With a jubilant crowd of alumni in support Middlebury improves to 3 and 2 with an emphatic win over the University of Connecticut rugby team. The boys in blue look sharp and refreshed after their bye week though they are still missing key players from the team who some were expecting to see back in the line-up. Their less experienced players take huge steps forward and fans of The MCRC will be well pleased with the performance of this young team.
Out to prove that they are as dangerous with the ball in hand as they are rugby tacticians with the boot goal-kicker Brian “Try-Guy” Sirkia ’12.5 reminds everyone of why he picked up the cognomen upon his arrival with a pair of tries and touch-finder Adam “Scrumcap” Schreiber ’14 also picks up the brace. The outside center sophomore is really coming into his own as his decision making on when to move the ball and when to move his feet is ever improving. That said, it is not just the points scorers who deserve mention. Two players in their first years of regular 1st team rugby really standout on this occasion: lock Nick Derrico ’12 and inside center Jebb “The Febb” Norton ’13.5.
The Middlebury 2nd team completes a fantastic day of MCRC rugby with a win over UConn’s 2nd team. Fullback Landers Carnal ’12 and prop Steve Etna ’15 standout.
Full 1st team match report below:
From the kick-off Middlebury has the advantage in open play but UConn is superior in the scrum. Their large frontrow cause the Middlebury pack no end of trouble early on. Despite these restart woes Middlebury scores the opening two tries in back to back succession. Schreiber opens the scoring at minute 6. Sirkia is unable to convert. 5 – 0 Middlebury.
From a penalty a minute later the usually sure-footed Schreiber fails to find touch but speedy winger Jack “Racks on Racks on Racks” Maher ’12 chases the kick down, recovers and touches down. Sirkia converts. 7 minutes in and Middlebury is cruising 12 – 0.
UConn gets back into the game through some solid work at the restarts and 17 minutes in they are rewarded with a try. From a lineout 8 meters out UConn brings the ball down and mauls it in. The only real lapse in the Middlebury defense of the day. The kick is wide, 12 – 5 Middlebury.
With the Middlebury pack’s struggles in the scrums comes hesitation in open play and it’s going to require a spark to bring them into the game. That spark comes from two sources; one totally expected: the most experienced forward and team captain Rowan Kelner ’12. The other is a senior who up until this year had been a peripheral character on the Middlebury rugby scene largely due to injury: Nick Derrico. Having started every game this year at lock Derrico fights off a shoulder injury to start this game, his fifth 1st team competitive game, his best 1st team game and the one that propels him into the hallowed halls of those who have “Earned their Blue”. Derrico is all over the field making tackle after tackle, cleaning up loose balls, clearing in the ruck, doing all the work you want of your second row. Picking up on Kelner and Derrico’s lead young forwards like Michael “Goose” Graham ’14 and Stewart Hoffman ’14 step their game up. For the first time this year in this manner Hoffman makes his presence felt outside of the restarts making some powerful, technically masterful tackles in the loose.
Having impressed with his game winning try and general play in the win against Albany two weeks ago Sam Murray gets the nod to start with Risinger unavailable and eigthman Laird Silsby ’15 still out. Murray continues to be a real attacking force as his support lines are verging on sublime and his pick and drive technique blooms.
With the pack reignited and winning more ball captains Sirkia and Kelner decide to get their names on the scoreboard. Sirkia uses a savage cunning that leaves UConn’s defense in sixes and sevens. An enticing show of the ball has defenders biting hard and before anyone can recover Sirkia drops into third and his quickstepping puts him into the try zone. He converts his try at 22 minutes but misses Kelner’s .
Halftime Middlebury is firmly in the lead 24 – 5.
The second half starts with a blemish on Middlebury’s disciplinary record as winger Zach “All 4 One” Withers ’11.5 is given a yellow card for a tackle deemed to be made on a player still in the air. The timing is as close as it could be as Withers appears to be fractions of a second too early. This comes right from the opening kick-off so Middlebury starts the second half with 14 men. UConn must feel their luck changing but this is not to be their day. Despite being a man down Middlebury is still in the driver’s seat largely thanks to their clinical backline that is beginning to find an all important workhorse at inside center: Jebb “the Febb” Norton. Jebb makes his tackles, carries the ball well, is almost as quick as Kelner or even Berriman in securing loose ball – he has some effective tools in his arsenal for the role of inside center.
This solidity inside allows full back Geoff “King” Kalan ’12 to roam freely from the back and off of what must be the play of the game (a John W. Phillips special the writer has learned): after a simply fascinating interplay between Sirkia and Song, Maher gets in on the action slicing through a gaping hole in the defense that appears in a timely fashion much like the red sea parting before the sojourning Prince of Egypt. Maher unleashes the King on his outside who brings home the 5 pointer. Sirkia is unable to convert but the champagne quality of the preceding play is worth 7 points in my book. 29 – 5 Middlebury 45 minutes in.
King Kalan also puts in his work on the defensive side of the ball and is this game’s recipient of the “Sam Harrison ’11 Hit of the Game” award. An unsuspecting UConn runner had the misfortune of slipping by the centers only to find Kalan appear from nowhere with deadly precision.
Having scored Middlebury looks to start making some changes bringing off blind side flanker Astor Carlberg ’13.5 and bringing on Sebastian Damberg-Ott ’12.5 who is an added weapon in the lineout, with an aggressiveness in the open to thwart any hopes of a UConn comeback. Withers returns to the field rearing to go after serving the mandated 10 minute suspension. A few minutes later after going down for the second time influential captain Rowan Kelner comes off for John “Scooter” Hawley ’14 who is finding his own rhythm at the number 8 position. The long-armed sophomore is masterful in the offload and is becoming more of a presence in contact.
The changes take a few minutes to settle and once they do Sirkia claims his hat-trick, which he promptly converts. 36 – 5 Middlebury 54 minutes in.
Having clearly secured the W, Middlebury starts to ring the changes bringing on some players to watch in the future, namely Alec Mackenzie ’15 at inside center for the hard-playing Norton. Mackenzie is a stalwart on defense and the play-maker is no slouch with ball in hand. Two long serving veterans of The MCRC are honored with their first appearances for the 1st team with a few minutes left. These two men have fought hard to earn the opportunity to play for the Blue and they richly deserve this and much more: backline utility player Charles Wemyss-Dunn ’12 and prop Dillon “H-Diddy” Hupp ’12.
With no time left on the board Schreiber highlights his improved decision making as he cuts back on a drifting defender to touch down. Sirkia converts for the final points of the day. 43 – 5 Middlebury final score.
Line-up: Wysota (Hupp 77), Powers, Hoffman, Graham, Derrico, Carlberg (Damberg-Ott 45 mins), Murray, Kelner (c), Sirkia (c), Song, Withers (Wemyss-Dunn 77), Norton (Mackenzie 72), Schreiber, Maher, Kalan
- Tries: Sirkia (2), Schreiber (2), Maher, Kalan, R. Kelner
- Conversions: Sirkia – 4 for 7
- Penalties: Sirkia – 0 for 0
- 1st cap (competitive): Hupp, Wemyss-Dunn, Mackenzie
- Earned Blue – 5th cap (competitive): Wysotta, Hoffman, Derrico
- First start: Murray