Rugby win puts team in playoffs

by Jacob E. Osterhout | 10/30/01 6:00am

The Dartmouth men's rugby team left itself no other option but to win. The winner of its game against Brown on Saturday would make the Northeastern playoffs. The loser would go home and rest up for next year.

"We made this season real tough on ourselves," outside center Michael Martinez '04 said. "The urgency wasn't there until we had already lost two games. Those were two games we could have won. Now we had to win on a small field in hostile territory against a much improved Brown team."

Indeed, Dartmouth won when it needed to most, defeating the Bears, 22-10.

The Big Green came out strong, but, as has been a problem in the past, penalties set the team back on its heels. Brown eventually drove in from five meters to score the first try. Within 10 minutes, Dartmouth was down 5-0 and staring at the possibility of a rather short season.

"We really got our heads back in the game after that first try," said junior prop Travis Escobedo. "In the past, we have gotten down on ourselves when we don't play to our potential, but this time we patted each other on the butts and picked up our level of play."

The rest of the first half, Dartmouth dominated ball possession and field territory. The ball was consistently inside Brown's own 22-meter line, yet the Big Green could not finish the job. Poor goal line hands and decisions held Dartmouth to only three points for most of the half. But, with everyone looking forward to half-time, winger Andy Lusk '03 broke down the sideline off a pass from Martinez and slipped through the hands of two defenders to dive into the try zone and put Dartmouth up, 10-5, at the break.

Coach Alexander Magleby '00 added: "We have a very good team. But, we have a tendency to let up for a couple minutes in a game. I told the guys we couldn't do that in the second half. We put ourselves in a position where there was no room for mistakes. We had no cushion to fall back on."

The beginning of the second half was much the same as the first, with Dartmouth marching down the field into Brown territory, but never really managing to put any points on the board. Brown's kicking game and quick defense seemed to frustrate the Big Green ruggers until the ball was swung wide, and center Kevin Reavey '02 took matters into his own hands as he broke down the Brown backline to put five more points on the board.

Up 15-5, Dartmouth started to show signs of lapsing. Brown began to move the ball much better than they could before. The Big Green defense was backtracking and falling over its own penalties. With 10 minutes left, the Brown scrumhalf broke two arm tackles and bulldozed his way into the try zone. Brown couldn't convert the kick and the Dartmouth lead stood at a mere 15-10.

"I brought the team together after that try," Co-captain Michael Linchitz '02 said. "And I told them it was now or never. I said I would lead by example, but they would have to follow."

And lead is exactly what Linchitz did. On the ensuing kick-off, Dartmouth regained possession and Linchitz threw a couple of stiff arms to high-step over the goal line and grant his team seven more points. Brown never recovered.

"That last try really broke their back," Lusk said. "They felt like they were gaining a bit of momentum and that brought it all back our way."

With the win, Dartmouth travels next weekend to face the State University of New York at Buffalo for the first round of the Northeastern playoffs.

Jacob Osterhout is a scrum half for the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

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