Men’s rugby dominates Penn, Princeton at home
True to its storied Ivy League dominance, in a weekend double header the Big Green men’s first 15 (4-0 Ivy) sent the University of Pennsylvania Quakers (0-4 Ivy) back winless in conference play with a 44-10 victory before silencing any potential lingering questions about which team stands atop the conference, handily beating the last remaining undefeated team, Princeton University (3-1 Ivy), in a 54-5 match.
With rain coming down on the pitch all Saturday, conditions were less than ideal. Head coach Gavin Hickie said Saturday’s performance did not reflect the team’s ability.
“Overall, to be honest with you, I left Brophy on Saturday feeling frustrated and irritated by our inability to execute the basic skills,” he said. “It was one of those days where things didn’t come together for us. For whatever reason, we weren’t mentally where we need to be. Having said that, it’s hard to be upset with your team when you win fairly decidedly.”
The team, closing in on its seventh-straight Ivy pennant and its 12th since the turn of the century, hopes to use the Ivy games to prepare for matchups against nationally-ranked opponents. The team competes each spring in the Varsity Cup against other top collegiate programs, and fell to last year’s tournament champion, Brigham Young University, during the super regionals. These matches, Hickie said, need to be on players’ minds every time they take the pitch.
“I’ll say it modestly: we have been dominant in the Ivies in the last few years and we aim to continue that,” he said. “But we also know that we played BYU last year in the Varsity Cup and they put up 70 points on us. We’re not as good as some of those teams nationally, but we’re aspiring to be.”
The finer points of the game that kept the team humble on Saturday night may have propelled the team to its big victory over the Tigers on Sunday. The Big Green came out hot against Princeton and dominated the flow of the game. The team controlled possession for almost the length of the match, taking every opportunity to get back on offense by stealing several line outs and a handful of scrums.
The overwhelming victory, which co-captain Peter Savarese ’15 said showed improvement on the day before, was almost a complete shutout until Princeton scored a try in the closing minutes of the match.
Savarese identified “becoming an 80-minute team” as a goal moving forward.
Despite not being completely satisfied with its play over the weekend, Dartmouth is still a dominant Ivy force.
Its defensive prowess is unrivaled in the Ivy League, which as a collective has been unable to break through the Big Green wall more than twice in any given match — Harvard unable to score at all. The lopsided scores that come at the end of a Dartmouth rugby match, Savarese said, do not reflect a complacent team.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “It obviously is fun to win and win big, but it certainly comes with a lot of hard work from the front end. That’s one of our mottos — to do the work on the front end. We want to come in big early.”
That work on the front end is coming at a much higher cost recently with the temporary departure of co-captain Madison Hughes ’15 for Team USA competition. While Hughes is “irreplaceable,” Jake Levine ’15 has been filling in as scrumhalf well, Savarese said, but isn’t the only Dartmouth player to be cycling in to the first 15. While Dawit Workie ’17 took some rest on Saturday, Curtis Oberg ’16 and Ollie Engelhart ’18 both saw action this weekend, which speaks to the depth of Dartmouth’s back pocket, Mike McDavid ’15 said.
“Dawit is an important part of the team’s machinery,” he said. “There’s definitely an element of timing and connection that can be disrupted when you change personnel, but if Dawit needs a rest day, Curtis can come in. There’s always guys chomping at the bit to get in the game off the bench.”
The team looks to remain undefeated next weekend on the road at Yale University.
McDavid is a member of The Dartmouth opinion staff.