies to score 15 points against a 14 man Middlebury side, causing some nervous moments for the boys in blue. Nat Kelner ’12, Allan Stafford ’13.5 and Tommy Campanella ’12 get the tries for Middlebury. Captain Sirkia converts one try and two penalties. The Middlebury 2nd XV gets a much more comfortable victory with Zach Withers ’11.5 standing out.
Full report below:
Middlebury kicks off but immediately gives away a penalty for hitting the Southern fullback late off of his counter kick. Penalty to Southern where the ball lands deep in Middlebury territory. The sun is out but the wind plays havoc with the flight of the ball causing Middlebury no end of trouble under the high ball. Southern’s fullback does little running in the game and relies heavily on his strong boot to counter and with the wind at his back in the opening half he readily diffuses several Middlebury attacking plays and places his team in great attacking positions. Multiple goal line stands by Middlebury keep Southern out in the first half – great tackling all round and some wonderful defensive set up and alignment makes the Blue Wall impregnable.
Middlebury gets the scoring underway early. Opening scrum restarts several times but when it finally goes Sirkia spins it to fly half Dusty Attwood-Dupont ’13.5 who finds blind side winger Campanella looking for work. Tommy passes it out to fullback Geoff Kalan ’12.5 who takes the half gap and makes the one handed offload to speed monger Allan Stafford ’13.5. The Southern field is a narrow field and Allan has little room to use his quick feet; he puts it back inside to Kalan who bobbles it but the ball goes backwards – play on waves the referee. Mobile lock Nat Kelner cleans up the loose ball and makes a 40 meter break to score the opening try. That Kelner pace is a thing of lore! Sirkia fails to convert (though he’ll be questioning Kelner’s dramatic swan dive over the line when a run closer to posts would have made the conversion easier…but who can blame good ol’ “Sheed” – first try of the championship campaign deserves some flair and few are more suited to deliver!) 5 – 0 Middlebury.
The rain of Middlebury penalties begins to pick up as the ref finds faults at every 2nd or 3rd ruck. 10 meters out and Middlebury makes tackle after tackle after tackle. At last the turnover is won (without the whistle being blown) and Sirkia clears to touch. Lineouts on both sides struggle all afternoon with the wind moving the ball. Middlebury can claim to have the lions share of success on this front as they cleanly steal multiple Southern lineouts. The Blue pack is however not as dominant in the scrum as they had been in the fall – kudos to Southern for holding up this powerhouse.
More Midd penalties see them once again on the backfoot but amazing tackling keeps the sheet clean. Eventually another turnover won and a more complete clearance relieves the pressure. Middlebury needs to shake off the cobwebs after several months indoors and respond to the refs directions. Southern also gives away a couple of penalties at the ruck – clearly the IRB instructions on strictly monitoring the contact area has made its way to our division. Sirkia converts one of these penalties making it 8 – 0 Middlebury.
Middlebury defensive pressure forces the turnover in Southern’s half. A couple of crashing phases create space out wide and Sirkia spins it to Dusty who looks to find Kalan to burst over the line but the timing is off and Kalan knocks on the shoulder pass. Definite try if the chemistry had been there but it’s looking promising for Middlebury.
Middlebury misfields another Southern fullback kick and the ball bounces away from Campanella to Kalan who runs away from his support towards the touch line. Under pressure and with few options Kalan chips it with the inside of his right foot while being dragged out. Campanella chases and tips the ball to Ben Cmejla ’11 who pops it back inside to Campanella – great passage of play by Middlebury, sparked by Kalan’s skill with the boot and poise under pressure. Tommy sets up the ruck.
Attwood-Dupont, taking the cue from King Kalan, chips the ball through into the Southern try zone. The Southern fullback, who up until this point had been flawless, lazily tries to kick-tap the ball out of bounds off the ground, but all he manages to do it is flick it up into winger Stafford’s greedy hands. Stafford downs it. Sirkia can’t convert from the tough angle into the wind. 13 – 0 Middlebury.
Middlebury finds themselves back in their own half following a big kick from the Southern 15 but they setup a great maul and are looking to advance. The maul goes to ground with no foul play and as Sirkia looks to spin it, somehow the ball squirts out beyond his reach into open field – the ref does not note anything illegal. The loose ball is recovered by the Southern flanker (wearing #6 but often playing on the open side.) This flanker is all over the ball throughout the game, grabbing anything loose and making a couple of strip steals – solid performance. This turnover creates a big overlap for Southern but their overeager fly-half attempts a skip pass to no one in particular; Tommy C. is the first to react to the loose ball and collects off of one bounce. With speed to spare Tommy makes the full length breakaway run. Captain Sirkia will appreciate the lack of celebratory dive from the Boston native: Tommy puts it squarely under the posts for the easy conversion. Halftime: 20 – 0 Middlebury.
Middlebury are glad to be 20 points up despite playing into the wind and they are looking forward to have it at their backs but as the second half starts it becomes clear that the wind has shifted and is now blowing across the field still giving Southern’s 15 the advantage when kicking to his right – the dastardly luck of it all!
Middlebury knocks on the opening kick-off and Southern is on the attack early. Middlebury’s tackling saves them and key turnovers allow Sirkia to clear with the box kick. The fall’s MVP Chris Marshall ’11 leaps to grab the bouncing ball, immediately setting up the ruck in the blue half but with Southern backpedaling. Sirkia out to Cmejla at first receiver, to Dusty to Kalan to Campanella who rounds his opposite man and somehow manages to stay inbounds on the narrow field. Campanella pops back inside to Cmejla, Cmejla to his center counterpart Sam Harrison ’11 and Harrison looks to keep the play alive with an inside wrap around pass to Sirkia but the ball slips out of his hand to the ground – play on waves the referee as it goes backward. Dusty tries the chip kick to spark back the momentum Middlebury had but it is blocked. Middlebury still has the ball but the Southern defense has scrambled back into position. Hooker Danny Powers ’11.5 joins the backline and throws his patented fake outside, cuts back in and breaks the gain line. Middlebury looks to crash the ball up through Berriman when a bulldog breaks onto the field from the sideline halting the game – yes, you read correctly: a bulldog from the sideline. Clearly the excitement of this game is getting to more than just the homo sapiens in attendance.
Southern introduces a big front row sub who has an immediate impact in the loose play around the contact area. Flanker Berriman manages to thwart the Southern advances with a steal from a well worked maul. He breaks away and has a 2 on 1 with Stafford in support. Berriman draws the defender, out to Stafford but the narrow field again stops “El Naturel” from bursting for the corner. He attempts to pop it back in but the Southern defenders block the pass. Middlebury recovers the loose ball, crashes it towards the try line and wins a penalty in front of posts. Sirkia makes the easy kick. 23 – 0 Middlebury – and that would be the end of their scoring.
The wind is still sweeping across the field, so much so that both sides kickers avoid kicking towards the Middlebury bench where the wind is blowing from, irrespective of their field placement. Even passes into the wind are being affected as Attwood-Dupont regrettably finds out. Dusty tries the skip pass inside his own 22 and it sits up in the air. The Southern center snatches it out of the air and has a clear path to the try line. 23 – 7 after the easy conversion.
Middlebury make a change bringing on Tom Lynch ’13.5 for a limping Drew Harasimowicz ’11 at lock (Drew must have taken a small knock.)
Southern continue to apply pressure, finding touch from a penalty deep in the Middlebury half. They win their lineout and try to maul it up but they are driven sideways, right between the posts – this works to their advantage as they now have options either side. Their 9 man spins it out to the fly half who dummies outside takes a hard step back inside and breaks an arm tackle to score Southern’s second try in 10 minutes. Conversion missed (somewhat surprisingly) and it’s 23 – 12.
Adam Schreiber ’14 comes on at fullback, Kalan to 10 and Dusty comes off. Schreiber provides some greater surety under the high ball and can kick you into an attacking position from anywhere in your own half. Just as Middlebury is looking to settle down having been caught off guard by this late double salvo they are forced to reshuffle again with one card less as sub Tom Q. Lynch is shown a yellow for collapsing a maul. Tough break for Lynch – the grossly high Middlebury penalty count at the breakdown meant a yellow was coming at some point.
Middlebury bring on Rowan Kelner ’12 for Berriman and push blind side flanker Zach Bills ’11 to lock with Lynch off the field. The 7 man scrum struggles and gives Southern several more attacking options. Middlebury holds up as best they can but the penalties start raining again and Southern takes advantage of one in front of the posts to close the margin with a penalty kick.
Still, it’s a little to late for the CT boys as Middlebury’s first half display was enough to secure the win. Final whistle. 23 – 15 Middlebury.
Line-up: Pappa, Powers, Vandergrift, Harasimowicz (Lynch ’60), N. Kelner, Bills, Berriman (R. Kelner ’70), Marshall (c), Sirkia (c), Attwood-Dupont (Schreiber 65), Campanella, Harrison, Cmejla, Stafford, Kalan
- Tries: N. Kelner ’12, Stafford ’13.5, Campanella ’12
- Conversions: Sirkia – 1 for 3
- Penalty Kicks: Sirkia – 2 for 2
Spotted at the Game: Ed “Laser” Cahill ’09.5 (former captain and winger), Sean “Il Real” Meany ’08 (prop), Dennis Meany P’08, ’11, Jeff & Melinda Fager P’09