Dartmouth men's rugby team, the No. 2 seed in New England Rugby Union, traveled to Massachusetts to take on the Northeastern Huskies in the first round of the playoffs. Despite inclimate weather and unfriendly confines, Dartmouth was still able to come away with a 9-8 win.
In spite of the Huskies being the lower seed, Dartmouth had to travel away from beautiful conditions in Hanover to a field covered in two inches of snow and temperatures below freezing. "When I bent down to tie my shoes I couldn't because I was so cold," said Aziz Sayigh '07. "I could barely feel my fingers and toes."
With the conditions as they were, Dartmouth was anxious to prove themselves and beat Northeastern on the home pitch for the second time this season. The Dartmouth team came out firing on all cylinders, and asserted enough pressure that northeastern was forced to commit a penalty, giving Andrew Caspary '06 a chance for a penalty kick. Caspary was successful and gave Dartmouth a 3-0 lead.
After a kick that put Dartmouth deep in their defensive zone, the Big Green committed a penalty and Northeastern capitalized and tied the game with a successful kick. The Huskies continued to press the Dartmouth defense as sloppy conditions made possession crucial. Dartmouth was able to make some strong surges into the Northeastern zone but couldn't make it to the tryzone. Ultimately, they were only able to come away with a penalty kick and Caspary gave Dartmouth the lead back and brought the score to 6-3.
With time running out in the first half, Dartmouth found themselves with their heels on the try line holding on to a slim lead of 6-3. Despite a penalty, the Dartmouth scrum held up well and time expired with Dartmouth clinging to their lead.
"That was a really key point in the game," said Tom Monahan '06. "If they had scored a try there they would have all the momentum going into the second half."
Play in the second half continued much the same and the game was dominated by defense. Both teams continually put the ball in the air, carefully testing the other team's fullback's and wings' ability to cover territory. Each team seemed to be waiting for the other to make a mistake or expose a weakness and in the 72nd minute Dartmouth did just that.
A Dartmouth lineout was not thrown straight and Northeastern elected to scrum. A quick eight-man pick by Northeastern was spun out to the short side of the, creating a three-on-one. The Huskies were able to slip by the Dartmouth winger and find the corner of the tryzone. After a missed conversion, the score remained 6-8 with Northeastern in the lead.
With eight minutes left, urgency truly gripped the Dartmouth team. With less than five minutes to play the Northeastern wing committed a vicious unsportsmanlike penalty as he stomped on the head of eight-man Joe Killefer '06. Dartmouth kicked for territory and the resulting lineout led to a drive that gave them possession deep in the Northeastern zone. Another Northeastern penalty gave Dartmouth the chance to go ahead with two minutes left in the match, and again Caspary was true.
The match ended however in an even more dramatic climax, as Northeastern was awarded a penalty 40 meters away from goal. Given the opportunity to clinch the game the Northeastern kicker could not come through, sending a shot low and about 20 meters short. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the final score remained 9-8 in favor of Dartmotuh. The Dartmouth men had won a barn burner, clinching the second seed in the Northeast Rugby Union Championships.
"Playing at Northeastern is always dangerous, and in Saturday's extreme conditions it was an especially daunting task," said captain Jesse Blom '06 "I am very pleased that we pulled out the victory."
The narrow win gives Dartmouth a home game Saturday at 1 p.m. on Brophy field against the winner of Syracuse and Binghamton. A victory on Saturday will give Dartmouth the second seed in the Northeast final four but they will play the winner Northeastern at Buffalo -- either way they will be a hungry opponent. The team feels up to the task as the season builds to culmination in Amherst, Mass. on Nov. 12 and 13 at the Northeast Playoffs.