Men's rugby loses season-ending shocker to Syracuse, 6-5

by Kelly Hanen | 11/17/09 11:00pm

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11.18.09.sports.rugby
by JARED BOOKMAN and JARED BOOKMAN / The Dartmouth

The Dartmouth men's rugby team's season was cut short this weekend, as the team was upset in a 6-5 loss to Syracuse University at the Northeast Semifinals in West Point, N.Y.

"It's pretty clear, we just didn't play well," captain Matt Dinger '10 said. "We knew we could have and should have won that game."

The Big Green came into the match riding a 13-game winning streak, but started the game slowly and was plagued by errors throughout the day.

Adding to the problematic start, both teams faced inclement weather conditions, as a heavy mist, substantial rain and a muddy field made playing even more difficult.

Despite making a number of mistakes in the first half of the game, Dartmouth still held an advantage in terms of possession, but was not able to put points on the board.

In the first half alone, the Big Green missed three penalty kicks, with the final one coming after a try by Will Lehmann '12 just seconds before the half came to a close.

"We were able to keep them in their half of the field, but we failed to clear out the lines and made mistakes in our passing and kicking game," Lehmann said.

Dartmouth went into the second half with a slim 5-0 lead, but the Big Green ruggers were not nervous, Chris Downer '11 said.

"We knew we were in a close game, but we felt that if we stuck to the game plan, we were pretty confident that we would win the game," Downer said. "We tried to refocus on what we were supposed to do."

In the first minutes of the second half, the Big Green looked as if it would return to normal form. After a fourth missed penalty kick, however, the team quickly lost whatever momentum it had begun to build.

The failed kick marked the last scoring opportunity for Dartmouth, as the rest of the game was played on the Big Green's half of the field.

The Dartmouth defense had a little more success, preventing all try opportunities put up by the Hammerheads.

Syracuse's first score came on a penalty kick during the middle of the half, making the score 5-3. The Dartmouth side fought to keep the lead, but was plagued with more kicking and passing errors during crucial moments of the game.

With just a minute left and Dartmouth up by two, it appeared as if the Big Green was going to be able to pull out the win.

The Hammerheads, however, scored a last-second penalty kick, giving them the 6-5 win.

"Nothing is ever a sealed deal, especially when you are up by less than a score," Dinger said.

That final kick also secured a place for Syracuse in the national tournament and dashed Dartmouth's opportunity to compete in the spring tourney.

"Everyone was pretty shocked," Downer said. "We had talked all season about our goal to compete in the national tournament in the spring, but we needed to win this game to get there."

Lehmann said the team is disappointed by the loss, and that the Dartmouth players are determined to make this a positive learning experience as they continue practicing in the winter and train for their spring tour.

"We already want to start preparing for the future by bringing up the younger guys and developing their skills," Lehmann said. "The whole team now understands that we don't want to go through this again, so it is good motivation that will make us work that much harder."