Rugby falls to Penn State, beats Barbados teams over break

by Marjorie Chelius | 3/28/11 10:00pm

"Penn State was not necessarily the better team, but we prevented ourselves from winning that game," co-captain Nick Downer '11 said. "As a team, we took a lot of penalties, made a lot of mistakes that we can avoid going forward. The effort was great, [but] the performance didn't necessarily stack up to what we hoped it would be."

The Nittany Lions came out strong in the first half. The ball went back and forth in the midfield, making kicking important early in the game. After an aggressive march into Dartmouth territory, Penn State was able to score on a short drive, giving the Lions a 7-0 lead.

Only minutes later, however, captain Tommy Brothers '11 got the ball to Charlie Grant '11, who ran it in for Dartmouth's first try of the game, tying the score at 7-7.

After a penalty sent one of the Big Green's players off with a yellow card, Penn State used its man advantage to run in another try and take a 14-7 lead going into halftime.

The Lions stretched their lead to 10 with a kick early in the second half, but Grant was able to drive over the Penn State defensive wall for his second try of the game shortly after, pulling Dartmouth within three points, 17-14.

Soon after the kickoff, however, Penn State responded with another try of its own to once again take a commanding lead, despite missing the kick.

Dartmouth responded soon after when co-captain Chris Downer '11 took the ball down the wing and around the corner for another Big Green try. The kick went wide, so Dartmouth remained three points behind, 22-19.

With only five minutes to play, the Big Green picked up its intensity, forcing a Lion turnover and a line-out within the 5-meter.

Despite putting persistent pressure on the Penn State defense, Dartmouth was unable to capitalize before time ran out, losing the match 22-19.

Before its game against the Lions, the Big Green took a spring training trip to Barbados. While there, the team took on a Barbados Rugby Football Union select team and developmental team. In a March 19 matchup, the Big Green came away victorious over the developmental team, 31-26, and continued its success the following day, defeating the select squad, 30-7.

"We had a strong showing against both teams," tour director Lane Bracken '11 said. "Barbados gave us some good competition, but we were able to work on the things that we needed to work on."

According to Nick Downer, the team used the training trip to improve fitness and work on fundamentals.

"[Barbados] was a time for us to really tighten things up before we really got into the season," he said. "We haven't had the opportunity to run around outside this past winter, so it was really good to be out on the field with the team and work on our systems."

Bracken added that the team used its trip to improve team culture and morale.

"We focused on bringing everybody back together, getting everyone who was off-campus together and getting everyone on the same page for the spring," he said.

Another positive aspect of the trip is that it provides a chance for team members to come together, to get to know one another better and to improve their rugby skills, according to Bracken.

"When we set out for a tour every year, the focus is to provide a safe abroad environment as well as to broaden cultural horizons," Bracken said. "Every year we have guys who have never left the country. It's really great to provide an experience for guys to get to travel to places they might not go."

The Dartmouth men's rugby team faces off against the United States Military Academy at West Point on Saturday in West Point, N.Y.

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