Rugby teams suffer tough losses at end-of-season junctures

by Manisha Apte | 5/1/11 10:00pm

Despite playing under welcome blue skies and sunshine, the Dartmouth's men and women's rugby teams suffered disappointing results over the weekend. The men's team hosted its last College Premier Division game of the season and lost, 31-15, to Kutztown University, while the women's team succumbed to Stanford University, 40-15, and the University of Northern Iowa, 31-22, in Buffalo, N.Y., at the Division I National Tournament.

The women's team began its tournament on Friday against Stanford, playing a physical matchup that produced three yellow cards. The Cardinal claimed the game's first try and conversion, but center Meg Thorn '11 replied with a try to narrow the deficit to 7-5.

The two-point margin was the closest Dartmouth came all game, however, as Stanford dominated with three consecutive tries and two conversions before the half.

The second half saw a more determined effort from the Big Green, as flyhalf Valerie Hanson '11 and fullback Kristen Liu '11 both added to the scoreboard.

Liu's score was Dartmouth's last of the game, but the Big Green's efforts were not reflected in the final score, Ginna Roach '12 said.

"[Stanford] was very good at taking advantage of when we made mistakes," Roach said.

This year's tournament featured 16 of the country's best rugby teams, with four different sites each hosting four teams. The women's team traveled to the University of Buffalo to square off against Stanford and UNI, with Pennsylvania State University completing the group.

The Big Green faced UNI which had lost earlier to Penn State, 46-12 on Saturday.

Dartmouth managed to lead towards the end of the tight matchup, but fell after two last-minute UNI tries.

At the first whistle, UNI took advantage of an early scrum on the five-meter to score its first try. Roach responded with her first of two tries soon after, however, while Hanson's conversion tied the game at seven.

Although Roach's presence helped the Big Green at the tournament, she faced a difficult journey to join Dartmouth for the weekend, flying from her Spanish Foreign Study Program site in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the games. Roach returned to Argentina to complete the term on Sunday.

"By the time I got to Buffalo, my adrenaline level was through the roof, and the experience was worth every minute," Roach said.

Following a penalty and subsequent UNI try, Dartmouth produced two impressive runs by Thorn and flyhalf Maggie Conners '13 to retake the lead.

After a UNI try returned the lead to the Panthers, the game ended with UNI running the ball back for a final try after a Dartmouth penalty.

"I thought that we played two really fantastic games, and our playing level as a team was the highest I've ever seen," Roach said. "We really just stepped it up together, which is the most important part of the game."

With the National Tournament over, the women's team will now focus on training and playing scrimmages to gear up for next season, Roach said.

The men's rugby team (3-4 Rugby East) played its final league game of the season on Brophy Field in Hanover. The matchup, which coincided with the Dartmouth Hill Winds Society's Alumni Appreciation Week and First-Year Family Weekend, was preceded by a tailgate that attracted a large number of supporters.

Tanner Scott '11 scored the team's first try, giving the Big Green its only lead of the match. Kutztown (3-4 Rugby East) responded with three tries before the half, giving them a 17-5 lead.

The Bears almost scored their fourth try with 10 minutes to go in the half, but they were stopped by Dartmouth just before its try zone.

"I think our set piece was under a lot of pressure yesterday, and we talked about getting that under control [at the half]," co-captain Nick Downer '11 said. "In their scrums they also did a really good job of not letting us get the ball."

Emerging from the half, Kutztown's strong forward line built off a series of cross-field passing to increase its lead with another try.

With 22 minutes to play, co-captain Chris Downer '11 scored a try, receiving a pass near the try zone and running it in.

Following another Kutztown try and conversion, the Big Green scored one last time, with Bill Lehmann '12 touching down a try.

"They did a good job in the game in terms of moving the ball," Nick Downer said. "They were a big, strong team and they were a well coached team."

With the Premier Division finished and Dartmouth not qualifying for any post-season matches, the team will now prepare for the Collegiate Rugby Championship Sevens tournament, which will take place on June 4 and 5 in Philadelphia. Dartmouth earned a spot in the tournament which will be broadcast on NBC after placing in the top eight teams last year.

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