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On a spectacular fall day the Boys in Blue took the turf against conference foes American International College. Playing in the Middlebury’s Alumni Stadium at Youngman Field, the MCRC defeated AIC 48-19 to move to 5-0 on the season.

Being a bunch of freedom-loving gents, the Blue spread the scoring around, with seven different players scoring the seven tries. Leading the charge was All-American Captain Brian Sirkia ’12.5 with 18 points (1 try, 5 conversions, 1 penalty.)

Full match report below:

The undefeated MCRC took the pitch against American International College to defend their top spot in the East Coast Rugby Conference on an unreasonably warm fall afternoon.  Coming off an absurd 91-7 annihilation of Albany, the Blue knew they were in for a test, and they came out swinging.

 Receiving the opening kickoff in front of an eager crowd at Alumni Stadium, the MCRC only took four minutes to draw first blood.  Senior captain lock Ben “Sturge” Stasiuk caps off a practice-like drive with a savage run, setting the tone for the game and putting the Blue in front 5-0.  It stays that way after senior Captain fly-half Brian “The Uprights Are 10 m Farther Back” Sirkia bangs the conversion off the post.

 Incited by the narrow turf, the game becomes increasingly physical.  Lucky for Midd, that’s what the Blue pack had been hoping for.  On the first line out of the game, the MCRC forwards maul 25 meters.  Huge hits and swings of possession define the game for the next 15 minutes:  junior wing Alex “Coco” Ruocco saves a try by forcing an AIC wing out of bounds, and sophomore eight-man Laird “Godzilla” Silsby puts the AIC scrum half into next week.

 Relishing the contact, the Blue pack decides it’s time for another score.  After forcing the ball down the field, a (sledge)hammer by sophomore prop Cliff “Kracken” Hanich opens up a hole that junior hooker Sam “Don’t dip your bread in my Borscht!” Finkleman and three AIC defenders fill.  Unfortunately for AIC it wasn’t four, because Fink carries the would-be tacklers into the try-zone.  Sirkia hits the conversion, 12-0 Midd at 21’.

 Not content to lay down, AIC finds a lane and breaks a solo run past the Midd defense.  The last man on the goal line is Ruocco, squaring up against the full-speed AIC center with at least 70 lbs. on him.  Instead of allowing the inevitable try un-fought, Coco shows his character, putting a huge lick on the charging opponent before he falls across the try-line.  12-7 Blue. 

 Junior prop Traps “Mike” Wysota is replaced by freshman Cole “Leather Jacket” Baker after Traps tears an abdominal.  With all the contact and textbook rucking, the backs begin to sense the spotlight leaving them.  Senior scrum half Don “Not On My Watch” Song, having none of that, sends the ball wide to the Cheeky Canuck (read: Sirkia) who jukes an AIC defender and then chips over the top, winning the footrace into the try-zone, collecting the ball and touching it down.  Sirkia subsequently converts, 19-7 MCRC at 37’.

 Half time sees freshman Griffin “Not Related to A.C.” Jones come on for senior flanker Luke Dauner.  Never a team to sit on their laurels, the MCRC scores almost immediately after the half begins.  Junior outside center Adam Schreiber, putting in a stellar defensive performance (9 tackles, 1 turnover forced) decides to get in the game on offense, splitting AIC up the middle and offloading to Griffin Jones who finishes the try-scoring sequence -his first for the A-side.  Sirkia drills the conversion (of course), and it’s 26-7 at 41’.

 Staunch defense, a characteristic of the Blue this season, continues.  Led by senior inside center Dylan “Why Couldn’t I Have Been Born a Prop” Whitaker and 8-man Silsby (12 tackles each), the MCRC defense holds off several promising AIC attacks.  The Cheeky Canuck knocks in a penalty, 29-7 Midd.  Not going down without a fight, AIC quickly answers with a try, 29-14 Blue.  Not going down without a try, senior fullback Allan “Wish I Were Still a Wing” Stafford dances down the touchline and in for the try.  Sirkia hits the conversion from what was previously known as an impossible angle: 36-14 at 59’.

 Junior Tom Lynch relieves no-longer-actively-bleeding A.C. “it’s a seven!” Jones (5 tackles).  AIC scores after a solid sequence, but shank the conversion: 36-19 Midd.  Sophomore “Jazzy” Geoff Genova replaces senior Jebb “Mustache Wax” Norton (5 tackles) on the wing, and sophomore Alec “I Lift During J-Term” Mackenzie comes on for Song at scrum half. 

 Energized by the changes, the MCRC finds another gear, one that AIC simply can’t keep up with.  Senior flanker Nate Brown, a fixture on defense all day (9 tackles, 2 turnovers forced), peels off another powerful MCRC maul and finds pay dirt with an inspiring run.  Sirkia converts to make it 43-19 Midd at 73’.

Clearly inspired, Baker, the freshman prop, hammers up, breaks a tackle, and stumbles into open space.  As if prancing through a field of strangely aggressive wildflowers, Baker happily stiff-arms his way 30 meters to the try line, delivering the final blow to AIC.  48-19 Blue at 78’.

The remainder of the game plays out scoreless.  The Blue roll to another decisive victory, 48-19, asserting supremacy in the ECRC.  The final challenger, Boston College, will come to the house that Phillips built this Saturday.

Middlebury Rugby moves to 4-0 on the season after a dominating 91-7 win over UAlbany. The MCRC applied constant pressure for 80 minutes, scoring 13 tries from 10 different players. Alex Ruocco ’13 celebrated his first start with a hat trick, while Captain Brian Sirkia ’12.5 led the scoring with 31 total points (1 try, 2 penalties, 10 conversions.)

Many MCRC alumni were on hand to watch the fireworks, and all agreed that the Boys in Blue are looking good! It was a full day of rugby as the alumni took the pitch for some rugby themselves in our annual “Old Boys Game” following the A and B matches. Special thanks to Chris Mutty ’09.5 who refereed the B-side and Alumni games. Thanks, Chris!

Match Report:

The MCRC awoke before dawn and journeyed up to the Essex Tree Farm to meet Albany.  The team arrived as the sun appeared over the trees and mist rose off the pitch.  It promised to be an epic day.

 Coming into the game ranked 16th in the nation (sandwiched between Florida and LSU), the MCRC aimed to make a statement and wasted no time doing just that.  After receiving the opening kickoff, unstoppable forwards play and quick, creative back line passing moved the ball the length of the field for the opening possession.  The drive culminated in a try for wing Jebb Norton ’13.5 at the 5 minute mark.  Captain and All-American flyhalf Brian “Insert Accolade Here” Sirkia ’12.5 converts.  On the ensuing possession, the Blue pull out a mesmerizing phase, taking the ball 60 m with exceptional support running and draw a penalty; Sirkia nails the conversion to make it 10-0.

 The crowd, stacked with venerable MCRC alumni, waited ten minutes before the next MCRC try – the longest the Blue would play without scoring the rest of the day.  Sensing their impatience, senior fullback Allan “El Natural” Stafford did what he does best: astound.  Receiving the ball after crushing pack play demoralizes the opposition, Stafford splits two defenders, shakes off a third and gallops into the open field.  With two men left to beat, he chips the unsuspecting defenders and torches them in the footrace to the try-line, touching it down.  The score is 17-0 following a Sirkia conversion (get used to that).

 The next try comes just 4 minutes later after another long drive.  The Blue run a seamless line-out, with the ball coming off the top into the able hands of scrumhalf Alec “skin and bones” Mackenzie ’15 who, with the help of Sirkia, orchestrates a perfect set piece that ends in a try for wing Alex “Coco” Ruocco ’14 in his first A-side start.  Naturally, Sirkia converts. 24-0 at 20 minutes in.

 A frustrated Albany side begins to make mental errors.  The Albany inside center is banished to the sin bin for multiple high tackles at a very inopportune time.  Tasting weakness with blood already in the water, the Middlebury pack takes over, mauling 20 meters with lock Captain Ben “Sturgees” Stasiuk ’13.5 delivering the finishing blow.  29-0 at 26’.

 Once again the Blue receive and dictate the pace of the game.  With Albany struggling to keep up with a fitter, faster MCRC, the Blue quickly shuttle the ball to the wing finding prop Cliff “The Kracken” Hanich ’15 right where they want him.  Seeing the open field in front of him, Hanich rumbles to top speed, taking the ball 30 m and flattening a few unfortunate would-be tacklers in the process.  Returning to a winning strategy, the Blue maul 10 m until 8-man Laird “Godzilla” Silsby ’15 peels off and dives over the try line.  Midd leads 34-0 at 32’.

 With the half drawing to a close, the super-senior best buddy tandem of lock A.C. Jones and Brian Sirkia look to get in on the try fest.  Jones finds the ball and some space, and drops a beautifully unselfish offload to Sirkia, who punches over the line for the try.  Sirkia does what he does best and converts to make it 41-0 at the half.

 The Blue know they have a resilient opponent in Albany, and though halftime sees several personnel changes, the determination, focus, and energy remain unwavering.  Don Song ’13 replaces Mackenzie at scrum half, and Tom Lynch ’14 comes in for Jones at lock.

 After a bracing halftime speech, inside center Dylan “BlackWells” Whitaker ’13 leads by example, juking half the Albany back line and gouging them up the middle for a solo try within the first minute of play.  Sirkia converts, 48-0 at 41’.

 The Blue never let up.  A string of breathtaking passes sees Stafford send the speedy winger Coco in for his second try.  Obviously Sirkia converts, 55-0 at 52’.

Nate Brown ’13 comes on at flanker, replacing Griffin Jones ’16, a staple in the rucks all day. Cole “I cannot tell a lie” Baker ’16 relieves Hanich at prop.  Thinking of field position, Song crushes a box kick 60 m.  He wasn’t thinking of Coco’s speed.  Coco outpaces everyone on the pitch, including the Albany back three who had substantial head starts, to collect the ball and touch it down for an all-out-hustle try and a hat trick on the day.  Sirkia drills the conversion from the touch line, 62-0 Midd.

Aggressive defense by Silsby is deemed too aggressive and the 8-man is yellow carded for playing the ball on the ground. Albany attacks and work they way down the field.  After a few minutes of goal line standing lead by defensive lynchpins Whitaker (13 tackles), blind-side flanker Luke Dauner ’13 (6 tackles), and Stasiuk (5 tackles), Albany finally roots out a chink in the Blue’s armor, scoring their first and only try and bringing the score to 62-7.

Madison “I’m not a Lax Bro, bro” Stebbins ’14.5 comes on for his classmate, hooker Sam “Quads” Finkleman.  Sirkia knocks in another penalty bringing the tally to 65-7 at 68’.  On the heels of the conversion, the Blue pack delivers again, mauling and hammering until Brown dives between the legs of an Albany defender and over the line. 72-7 MCRC at 69’ after Sirkia converts.

Astor “Dance of the Elves” Carlberg ’13.5 replaces Stasiuk at lock, and Taran Veerman ’15 relieves Norton on the wing.  After waiting to get in on the action all game, Veerman immediately displays his speed, burning several defenders and scoring at 70’.  Sirkia, again, converts.  79-7.

 Outside center Adam Schreiber ’14, a stalwart tackler and composed kicker all game, channels his spidey-sense, picking off an errant Albany pass and hoofing it 60 m with defenders in hot pursuit.  Schreiber finds an extra gear, edging the opposition out and diving (read: collapsing) into the try zone. 84-7 Blue at 73’ after Sirkia converts (we told you to get used to it.)

 Not to be outdone, Don “Is It The Shoes?” Song finds a gap in the Albany defense and charges over for a try of his own.  Sirkia converts (if it ain’t broke…), making the score an absurd 91-7.  The game ends quickly thereafter, wrapping up one of the most completely dominant performances in MCRC history.  On to American International College next week.

First XV: Hanich, Finkelman, Wysota, Stasiuk (C), Jones, Dauner, Jones, Silsby, MacKenzie, Sirkia (C), Ruocco, Whitaker, Schreiber, Norton, Staffor

Reserves: Lynch, Stebbins, Brown, Baker, Nummelin-Carlberg, Song, Veerman, Yappert

First start: Jones, Ruocco

First try: Veerman

Alumni spotted at the pitch: Chris Davis ’76, Tyler Williams ’06, Sean Meany ’08, Spencer Paddock ’09, Chris Mutty ’09.5, Ed Cahill ’09.5, Sam Harrison ’11, Zach Bills ’11, Drew Harasimowich ’11, Chris Vandergrift ’11, Darragh Hurley ’11, Rowan Kelner ’12, Geoff Kalan ’12, Dillon Hupp ’12

Due to heavy rainfall over the past few weeks the Middlebury pitch is unplayable. This Saturday’s matches against the University of Albany will be held in Burlington at the Tree Farm.

Both A & B matches will kick-off at 10:15am.

Click here for directions: http://www.treefarmsports.com/

Middlebury turned in a dominant performance today over UConn, shutting out the Huskies 49-0. The Blue scored 7 tries, all converted by our very own All-American Captain, Brian Sirkia.

“G.I. Jazzy” Geoff Genova led the try scoring with a double dose, while the other tries were touched down by Captain Ben “Sturgees” Stasiuk, Nate Brown, Luke Dauner, Dylan Whitaker and Adam Schreiber with 1 each.

Three weeks removed from their last 15’s game, the MCRC was exceptionally eager to take the pitch this past Saturday. The boys released their pent up energy, and then some, throttling the University of Connecticut 49-0. The Blue stands near the top of the ECRC with 14 points and a 3-0 record, and will return home to Midd for the next three weeks as it looks to extend its undefeated season.

Full match-report below:

The MCRC came out of the gates storming as they immediately steal possession from their opponents. After earning an early scrum, the Blue pack wins clean ball and the back spin it wide beautifully, leading to a try for inside center Dylan Whitaker ’13.

A few minutes later a heads-up quick restart by 8-man Laird “Godzilla” Silsby ’15 helps send Dylan’s companion in the center, Adam Schreiber, through for the score. Captain Brian Sirkia drills both of the early conversions, a sight that will become quite familiar as the day runs on.

Silsby continues his impressive running breaking through UConn arm tackles like he is shrugging the proverbial dirt off his shoulder. A particularly monstrous run of his helps free “Jazzy” Geoff Genova ’15 on the outside. A former lock, Jazzy was converted to wing after Coach John Phillips saw him spring during practice. Kid…has…wheels. He races home easily post Silsby off-load. Sirkia makes it 3-for-3 and the MCRC is up 21-0.

UConn manages to string a few phases of impressive play together. Their pack, although undisciplined at times, is tremendously large, and they help maintain possession. The men from Midd refuse to break however, making tackle after tackle. Somewhere, former defensive specialists, Darragh “Head up hands up” Hurley and Muchadei “Dominate the contact area” Le Zvoma, smile as the Blue ultimately regain possession. Genova is once more unleashed and blazes into the corner for a try. Sirkia is unfazed by the preposterous angle and once more coolly slots it home. 28-0. He’s a sniper and welcome to enlist in this writer’s infantry anytime he wants.

Just before the half-time whistle blows, the Blue march 75 meters down the field. The forwards put the team on their back and maul the last 10 meters into the try zone. Flanker Nate Brown ’13 touches down and Sirkia makes it 5-5. 35 to 0 at the half in favor of the MCRC.

Halftime sees freshmen Griffin “Hip Flexor” Jones ’16 and Cole “Leather Jacket” Baker ’16 replace  Brown and Prop Cliff Hanich ’15. Jones and Baker were teammates at Gonzaga high school last season and now find themselves contributing weekly to the MCRC. Jones plays an absolute stomper, marking up 9 tackles in the second half, tying him for the day’s highest tally with perennial tackle robot Whitaker. Baker impresses with his mobility and solid technique in both the scrum and line out. Bright bright futures for these two.

In the backline, Don “Hot Shoes” Song ‘13 and Alex “Coco” Ruocco ‘14 replace scrum-half Alec Mackenzie and winger Genova.

In the second half the blue move the ball well but find the try-line with less frequency than the first. Their defense is superb and UConn never threatens much. Forwards Ben Stasiuk ’13.5 and Luke Dauner ’13 add tries and Sirkia keeps on keeping on, making both conversions. He’s not bad at this whole rugby thing.

The final whistle sounds and the blue leave the field victors by a 49-0 scoreline.

The Killer B’s take the field against a much larger UConn team, but with an impressive mix of heart, technique and raw aggression emerge victorious, 17-5. This brings the Killer B’s season record to 2-3.

All in all, a wonderful day of rugby for the boys in blue. Wonderful to see Jazzy Geoff press the NOs button on game day. Potentially a sign of big things to come for the sophomore for the rest of the year. Nice to see that someone not named Alan Stafford can score a try once in a while, although after being shut out this week, “El Naturel” is sure to come out on fire next weekend.

The MCRC faces the University of Albany next weekend at Middlebury’s Homecoming, and after moving to 3-0 is sure to have a target on its back for the rest of the season. Four weeks, and four teams are all that stand between Middlebury and it’s first ever Division 1-AA conference championship. It’s going to be one heck of a last month to this season.

 

 This Saturday, the boys in blue traveled to Amesbury, MA to participate in the ECRC 7’s tournament.  They played a fantastic brand of rugby, some might even dare to employ the adjectival “champagne” to describe their style.  Led by superlative play from 7’s veteran Dylan Whitaker, and all-world high-stepper Allan Stafford, the Blue run the table in pool play, winning by quasi-absurd margins.  In the playoffs, they blow past UConn 60-0, and then knock off defending 7’s champions BC by a score of 31-5.

 

The finals see the MCRC face off against a Northeastern team hungry for revenge after their loss to the Blue in 15’s just two weeks ago.  The game is more ruck-centric than the speedy MCRC would have preferred.  Northeastern does a good job of slowing down the recycle and not giving our back line the chance to shine.  Much to everyone’s surprise, the game is scoreless at half time.

 

Both teams battle for control in the second half, but the Blue strike first blood.  Whitaker runs a great line and punches through the gain-line before popping off to a streak of light later identified as Allan Stafford.  Under the posts this blast of light races and the boys go up 7-0.

 

With two minutes left, a series of strong runs by Northeastern sends their winger around the corner and under the posts.  The game is knotted at 7 as the teams head to a sudden death overtime.

 

In OT an unfortunate call and a tough bounce end threats generated by Stasiuk’s promising run and Sirkia’s cheeky kick.  Both teams are utterly exhausted as possession changes hands back and forth, but Northeastern manages to overlap on the far sideline and touch down in the corner moments before Stafford can get there.

 

An inch here or an inch there and the MCRC are ECRC 7’s champions, but heads are held high.  Coach John Phillips consoles the team, saying that they came here to prove they can play at a high level and that they have “made the rest of the league take notice.” The team will look to take increased ball skills and a better understanding of how to recognize and exploit space from this excursion into 7’s.  If they can bring this form into the rest of the 15’s season, they have a chance to do something truly special.

As for this past Saturday, the boys left absolutely everything they had on the field and had a blast doing so.  You can’t ask for anything more than that; truly a special day for the MCRC.

 

 

The day’s roster: Brian Sirkia (C), Ben Stasiuk (VC), Allan Stafford, Dylan Whitaker, Adam Schreiber, Alec Mackenzie, Vincent Mariano Alex Ruocco, Geoff Genova, Aaron Yappert, Don Song, Nate Brown, Luke Dauner, Madison Stebbins, and John Hawley.

On Saturday, September 29 the MCRC was scheduled to travel to New Haven, CT to take on the Owls of Southern Connecticut State University. Unfortunately, word came thru late friday night that the pitch was under water and unplayable. The game has been re-scheduled for Saturday, November 10.

In the meantime, the Development Squad traveled north and took on the B-side of St. Mike’s. This was the first ever rugby game for some of the men in Blue and not only did they hold their own, they shut out St. Mike’s 22-0. How great is that!?

On a beautiful fall day the MCRC hosted the reigning ECRC champions Northeastern, who had yet to suffer a defeat in the young conference. The Mad dogs came out strong and dominated all aspects of play in opening a 12-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. Another score surely would have put the visitors firmly in command, but the Boys in Blue had other things in mind. Middlebury applied solid pressure and patiently build phases. 16 minutes in All-American flyhalf Brian Sirkia ’12.5 takes a quick ball and kicks to the far corner. Who is there to gather it in and touch it down? None other than try-scoring machine Allan “El Natural” Stafford ’13.5. The wind makes the conversion attempt from the sideline that much more difficult, and even Captain Sirkia can’t make this one. 5-12 Northeastern.

After this both teams settle down and the possession is back and forth with neither team able to mount a successfull attack. The early scrummaging domination of Northeastern begins to wane, and the Middlebury forwards start to pick up steam. At the 30 minute mark the relentless pressure earns Midd a penalty which Sirkia converts. 8-12 Northeastern.

But Northeastern is an experienced, hard-running team and not a group to quit playing. Their relentless attack pays off in another try (unconverted) at minute 36 and they take a 9 point lead just minutes before the half. But minutes are plenty of time in rugby, and Middlebury attacks again. Another infringement at the breakdown by Northeastern and Sirkia slots home the penalty in the last play of the first half. The score is 11-17 at halftime.

The second half begins with more hard-hitting rugby, but thankfully no more scoring from the visitors. The only half-time substitute is greenhorn Aaron Yappert ’16 who comes on to relieve Kennedy Mugo ’12.5 on the wing. Yappert came to the MCRC as a forward, but one look at his skills and the coaches moved him to the backline.  Yappert takes the field exclaiming “But I’ve never played wing before!” No worries, Mr. Yappert. The mad genius of Head Coach John Phillips is at work, and in the Mad Genius we trust!

The half begins and the teams exchange volleys, with neither able to deal a decisive blow. As the half wears on, the fitness of Middlebury begins to pay off. The forwards start to take control of the scrum, and more fresh legs come on in the form of another freshman with Griffin Jones ’16 replacing Nate Brown ’13 at flanker, and lock John “Scooter” Hawley ’14 replacing Andrew “I don’t need no stinkin’ intestine!” Jones. Hawley and Jones make an immediate impact making tackle after tackle and the constant pressure pays off 17 minutes into the half as who but Allan Stafford beats his man, turns the corner and scores under the posts. The try makes the score 16-17 and Sirkia drills the easy conversion to make it 18-17. Middlebury is in front for the first time all day, but there is plenty of rugby left to play.

Northeastern attacks again and quiets the huge crowd when they re-take the lead at the 24 minute mark with penalty. The score stands at 18-20 Northeastern with just 15 minutes left on the clock. Middlebury, however, is far from done, and with the fans and pep band cheering them on attack right from the kick-off. The Blue earn a penalty at minute 27, but Sirkia’s kick is held up by the strong wind as Northeastern gathers it right in front of the posts. Keeping the pressure on full blast the MCRC earn another penalty 2 minutes later, but again Sirkia in unable to convert.

With time running short the coaches make two more changes, sending in Vince Mariano ’14 to relieve Alec Mackenzie ’15 at scrumhalf, and Cole Baker ’16 to take over at loose head from Cliff “The Kraken” Hanich ’15. Cole Baker’s first ever play for the Blue is an absolutely crushing scrum as he thoroughly dominates his opposite. The Middlebury scrum drives back Northeastern, Mariano whips the ball wide from the base, and it’s try time and back-to-back Hat Tricks for the other worldly Allan Stafford who once again steps his man and then beats him to the corner. The sideline erupts as the referee awards the try and Middlebury takes the lead 23-20 with just 5 minutes left to play.

Middlebury knows that the lead is a narrow one and that Northeastern isn’t going to give up. The final minutes see some incredibly physical rucking as both teams give everything they’ve got. As the visitors prepare to throw in a line-out just inside Midd’s 10 meter line the referee announces “Last Play!” The Mad Dogs win clean ball and attack in tight, but are unable to gain ground thru Middlebury’s stalwart defense. Tackle after tackle and breakdown after breakdown and the crowd is going wild knowing that the finish line is just inches away. Finally the patience and discipline of Middlebury pay off as the ball is won at a breakdown and fed back to Yappert who boots it into touch and seals the victory. The whistle blows and the Middlebury bench rushes their teammates on the field as all celebrate this hard-earned victory!

Hats off to Northeastern who played a physical, attacking game from whistle to whistle. They are a demanding opponent and we look forward to seeing them again!

FIRST XV: Cliff Hanich ’15, Sam Finkelman ’14.5, Mike Wysota ’14, Ben Stasiuk (C) ’13.5, AC Jones ’12.5, Luke Dauner ’13, Nate Brown ’13, Laird Silsby ’15, Alec Mackenzie ’15, Brian Sirkia (C) ’12.5, Kennedy Mugo ’12.5, Dylan Whitaker ’13, Adam Schreiber ’14, Jebb Norton ’13.5, Allan Stafford ’13.

Reserves: Dylan Igoe ’15, Tom Lynch ’14, John Hawley ’14, Cole Baker ’16, Griffin Jones ’16, Vince Mariano ’14, Alex Ruocco ’14, Aaron Yappert ’16

First cap: Aaron Yappert, Griffin Jones, Cole Baker

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

After an intense 3-day camp of training and team bonding, the MCRC headed to Hanover, NH to play in the Granite Cup. Middlebury played in the highest tier along with Dartmouth, UNH and NEC.

Arriving with the understanding that MCRC would take on Dartmouth B, word made its way that Dartmouth’s First XV would be taking the field. After playing all the way to the D-IAA National Semifinals just five months ago, it is clear that Dartmouth is one of the top rugby teams in the country. But no fear! The Boys in Blue were not fazed and embraced the challenge of going against the best.

Middlebury kicks-off and begins nearly 10 minutes of dominating play. Dartmouth is penalized repeatedly and Midd finally gets some points on the board when Captain Brian Sirkia ’12.5 slots home the penalty. 3-0 Middlebury.

Middlebury looks great in the set pieces and constantly puts the Dartmouth pack under pressure. A few penalties against Middlebury release the pressure and half-time sees Middlebury holding a 3 point advantage.

The second half begins much the same as the first half ended. Middlebury plays with composed aggression and Dartmouth brings intensity to every collision. The Green are excellent at the breakdown and earn a penalty at the 11 minute mark. They convert to level the match at 3 points all.

Middlebury then elevates their level play and continually attack their oppenents try line. Several quick tap penalties only 5 meters out are defended well, including one held up in the try zone. Middlebury will surely lament not coming away with points on these repeated attacks.

The penalties pile up and Midd decides to kick for points again, but Sirkia is unable to convert on this windy day. Still 3-3.

At the 22-minute mark Middlebury wins a scrum just outside the Dartmouth 22. Clean ball from the pack and the backline is off to the races. Fullback Allan “El Natural” Stafford, ’13.5 steps thru and touches down for the try. Sirkia misses the conversion and the score stands at 8-3 Middlebury with the clock showing only 2 minutes to play. Surely victory is at hand!

The ensuing kick-off see Midd continue to attack up the field, but perhaps unnecessarily. The ball is turned over and suddenly the speed of Dartmouth’s back 3 is released, as they score a heartbreaking 80 meter try, touching down under the posts as time expires. They make the easy conversion for a 10-8 victory.

The final result is not the “W” that was hoped for, but all are pleased with the performance of the team, especially after only 3 days of practice. Middlebury has shown it can play with the best, and then some.

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, Taran Veerman ’15, Dylan Whitaker ’13, Adam Schreiber ’14, Alex Ruocco ’14, Allan Stafford ’13.5.

Substitutes: Tom Lynch ’14 (for Andrew Jones)

2nd Game (vs. UNH)

As planned Middlebury makes numerous changes to the starting line-up so that everyone who attended pre-season get solid playing time. Middlebury easily crushes UNH 48-0. Full match report to come.

Starting XV: Cliff Hanich ’15, Mike Wysota ’14, Dylan Igoe ’15, Andrew Jones ’12.5, Tom Lynch ’14, Sam Murray ’13, Madison Stebbins ’14.5, John Hawley ’14, Vince Mariano ’14, Brian Sirkia (C) ’12.5, Taran Veerman ’15, Dylan Whitaker ’13, Adam Schreiber ’14, Geoffrey Genova ’15, Allan Stafford ’13.5

 

The MCRC would like to wish a fond farewell and good luck to Muchadei Zvoma ’07 who is off to pursue an MBA at the Kellogg School of Business.  After winning the Division II National Championship in his last game as a collegiate rugby player, Muchadei returned to Middlebury in the fall of 2008 to begin his coaching career.  There must be something about this man from Zimbabwe for in his first year as a coach the MCRC went undefeated and won their 2nd National Championship.

Muchadei leaves us as the only member of the MCRC to win a National Championship as both a player and a coach, but his contributions to our club cannot be measured in wins and losses.  For the past four years he has worked tirelessly on behalf of the MCRC, both on and off the pitch. He has been a constant advocate for the club and its members, and a valued friend to all.

To honor Muchadei and all that he means to the MCRC, he was awarded the first ever “Legend of the Blue” at this year’s pre-Commencement banquet.  The “Legend of the Blue” aims to recognize the unique accomplishments and contributions of those special few who have changed the club forever.  We can think of no better man to be the first ever Legend of the Blue!

Muchadei was also awarded the 2012 Evan Mangino Award, which states, “This award goes to the player displaying the highest level of Character and Courage, and a strong Commitment to the betterment of the MCRC.  It was created to honor the achievements and contributions of Mr. Mangino, 2003.” For all those who know Muchadei, these words could have been written directly about him, and he is most deserving of this unique honor.

Muchadei, you are forever our friend and brother and we wish you all the best. You will be missed!

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