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