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The MCRC traveled to UMass-Amherst on Saturday and won a hard-fought, back-and-forth game, 33-31. Higlights include tries by scrumhalf Alec MacKenzie ’15, prop Mike “Traps” Wysota ’14 and a hat trick from fullback Allan “The Natural” Stafford ’13.5.

Match Report Week 1: MCRC at UMass

            The Blue opened their second season in collegiate rugby’s first division with a thrilling 33-31 win over the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in Amherst, MA.  After a grueling training camp that capped off a summer of hard work and skill building, the Middlebury College Rugby Club aimed to reestablish themselves in the Northeast following a 2011 season characterized by tough loses both on the roster and on the pitch.  Lead by the senior tandem of fullback Alan Stafford (3 tries) and inside center Dylan Whitaker (16 tackles), the Blue managed to avenge last year’s 20-24 loss and set high expectations for the season to come.

            The first half belonged to the Blue, both on the scoreboard and in the scrum.  Commanded on the field by senior captain Ben Stasiuk, the Blue pack dominated in the trenches and lay the foundation for the first half scoring. Of the team’s three first half tries, Stafford contributed a pair thanks in large part to seamless ball movement amongst the backline, while sophomore scrum half Alec Mackenzie added the third on the halftime whistle in a brilliant individual effort, picking the ball from the scrum and gutting the Minutemen from 40 meters out.  Senior captain Brian Sirkia was a perfect 3 for 3 for conversions in the first half, sending the team to the sidelines up 21-12.

            Middlebury picked up where it left off in the second half, with Stafford scoring his third try in the 46th minute to bring the lead to 26-12, but from then on, the landscape of the game changed decidedly in favor of the Minutemen.  UMass, not content to be steamrolled by a school one tenth of its size, battled back to tie the game at 26 and eventually take the lead 31-26 in the game’s waning minutes.

            In the final minutes of the game, after seeing their lead dissolve before them, the Blue showed their true character.  With determination and composure, the Blue methodically marched down the pitch, driving the Minutemen back to their own try-line.  Twice in a row the Blue pack had their scrum turned only to rally and turn the Minutemen’s scrum immediately after, maintaining possession on the doorstep.  Finally, in the 76th minute, junior prop Mike “Traps” Wysota found a gap in the UMass defense and dove across the try-line to tie the game at 31.  Captain Brian Sirkia missed the conversion by a hair, but the referee called a re-kick due to excessive shouting from the Minutemen and their fans during set up for the kick.  Sirkia, with ice in his veins, drilled the second conversion to give the Blue a hard fought win over a competitive and athletic UMass side.

First XV: Cliff Hanich ’15, Sam Finkleman ‘ 15.5, Mike Wysota ’14, Ben Stasiuk (C) ’13.5, Andrew Jones ’12.5, Nate Brown ’13, Luke Dauner ’13, Laird Silsby ’15, Alec MacKenzie ’15, Brian Sirkia (C) ’12.5, Geoffrey Genova ’15, Dylan Whitaker ’13, Adam Schreiber ’14, Jebb Norton ’13, Allan Stafford ’13.5.

Substitutes: John Hawley ’14 (AC Jones), Vince Mariano ’14 (Alec Mackenzie), Taran Veerman ’15 (Jebb Norton)

First Cap (competitive): Sam Finkelman, Nate Brown

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