Middlebury puts on a terrific performance in their only home game of this spring against a spirited Norwich. It’s a perfect day in sunny Vermont and the crowd in attendance is not only entertained by the quality rugby on the field but the debut performance of the Middlebury Pep band, kicking off the game with a great rendition of the national anthem.
Middlebury dominates the first half but as the half wears on they play into Norwich’s smash it up style getting caught up in wrestling matches. The half time score suggests a close game but the second half sees a much smarter Middlebury side carving up the defense and running up the score. Amazing defensive performance by freshman lock Blake Shapskinsky ’15, absolutely dominant. Dylan Whitaker ’13 at center is strong in contact and ever-present in support, keeping the offense rolling.
Full report below with video highlight links [click here for all video highlights] :
Middlebury is in control from the opening whistle, stealing the first lineout and sending it wide to Allan “Naturel” Stafford ’13.5 who spins out of a tackle. Ball comes back inside for Schreiber who chips it over the top into the try zone. Alec “Big Mac” Mackenzie ’15 is first to it: try time. 5 – 0 as Brian Sirkia ’12.5 fails to convert. [Click here for video]
The counterattack of the backline sets up the Middlebury forwards to crash it in from a few meters out. The tenacious Devin Risinger ’14 punches it home. The open side flanker never stops fighting and his instinct for the ball is matched by the ferocity of his scrappy play. Missed conversion: 10 – 0 early in the first half. [Click here for video]
Risinger missed last week’s game through injury but he returns to replace pack leader Ben “Sturges” Stasiuk ’13.5 who is out through injury. Freshman Laird “Godzilla” Silsby ’15 takes the armband in Sturg’s absence and is a force on both sides of the ball, highlighted by some superlative tackling. [Click here for video]
Middlebury mounts significant pressure on Norwich with some solid runs in the backline but they just cannot connect that final pass to convert the efforts of the forwards in securing them clean ball. Jared Onouye ’14 goes close but just misses touching down a Sirkia grubber into the try zone. [Click here for video]
The inexperience of the Middlebury side does come through when they give away several unnecessary penalties allowing Norwich into their 22 but some great defensive work by Shapskinsky and Risinger keep the Cadets at bay. Unfortunately, influential prop, Mike “Traps” Wysota ’14, has to leave the game with a dislocated finger. Not to fear, Stewart Hoffman ’14 comes on at prop to replace him. Stew has found a new exuberance in open play that he lacked in previous seasons. His tackling is exemplary and he gets about the park quicker than most front-row players.
Norwich gain confidence as Middlebury’s frustration heightens at their inabilty to convert possession and territorial advantage into points. However, Big Blake is quick to temper their newfound resolve with some monstrous hits, including the Sam Harrison ’11 hit-of-the-day. From a quick-tap penatly, Norwich’s sizeable prop tries to take on the Middlebury second row in the open field and is driven backward and then firmly planted into the earth. A movable force meets an unstoppable Shapskinsky.
Half-time score Middlebury 10 – 0 Norwich.
No subs at half-time for the boys in blue but whatever Coach Phillips said to them during the break must have resonated as the execution and efficiency skyrocket. The defense is better organized, giving away fewer penalties and starving Norwich of the ball.
On offense Sirkia takes the reigns firmly in his hands. Mackenzie spins it out to him from a ruck near the attacking 22. Sirkia breaks two tackles, draws both the fullback and open side winger, leaving an easy finish for winger Jared Onouye near the corner. 15 – 0 Middlebury after Sirkia just misses from a tough angle. [Click here for video]
Middlebury’s support play is improved in the second half, which leads to their next try. Blindside flanker Luke Dauner ’13 steals the ball in contact 35 meters from the Norwich try line. Mackenzie cleans up the resulting loose ball and connects with Sirkia who finds the Kraken on his outside. The big man powers it toward the try line and makes an audacious one handed offload with two tacklers hanging on. Onouye collects, draws the final defender as Schreiber loops for the easy pop and the dive into the corner: 20 – 0 [Click here for video]
Silsby receives the resulting kick-off and there is an almost palpable expectation for the big number 8 to create something for the highlight reel: Godzilla does not disappoint. He shimmies to his right evading one defender on his inside, the second defender coming from his outside is fended off with a maniacal hand-off that floors him. A knock-on stops the flow of the attack but Middlebury steals the resulting scrum. Sirkia puts a kick through and pressure from Onouye brings about an MCRC throw-in from a dangerous position. The ball is spread wide to Schreiber who pops it back inside to Risinger for his second of the afternoon. Finally Sirkia is able to find the target making it 27 – 0 Middlebury. [Click here for video]
Risinger makes a tackle and poaches just inside the Norwich half. He passes the ball to Sirkia, who creates space for BlackWells Whitaker to explode down the sideline. Unselfishly BlackWells cuts back inside near the try line to draw the last defender and then passes to Silsby who powers over the line. Sirkia hits another one making it 34 – 0. Sebastian Damberg-Ott ’12.5 comes on for Risinger.
BlackWells does end up getting his name on the scorecard. Schreiber chips the bill into the 22 and some great defensive pressure from winger Dave Stillman ’14 forces a mistimed pass from the Norwich fullback, which bounces off of his winger’s hands right into Whitaker’s for the easy try. Sirkia makes it 3 in a row. 41 – 0 Middlebury.
After a brief consultation among the coaches and ref the game is ended 17 minutes early to allow focus to shift to the developing players on the second teams. Final score 41 – 0.
In the second team game Ford Van Fossan ’13 plays out of his mind, putting in a clear man-of-the-match performance. His tackle is solid in the centres and he has some jawdropping runs setting up multiple tries and picking up one of his own. Final score 25 – 10 Middlebury.
Line-up: Hanich, Igoe, Wysota (Hoffman 30), Shapskinsky, Jones, Dauner, Risinger (Damberg-Ott 60), Silsby (vc), Mackenzie, Sirkia (c), Onouye, Whitaker, Schreiber, Stillman, Stafford
- Tries: Mackenzie, Risinger (2), Onouye, Schreiber, Silsby, Whitaker
- Conversions: Sirkia – 3 for 7
- Penalty kicks: Sirkia – 0 for 0
- First vice-captaincy (non-competitive): Silsby
- First try (A side – non-competitive): Onouye