Dartmouth rugby reaches Northeastern Final Four
SACHEM FIELD, Nov. 6 -- On a beautiful sunny Saturday, the Dartmouth rugby team to extended its four-game winning streak and advanced to the Northeastern Rugby Union Final Four as it hosted Syracuse University for a first round playoff match. With College President James Wright and an enthusiastic crowd in attendance, the home team dominated throughout the match and came away with a resounding 58-15 victory.
"It wasn't the cleanest game we've played," remarked captain Erik Richardson '05. "But it was an important win and we occasionally put some really good things together."
At times, Dartmouth's play was frustrated by penalties in and around the rucks, while at other points, it was marked by solid and aggressive defense that transitioned seamlessly into a potent offense, exploiting the weaknesses of the Syracuse defense.
From the beginning, the Big Green took control of play, and Syracuse rarely held the ball for more than a few phases before kicking it or losing it to the Dartmouth defense. This was the case in the sixth minute, when Syracuse yielded the ball in contact on Dartmouth's 22 m line. The Dartmouth offense, which had already scored on a penalty kick in the second minute of the game, quickly dashed up the field with little opposition. When the team neared the goal line, Richardson dished the ball to flanker Mark Goodson '06, who broke several tackles to score and put Dartmouth up 8-0.
Goodson capitalized again in the 16th minute when Dartmouth overpowered a Syracuse scrum on the Syracuse 5 m line, driving the team into its own try zone. As the Syracuse scrum backpedaled, the ball appeared underneath Goodson, who dove on it to make the score 15-0.
By halftime, Syracuse had scored only on a penalty kick, while Dartmouth had recorded two more tries to secure a comfortable lead of 27-3. Wing Scott Penner '06 created the first scoring opportunity of the second half when he took the ball out wide while in Syracuse territory, then passed it back inside to fullback Andrew Caspary '06, who dashed 20 m into the try zone unscathed. Several minutes later, lock Omar Foda '07 scored when he got the ball from the back of a ruck and stormed alone into the try zone.
The Big Green scored five tries in the second half for a total of 31 points. Co-captain Brad Hogate '05 scored two, the second of which he earned with an impressive 80 m run through traffic. According to Dartmouth coach Alexandre Magleby '00, "Hogate's run was a good individual effort, although it may not have been the best thing he could have done [in that situation]. Instead, he probably should have passed it to [Dan] Correa, who was wide open."
Later in the second half, Caspary scored again on a breakaway, and wing Senam Kumahia '06 placed the ball in the try zone after a blocked Syracuse kick. Dartmouth's final points of the afternoon were tallied by injured reservist Isaac Kardon '05 in a sequence of events so strange and inexplicable that this journalist will not even attempt to describe it.
"It was just about the best play you've ever seen," said Kardon. "Man, it was awesome."
With a comfortable lead, the Dartmouth squad became somewhat complacent on defense, yielding two tries to Syracuse in the second half, one of which resulted from an intercepted pass.
Despite the few defensive letdowns, Dartmouth earned a convincing and important victory to advance to the Northeastern Final Four this weekend at UMass Amherst. When it faces Boston College in the first round this Saturday, the Big Green will have an opportunity to avenge its 37-17 loss to that team earlier this season.
"After last year's disappointing early finish, it is great to reach the Final Four again," said Magleby, adding, "We are excited to have a second shot at Boston College."
Whether they win or lose on Saturday, Dartmouth will play again on Sunday and the top two teams from this weekend will advance to the National Sweet Sixteen to be held in the spring. According to Richardson, "Our fans have lent us a lot of critical support throughout the season. We hope that students can drive to Amherst to cheer us on this weekend."