After spending spring break on campus in training Middlebury rugby defeats Ivy League side Yale by 36 points to 5 to wrap up their pre-Nationals spring warm up games. Middlebury is in control the entire game and most of Yale’s attacking possession is due to penalties, which they manage to convert to points on one occasion.
First team debuts for lock John “Scooter” Hawley ’14 and prop Stewart Hoffmann ’14. Standout performance by outside center Ben Cmejla ’11 carrying the ball with confidence and vision. All 4 different Middlebury wingers cause Yale no end of trouble with their speed and strength with ball in hand. Second half replacement Don Song ’13 throws his hand up for a man-of-the-match or at least sub-of-the-match performance at scrum-half. The MCRC 2nd XV wins 40 – 0 despite being reduced to 13 men by the end of game due to small injuries. Tom Lynch ’13.5 and Allan Stafford ’13.5 impress.
From the kick-off Middlebury makes their intentions clear against a hesitant Yale side. Fullback Geoff “King” Kalan ’12.5 has an immediate but short-lived impact on the game making some solid tackles and picking up the first try at the two minute mark. Sirkia converts to make it 7 – 0 early.
Kalan takes a knock to the knee a few minutes later – no need to risk aggravating the injury especially with blossoming freshman Adam Schreiber ’14 coming off the bench. Schreiber’s monstrous boot would be used to great effect as the game unfolds.
Somewhat prematurely, Middlebury takes their foot off the gas and assumes the Bulldogs will just let them walk-through. Whiteline fever ravages the Middlebury side at epidemic levels with several players going for glory when an early pass would surely result in our favorite time of the day: try-time. Credit to Yale for bouncing back from the initial shock and frustrating Middlebury. The boys in blue lose their structure as a more scrappy open field game chaoses into existence. Multiple rucks, lots of contact and the ball staying in play for big stretches wears on the fitness of both sides.
The Yale 10 is prone to launching up & unders but the Middlebury back 3 are equal to the task. In fact the entire Middlebury side is much more sure under high ball than in their previous 2 warm up games. The chaos subsides and the Middlebury forwards assume the reigns as they, once again, dominate the scrum. On several occasions the Yale pack is able to dig in and retain their own scrums, halting Middlebury’s advance but from 5 meters outside their own try line the pushover try looms ominously. With a singular focus The MCRC pack drives toward the try line towards the seemingly inevitable but at the last moment the scrum wheels awkwardly and almost disintegrates leaving 8th man Chris Marshall ’11 out of position to touch down. Fortunately open-side flanker Ross “Bo$$” Berriman is alert and better positioned to put the finishing touch, or should I say dive on the loose ball. Try Middlebury, Sirkia does not convert: 12 – 0 Middlebury.
This pushover try, a psychological lightning bolt, breathes new life into the Middlebury offense and bursts open the floodgates of Yale’s defense. Just two minutes on Middlebury is stringing phases of an attacking play together with expert ease, recycling the ball with speed and beating the gainline on each run. Zach Withers ’11.5 on the left wing effortlessly rounds his opposite man and is one-on-one with the last defender. The tackle is made but the support is there for Withers to make the pass in contact. Ben “Sturgees” Stasiuk ’13.5 has a clear dash to the try line setting up Sirkia for the easy conversion: 19 – 0 Middlebury.
Dusty Attwood-Dupont ’13.5 is now finding the space he needs to orchestrate the attack. Dummy scissors and skip moves, chips over the top, grubbers through – the full arsenal is on display and a lovely multilayered deception move brings the other winger Dane “Man Of” Steel 11 into action 15 meters out. At first Midd draws the Yale defense to the weak side with some crashes and then swings it out open to Dusty and his backline. Steel comes crashing through and finds more daylight than high noon on a clear summer’s day: try time! Sirkia converts from in front of the posts, 26 – 0 Middlebury at the half.
At half time Don “Is It the Shoes?” Song ’13 comes on for captain Sirkia at 9, John “Scooter” Hawley comes on at lock pushing Nat “Sheed” Kelner to 8th man and pack leader Marshall comes off. Unfortunately, “Sheed” has little time to find comfort at 8 as he comes off the field after suffering a cut eye. Tom Q. Lynch ’13.5 comes on at lock, “Sturgees” moves to flank and Nate Brown ’13 moves from blindside flank to 8.
“Bo$$” Berriman takes the armband for the forwards and senior Ben Cmejla ’11 takes over the backline with Marshall and Sirkia off the field. Both players assume the captaincies with poise and seem to flourish with the added responsibility, especially Cmejla. In the first half he threatened with some brilliant angled runs that would have collapsed the Yale defense if he and Dusty could have managed their timing a touch better. In the second half the threats start being realized as Cmejla crashes it up with unfaltering confidence, fends off a player or two and makes the offload to Schreiber and his wingers. What a great time to be finding his form!
Also finding form is 9 man Don Song. His pass is near perfect every time – a classy performance by Sirkia’s high school compatriot. Unafraid to take the ball up himself Song keeps the defense guessing and on the backfoot. A fresh legged injection of pace is added with the introduction of Tom Campanella ’12 on one wing and Allan “El Naturel” Stafford ’13.5 on the other. 10 minutes into the half Middlebury pressure results in a penalty near the 22 in front of posts. With Sirkia out Harrison assumes kicking duties and slots home the penalty. This would be his last contribution to a solid game by the 12 as Dylan “Blackwells” Whitaker ’13 replaces him after the kick, 29 – 0 Middlebury.
Song rounds up the Middlebury scoring with a classic dummy pass off the base of the ruck, cutback step inside with a fend beating the post and a burst of pace to leave any cover defense in fluorescent yellow shoes dust. Song converts his own try, 36 – 0 Middlebury. 5 minutes later he is unable to convert a penalty kick to further his tally.
Several more changes for Middlebury see freshmen frontrowers Vince Mariano ’14 and Stewart Hoffmann ’14 on at props and Dan Khan ’11 on at flank for Berriman, the captain’s armband going to Danny Powers ’11.5 aka Jerome Finley ’11.5.
Yale picks up a consolation try off of a series of penalties against Middlebury. Final score 36 – 5.
Line-up: Pappa (Mariano 65), Powers, Vandergrift (Hoffman 65), N. Kelner (Lynch 45), Stasiuk, Brown, Berriman (Khan 70), Marshall (Hawley 40), Sirkia (Song 40), Attwood-Dupont, Withers (Campanella 50), Harrison (Whitaker 52), Cmejla, Steel (Stafford 50), Kalan (Schreiber 5)
- Tries: Kalan ’12.5, Berriman ’12, Stasiuk ’12.5, Steel ’11, Song ’13
- Conversions: Sirkia ’12.5 – 3 for 4, Song ’13 – 1 for 1
- Penalty Kicks: Harrison ’12 – 1 for 1, Song ’13 – 0 for 1
- 1st cap (non-competitive): John Hawley ’14, Stewart Hoffman ’14
Spotted at the game: Craig Wilson ’07.5, Jeff Stern ’08.5, Dan Chow ’09, Connor Burleigh ’10.5