Women’s rugby takes down Brown to bring home Ivy crown

by Matt Yuen | 11/9/15 6:30pm

11.10.15.sports.womensrugby_Kate.Herrington

In its debut season as a varsity program, the women’s rugby team won the Ivy crown.

by Kate Herrington / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

In a nail-biter from start to finish, the women’s rugby team successfully managed to fight back against reigning title holder No. 12 Brown University for the win. With the score tied 12-12 and only eight minutes remaining in the game, Audrey Perez ’17 broke free for the Ivy League Championship-winning try. Dartmouth converted its extra point and held on to the lead, ending the game with a 19-12 victory and its first Ivy League title in its debut season as a varsity program.

After Dartmouth’s victory in the Ivy League title game, the Big Green finished its fall conference play strong with a 7-1 overall record to go with a five-game sweep of the Ancient Eight. The impressive record attests to the growth of the rugby team throughout the season.

Kate Herrington

“The growth on this team has been phenomenal,” Kerry Conlin ’16 said. “We have an amazing set of underclassmen who are young and passionate about the game and have come up so hard and have grown so fast. Now they are just dominating on the field, and they are learning more every day — it’s incredible.”

Due to the history between the two teams, the championship bout had all the makings of an Ivy League classic. In last year’s finals, Brown dominated Dartmouth 42-5 on the Big Green’s home turf, providing Dartmouth with extra motivation for this year’s clash. When Dartmouth and Brown faced off earlier this season, Dartmouth squeaked out with an 8-5 win — its closest of the season — to hand Brown its first Ivy League 15s loss since 2013.

Although Dartmouth was able to avenge its loss in the finals last year, things did not go as planned for the Big Green throughout the game. In the first half, the women struggled to find any offensive rhythm and failed to put points on the board.

“The first half was really rough,” Tatjana Toeldte ’16 said. “They have a very strong scrum, and we were getting pushed around in the scrums so set pieces were a little bit shaky.”

Brown’s scrums are notorious for being the strongest in the Ivy League. Over the past few years, Brown has dominated Dartmouth in scrums, allowing Brown to control possession. The advantage in a game often leans toward the team that does the better job of controlling possession through strong play in the scrums. In Dartmouth’s last game against Brown, the Big Green showcased its ability to compete with the Bears in this critical aspect of the game.

During the first half of the championship game, however, Dartmouth was unable to carve out an advantage in the scrums and the Bears took advantage. Brown was able to parlay its superior possession into a series of fast breaks down the center which ultimately provided Brown with a 12-point lead at the end of the first half.

Those were the only points Brown would score all afternoon.

Going into the half down 12-0 provided a rude awakening for the Big Green, who chose not to be defined by the way they opened the game but rather by the way they finished it. Dartmouth used the break to talk about the necessary adjustments and came out in the second half ready to execute.

“We started dominating the set pieces, started pushing them around,” Yejadai Dunn ’16 said. “It was a change of mindset and a change of play.”

The Big Green made a few key second half changes to their play style in order to adjust to Brown’s strengths. During scrums, the Big Green bent lower, allowing Dartmouth to compete more for possession. Additionally, Dartmouth increased its defensive pressure in the middle of the field to cover any breaks in the center, denying the Bears any more fast break opportunities.

As the Big Green adjusted the flow of the game to its own pace, it gradually started to find offensive rhythm and put points on the board.

“This is what rugby games were made of — it was a real fight,” Dunn said. “Both teams, us and Brown, were amazing squads. Well fought game on both sides, and I’m really glad we came out on top.”

The Ivy League championship serves as a sweet coronation for the team in its debut varsity season.

“Going varsity, there were a lot of unknowns, but we took it by the horns and went with it,” Dunn said. “It has been an amazing experience. [Head coach Katie] Dowty and [assistant coach Matthew] Cameron were amazing, we couldn’t have asked for better. They helped us get to where we are.”

The women’s rugby team will face off against Norwich University at Brophy Field this Saturday in the Varsity 15s National Championship Quarterfinals.