The MCRC kicks off their spring friendlies with a strong showing against Dartmouth’s 2nd team. For an inexperienced side, Middlebury puts together some great attacking phases. There is a lot of individual talent on the side but the most promising factor is the team’s ability to link together phases, switching from a forwards’ pick ‘n’ drive affair to spreading it wide amongst the backs.
Tries by outside center Adam Schreiber ’14, lock Blake Shapskinsky ’14 and fullback Allan Stafford ’13.5. Sirkia goes for 3 for 3 on the conversions and opens the scoring with a penalty. First starts for several players including wingers Dave Stillman ’14 & Jared Onouye ’14 competing in their first rugby games ever, as is Shapskinsky. Returning from a long injury lay-off flanker Luke Dauner ’13 puts in a noteworthy performance, setting the tone on defense.
Amazing facilities at Dartmouth and great hosts. Middlebury is looking forward to this being an annual affair as we look to catch up with a program that is easily the best in New England. Full report below.
To allow as many players game time as possible the game is played as three 30 minute periods. In the first two 30′s Middlebury plays their strongest side, only making tactical and injury based substitutions. In the final 30 there are changes across the board.
Anyone who watched Middlebury in the fall will note how vastly the lineup has changed. Hooker DJ Powers and try scoring machine winger Zach Withers both graduated in February leaving holes. The entire senior class (including eight regular starters) have retired from college rugby early, allowing younger players more focus in preparation for next year. Five potential starters are abroad. Add in the assortment of injuries any team faces you can see why this team looks so different.
All of that said, this season sees the return of several influential players including Middlebury’s new vice-captain Ben “Sturges” Stasiuk ’13.5 who puts in a phenomenal performance at flank, carrying the ball up with authority. Center Dylan “Blackwells” Whitaker ’13, fullback Allan “Naturel” Stafford ’13.5, prop Cliff “Kraken” Hanich ’15 and flanker Luke Dauner ’13 are all back in action after missing the fall. New to the fold are Stillman, Shapskinsky, Onouye, and backline utility player Alex Ruocco ’13.
From the opening whistle Middlebury is in control and Sirkia opens the scoring from the penalty spot in the opening 5 minutes. Lock AC Jones ’13 is unfortunate not to hold onto an interception that would have put him clear to the goal line with only one defender to beat. Jones is in a prophetic mood as he anticipates another telegraphed pass, this time he keeps control and drives the ball forward. Schreiber gets in on the intercepting act and shows an unexpected turn of pace to run the 30 meters home. Sirkia converts. 10 – 0 Middlebury.
Schreiber, the former fullback with the big boot, is beginning to exploit the new found foot fancy he acquired and opens up holes in the Dartmouth defense. Sirkia finds his confidence with ball in hand darting past tackle after tackle – if he can link up with his powerful back 3 more regularly Middlebury win rain in the tries. To Dartmouth’s credit Sirkia’s options are limited after breaking the gain line. Signs of brilliance nonetheless.
The big lock Shapskinsky starts the game tentative with ball in hand – not surprising for a player in his first rugby game ever – but he quickly eclipses the nerves and provides a powerful crashing option amongst the forwards. Middlebury is knocking on the door for a while with their forwards driving it up but some white line fever leads to poor decision making at crucial moments. Finally Shapskinsky powers the ball over the line for Middlebury’s second try. Sirkia converts 17 – 0 the score at half time.
Half-time sees Jack “Sparrow” Gaffney ’15 come on for AC Jones at lock and winger Sander Mora ’15 on for Stillman. Middlebury remains on the attack in the second ushered by the playmaking savvy of Alec “Big Mac II” Mackenzie ’15 at 9 and the ever-present eighthman Laird “Gojira” Silsby ’15 – these true freshmen have bright BLUE rugby futures ahead of them. Hooker turned scrumhalf Vince Mariano ’14 comes on for Mackenzie.
Some excellent link play amongst the backs sees Onouye cross the line for what looks to be the third try for Middlebury but the referee rules Staffords offload to Onouye a forward pass. Frustration for the winger but a solid first outing nonetheless. Ruocco replaces Jared on the wing. Stewart Hoffman ’14 replaces Mike “Traps” Wysota ’14.
Middlebury get their final points of the day through an exquisitely executed backs play that sees the defense open like the red sea for Allan “The Promised One” Stafford to traverse. A well executed and clearly rehearsed smoke and mirrors deception play. Champagne rugby. Sirkia converts. 24 – 0 Middlebury at the end of the second period.
The final 30 minutes sees changes across the board with an entirely new back line led aptly by Ruocco at fly-half. Sturges stays on to lead a new pack of forwards and is the rock holding the team together as Dartmouth surge multiple comeback attacks. Hoffman lays in several well timed tackles to keep Dartmouth at bay but even his efforts cannot stop the inevitable try after long periods of pressure.
Great start to the spring for Middlebury. Final score 24 – 5.
Line-up: Hanich, Igoe, Wysota (Hoffman 45), Shapskinsky, Jones (Gaffney 30), Dauner, Stasiuk (vc), Silsby, Mackenzie (Mariano 40), Sirkia, Onouye (Ruocco 45), Whitaker, Schreiber, Stillman (Mora 30), Stafford
- Tries: Schreiber, Shapskinsky, Stafford
- Conversions: Sirkia – 3 for 3
- Penalty kicks: Sirkia – 1 for 1
- First cap (non-competitive): Shapskinsky, Gaffney, Onouye, Ruocco, Stillman
- Firs try (A side – non-competitive): Shapskinsky