Rugby defends home turf in win

by Dan Correa | 10/22/04 5:00am

SACHEM FIELD, Oct. 16 -- The Dartmouth rugby team took the field at home against their undefeated New England rivals from the University of Connecticut Saturday, in a match that was desperately needed in order to keep the Big Green's playoff hopes alive. In a hard fought contest, the DRFC came from behind to clinch a narrow victory, 22-19, despite repeated UConn efforts to score in the final minutes.

"I was very pleased with the way we fought hard at the end to come back and prevent them [from scoring]," said captain Erik Richardson '05. Nonetheless, poor Dartmouth tackling and a lack of intensity characterized much of the game. "We squeaked out of this one," said Richardson, "but we totally need to step it up on defense."

The scoring began in the fifth minute when a UConn penalty gave Andrew Caspary '06 the opportunity to kick for points, which he successfully converted to put Dartmouth up 3-0. UConn would be troubled by penalties throughout the match.

Only four minutes later, UConn earned a scrum on the Dartmouth five m. Out of the scrum, the scrumhalf passed it to the team's large flyhalf, who broke a tackle to score the ball underneath the posts and put the team ahead at 7-3.

Before the half had expired, UConn was penalized three near its own ten m line, though Dartmouth was only able to capitalize on one of those opportunities. Each time, the team elected to carry the ball rather than kick and take the easy points, but the UConn goal line defense twice proved to be insurmountable.

Once, however, the strategy paid off, when Richardson took advantage of the penalty in the 25th minute to do what he does best. He quickly picked up the ball and stuffed it into the try zone before the defense had regrouped. The try put Dartmouth up 8-7.

Shortly thereafter, a UConn counterattack brought the ball deep inside Dartmouth territory, at which point the DRFC was penalized in the ruck. UConn quickly got the ball to their flyhalf, who once again charged through the Dartmouth defense for the try. His effort, and the ensuing kick, put UConn up 14-8 by the end of the first half.

Early in the second half, the match hit a low point for the Big Green when UConn was able to work the ball down the field to score in the corner and increase their lead to 19-8.

It was not until the 69th minute that Dartmouth mounted the comeback horse and found the try zone. After marching the UConn defense 30 m inside their own territory, the Dartmouth forwards put the ball out to their backs. Flyhalf Chris Chan '07 delivered the ball to inside center Dan Correa '05, who managed to weave his way through the defense and score the ball under the posts. When Caspary made the kick, he narrowed the lead to four points.

In the 75th minute, Richardson picked up the ball and broke away from a scrum at midfield. Though he soon lost it after attempting to kick it over the final UConn defender, the Dartmouth defense quickly recovered the ball. Scrumhalf Tom Manzo '07 grabbed it out of the ruck and ran to the weak side with Chan at his side.

Manzo drew the defender and delivered the ball to Chan, who dashed 15 m to score in the right corner of the try zone. Caspary capped the play with a spectacular conversion that put Dartmouth up 22-19.

With over five minutes left in the game, the UConn offense desperately tried to fight off defeat. Despite being awarded penalty upon penalty, UConn was unable to penetrate the determined Dartmouth defense until the final play of the game, when the UConn flyhalf barreled through, only to knock the ball on in the try zone. Dartmouth narrowly escaped with a 22-19 victory.

Looking ahead to its match against UMass next weekend, the team, now 3-2, looks to continue its winning streak.

"It wasn't pretty," said co-captain Brad Hogate '05, "but it was a win. The team is developing momentum that I hope will carry us through the season and into the playoffs."