No. 11 women’s rugby downs Brown

by Matt Yuen | 10/6/15 6:01pm

In its third game of the season, the women’s rugby team (2-1, 2-0 Ivy) secured an 8-5 win against Brown University’s previously undefeated team (3-1, 2-1 Ivy). Brown, ranked No. 12 in the nation by the Goff Rugby Reports, won the Ivy League last year and had not lost an Ivy 15s game since 2013. After beating Brown, Dartmouth moved to No. 11 in the nation on Goff Rugby Reports.

In its first season as a varsity team, Dartmouth’s victory over Brown marks the drastic development of the women’s rugby program over a short time frame. Historically, Dartmouth has struggled against Brown, and last fall the Big Green fell to the Bears 43-7. By flipping the script and knocking out the reigning Ivy League champions, Dartmouth has placed itself in the catbird seat for conference title contention.

“This is a huge building block for us,” Tatjana Toeldte ’16 said. “This is the stepping board to keep improving our running board, our set pieces and keep playing really great defense.”

Coming into the game, the Big Green had a specific strategy to contain some of Brown’s offensive strength and secure the victory. Dartmouth controlled the tempo of the game, limiting Brown’s opportunities to put points on the board. At the start of the match, Brown’s offense appeared impossible to stop. The Bears had averaged 50 points per game across three games, including two against Ivy League competition in Cornell and Harvard Universities. Although the Big Green struggled to convert its own tries, it successfully stifled Brown’s offense, limiting the Bears to a single try across the duration of the contest.

“We wanted to come out really hard and put some pressure on in the first half, and we were really pleased with how our set pieces went,” Toeldte said. “We came out, and I think we really executed our plan. I’m really proud of what we did.”

Toeldte’s words rang true as the Big Green consistently pressured the Bears back into their green zone with strong offensive plays. Despite Dartmouth’s success in creating quality chances at tries, the Bears defensive unit remained strong all game, preventing the Big Green from running away with the lead.

In the first half, the contest saw only three points put on the board off a penalty kick by Toeldte. Toeldte opened the scoring again in the second half, converting a try to give Dartmouth the 8-0 lead. Through the first 70 minutes of play, Toeldte was the only player on the field to put any points on the board.

Dartmouth’s success in managing the rhythm of the game compensated for its failure to convert more than one try. The Big Green had possession of the ball for the majority of the game. Part of Dartmouth’s possession dominance can be attributed to Brown not contesting a majority of the lineups, but the deciding factor in the team’s high possession time was its quality play in the scrum.

“We knew going in that this was going to be a tough scrum,” Ashley Zepeda ’18 said. “Even though we got pushed around a lot, we were able to wheel the ball around. It just felt really good to roll them around because they went in super confident thinking that they would dominate us, but our playing proved that Dartmouth’s scrum is formidable.”

Brown’s scrum is famous for being the strongest in the Ivy League. In Dartmouth’s previous games against Brown, the Bears dominated the Big Green in the scrum, allowing Brown to maintain possession of the ball. On Saturday at Brophy Field, Dartmouth reversed its fortunes and was duly rewarded for improving this aspect of the team’s play.

Dartmouth was able to wheel the burly Brown team multiple times and even managed to steal the ball twice. Controlling the scrum is often synonymous with controlling the game. The Big Green’s success against the Bears shows that Dartmouth’s scrum is indeed a force to be reckoned with.

The 8-5 defensive stand gave Dartmouth its most promising win to date as a varsity program and serves as a positive indicator as the team heads into its final four games of the fall season.

“I am just really proud of how much heart the girls showed out there. How far they’ve come in four weeks is remarkable,” head coach Katie Dowty said. “We executed everything we talked about in training and neutralized some of the strengths Brown had coming into this.”

Dartmouth now sits at 2-1 with three games left before the Ivy 15s tournament in November. The Big Green will need to convert a higher percentage of its opportunities near the tryline in order for the team to continue its success. After exploding for 77 points in its season opener against the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth has been held to two tries over the course of its last two games.

“We’re going to work 110 percent as we do for every other game,” Dowty said.

The Big Green will return to action on Brophy Field on Saturday for its Homecoming game against Princeton University. Last season, Dartmouth dominated Princeton 63-3 in New Jersey.