In a nail-biting season opener The MCRC narrowly lost to UMass-Amherst by 4 points. The game could have easily gone the other way and with the final play Middlebury almost pulled off a miraculous comeback but a knock-on from 5 meters out brought proceedings to a disappointing but glory-filled end. The lead changed hands 5 times in this warrior’s ping pong battle and with just 3 minutes left Middlebury had the advantage but they could not hold out.
An impressive debut for the true freshman Laird “Godzilla” Silsby ’15 at #8, putting in some solid tackles and picking up a crucial try. Fullback Geoff “Le Roi” Kalan ’12.5 puts in a man of the match performance both on offense and defense; though captain Brian “VC” Sirkia’s final penalty kick…almost match-winning, near sideline, golden toe dagger was easily the play of the game.
Full match report below.
It’s a beautiful Vermont day, the ground is a little soggy from the torrential rain, but if you can’t play rugby on a day like this you just can’t play rugby. Middlebury kicks off and dominates possession for the first 10 minutes but fails to capitalize. Sirkia comes close with two penalty kicks. On what is basically their first real possession UMass drives the ball down the field and scores the opening try. UMass uses their big props to run the ball, particularly their #3 who gets the opening try. Easy conversion is good. 13 minutes in, 0 – 7 UMass.
The Middlebury forwards, though noticeably smaller than their opposition, have the upper hand on the set plays – great scrumming work by the blue and almost flawless lineouts – forwards leader Rowan Kelner ’12 will be proud of his pack, particularly his young, compact front-row trio. Amazing support by the crowd spurs Kelner’s crew on to some big drives at the scrum, causing UMass all sorts of bother.
With their pack settling in, The MCRC backline starts making more of their possession, running some champagne plays involving the full gamut of their strikers. Halfway through the first half King Kalan bursts through, finding just enough daylight to spark the afterburners – try time! Sirkia converts this easy one – tied game 20 minutes in: 7 – 7.
UMass gives away a penalty after the try is scored with a late shoulder barge on Kalan. Middlebury gets to restart the game with a penalty at the halfway line. Outside center Adam Schreiber ’14 finds touch and immediately Middlebury is back in an attacking position. Some lovely moving of the ball well finds space out wide. Ross “Weezy F. Baby” Berriman ’12 gets in on the action and shows that he can hang with the regular speedsters out on the wings – he connects with Zach “Triple X” Withers ’11.5 and scores the try in the corner. Tough angle for Sirkia who does not convert. 23 minutes in, 12 – 7 Middlebury.
The back and forth continues as UMass looks to get back into the game, applying lots of pressure on the Middlebury backline. The half wears on with no one clearly taking the reigns but Middlebury gives away some unnecessary penalties to their own detriment. UMass makes a clear break and are running up the center of the field; thankfully the last line of defense happens to be a King with the wind in his sails – talk about playing to the crowd – Kalan with the big hit on a big boy driving him back 5 meters and producing a turnover. Despite the shell-shock that sort of a hit is bound to produce the UMass supporting players have the awareness to stop the counter-attack and spark their own, ending up in a strong attacking position with a scrum 5 meters out. The scrum wheels just enough to favor the UMass eighthman but not enough to move the ref to grant Middlebury possession- try UMass in the final minute of the half, unconverted.
Halftime score: 12 – 12.
UMass makes one change to their front-row at the half bringing on another strong ball carrier. The Middlebury starters all return for the second act but the new half sees the Minutemen retake their lead adding an early unconverted try. 43 minutes in: 12 – 17.
Middlebury continues to threaten, particularly from the restarts and through some smart tactical kicking though the execution could use some minor refining for the Blue to turn pressure to points on a regular basis. They finally get past the redzone halfway through the second half as Silsby makes a brilliant break and runs 15 meters untouched for the fiver – the Pay-per View dive caps the run and once again it’s a tie game as Sirkia is unable to convert. 60 minutes in: 17 – 17.
The crowd support swells for The MCRC and the momentum of the game swings their way – a penalty is awarded to Middlebury 5 meters out – so many options to pick up points and retake the lead, the clearest option being Sirkia with the trey but an eager Ross “Bo$$” Berriman looks for the quick tap and pass from his 9 man. Unfortunately, the full head of steam he builds up before the tap is an infringement (not one you see often but it is against the rules to run in this manner before the tap on a penalty). The penalty is reversed and UMass are able to clear the danger from the mark.
Sirkia does end up getting his chance to get the three pointer but this time from a much tougher angle. Less than 8 minutes left in the game and Captain Canada slots it home – easily the play of the game. Middlebury leads for the second time, 73 minutes in: 20 – 17 Middlebury.
UMass come back immediately and are quickly in the red zone, knocking on the door. They are thwarted for 5 minutes but after a series of pick and drives they get the late try and conversion. For the last time the lead changes hands: 78 minutes in, 20 – 24 UMass.
Middlebury shows their endeavor with the clock running out as they throw absolutely everything have and more…and it almost works. Berriman breaks blind off of a maul and he gets tackled just shy of the try line. He is unable to control the ball in contact and his knock-on is the final play of the game.
Final score: 20 – 24 UMass.
The 2nd XV game also saw a UMass win 15 – 25. Standout players for the blue 2nds: Astor Carlberg Nummelin ’12.5, Michael “Goose” Graham ’14 and the other true freshman Alec Mackenzie ’15.
Line-up: Mariano (Risinger 79), Wysota, Hoffmann, N. Kelner, Derrico, R. Kelner (c), Berriman, Silsby (Damberg-Ott), Song, Sirkia (c), Mugo (Norton 66), Maher, Schreiber, Withers (Vorel 45), Kalan
- Tries: Kalan ’12.5, Berriman ’12, Silsby ’15
- Conversions: Sirkia – 1 for 3
- Penalties: Sirkia – 1 for 3
- 1st cap (competitive): Silsby ’15, Hoffmann ’14, Wysota ’14, Derrico ’12, Vorel ’14.5, Norton ’13.5