Men's rugby beats Delaware to begin inaugural league season

by Marjorie Chelius | 3/8/11 11:00pm

In its first match as part of the newly-formed College Premier Division, the Dartmouth men's rugby team defeated the University of Delaware on Saturday, 15-5. After playing on new turf at Frasier Field in Newark, Del., players said they were pleased with the win following a long break from match action.

"At the end of the day we beat the team by a margin of greater than one score while playing on the road," Bill Lehmann '12 said. "After having not played together as a team since midway through the fall, I think the fact that we went away and played [Delaware] who are a very competent, strong team is a good reflection of the efforts we put in over the winter."

Team members said they were disappointed with some aspects of their play, however, noting "unnecessary errors" during the game, according to tri-captain Tommy Brothers '11.

"I think we showed some flashes of what we are capable of doing but I don't think our game was as crisp as we wanted it to be," tri-captain Nick Downer '11 said.

Battling against cold and windy weather, the Big Green scored a try in the corner early in the first half to establish a 5-0 lead.

The Blue Hens quickly responded, converting a try following a penalty off the restart kick. The teams then traded possession until midway through the half, when tri-captain Chris Downer '11 delivered the ball to Nick Downer on the wing for another try. The score gave Dartmouth a 10-5 lead at halftime.

The second half proved more physical Delaware received two yellow cards for dangerous tackles. Nick and Chris Downer capitalized on the opportunity, connecting again for a Big Green try.

Derek Fish '12 contributed an impressive defensive play later in the half, preventing the ball from being touched down in the in-goal area. The play secured Dartmouth's lead, allowing the Big Green its 15-5 win.

The game marked Dartmouth's first in the Premier Division, which is in its inaugural season. The division features 31 of the country's best collegiate rugby teams, which are divided into four regional conferences.

Brothers said the team is excited for the spring season, adding that he believes playing in the division will be "an awesome experience" regardless of Dartmouth's success. He said players are particularly looking forward to facing a high level of competition each week, an opportunity that they have not previously had.

"It is going to be intensity for the whole season, unlike anything we've ever done," Brothers said.

Lehmann echoed Brothers, saying he believes Dartmouth will fare well in the new division.

"We haven't had a season where we've been facing eight quality teams back-to-back weekends, so I think playing against some of the best teams is going to continue to help us improve our game," Lehmann said. "Judging from this weekend, our team will respond incredibly well and will continue to strive to meet the challenges put forward."

The division is a new type of institution in collegiate rugby, which has not previously organized the country's best teams into a national grouping, according to Lehmann.

"[It] would just be awesome to get the support like we had in the fall for the Ivy League season," he said, referring to fan attendance at home games.

Although Brothers said the team does not set narrow goals based on its season record, he said players have been training hard during Winter term. Players have worked in the gym to increase the players' size, hoping to help Dartmouth maintain possession and utilize its traditional strategy of spreading the ball out wide in games.

"We're stronger and bigger than we've ever been," Brothers said, noting that the Big Green must "work on physical strength and ball retention" to compete in the new division.

The Big Green continues its Premier Division season at Pennsylvania State University on March 26. The team will travel to Barbados during its annual spring break tour, playing the Barbadian national team and training for the spring season.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!