Dartmouth Men’s Rugby Football Club concludes 77th 15s season
Men’s rugby is an environment for personal growth, camaraderie and sportsmanship with a historic program legacy.
The Dartmouth Men’s Rugby Football Club concluded their 77th 15s season on Homecoming weekend, ending the year with a 3-3 record. Amongst the school’s athletic teams, men’s rugby is undoubtedly one of the largest and most successful squads, claiming numerous Ivy League and National Championships throughout its storied history. Just last spring, the DRFC claimed its most recent trophy in the annual Ivy League Rugby 7s tournament here at Brophy Field.
The team kicked off its 77th season with a big win over Ivy League rival Harvard University. After a dominant first half, which saw a 26-0 shutout of Harvard, Dartmouth’s continued pressure through the second half ended the game at 43-7: a dominant first game victory of the season.
Dartmouth then took on Northeastern for their home opener. While Northeastern kept possession for much of the early stages of the match, the DRFC stormed out in front, scoring try after try, ending the first half of play up 33-0 and sitting on another shutout.
In the second half, Dartmouth secured the game with two more tries. While Northeastern scored twice, Dartmouth’s strong performance in the second half assured their 45-14 victory over the Huskies.
Even while the team sports an impressive pedigree, men’s rugby does not fall under the mold of traditional varsity sports here at Dartmouth. Technically, men’s rugby is a club sport, yet they train and play on a varsity schedule. Even despite their intense schedule and requirements, they remain fully student-run. Almost all of the team is walk-on students, while most varsity athletes here at Dartmouth entered through official recruiting channels. This means that many of the rugby team’s players, even those who have ascended into the leadership of the team, came to Dartmouth not intending to play rugby.
It is this very fact that makes the DRFC’s culture so unique. Co-captain Daniel Locascio ’24 emphasized the “what you put in is what you get out” mentality prevalent within men’s rugby.
“If you’re looking for friends, [rugby is] something you could do,” Locascio said. “But if you’re also looking to compete at one of the best rugby teams in the country, it’s also a place where you can do that as well.”
Locascio himself did not enter the club until late in his first year. Co-captain Owen Lee ’24 had a similarly unconventional entrance into the DRFC. A recruited lightweight rower, Lee had planned to join them during the fall of 2020, but the lightweight rowing team was cut from Dartmouth’s sports lineup that same year. After hearing about the rugby team from someone in his hometown, Lee quickly became interested in joining.
“I quickly noticed that most of the guys on the team hadn’t even played before getting to Dartmouth,” Lee said. “I soon realized that the team was super welcoming. Nobody took themselves too seriously. And I quickly fell in love with the culture of the team, the sport.”
DRFC’s third game was against the American International College and carried with it an air of revenge. In the 2022 season, DRFC fell just short of AIC during a game that Lee described as a “brutal loss.” This year, AIC and Dartmouth went back and forth throughout the first half, but a big push from Dartmouth won them the match 39-23.
Locascio, Lee and Leslie pointed to this game as the highlight of the season. The club had avenged last year’s loss and moved to 3-0.
For new players, the culture of welcoming and brotherhood has made the transition into the team smoother. Jamie Leslie ’27 described the rugby team as a special and welcoming community of people.
“Coming into an environment like this, where people are so dedicated, people are so into the game [and] people are so into the community, it is just entirely different,” Leslie said. “From the first time I stepped into that locker room, I felt like I was part of something that had a long history, and something that was going to make me better as a person.”
Integral to the DRFC’s identity is the collective understanding of their history. The current iteration of the DRFC congregated for the first time in 1951. By 1958, the DRFC went on their first tour in England, becoming the first American university to play rugby in England. For much of DRFC’s history, they have led the way for the rise of American collegiate rugby. For the current members of the team, their heritage is at the core of their motivations and experience as rugby players. As Lee elaborated, the legacy of Dartmouth men’s rugby sets it apart from other teams in which he has participated in the past.
“I’d say one of the things that really pops out is the legacy of the team,” he said. “There’s a massive tradition of success. That’s really apparent when you’re on that field in that clubhouse.”
Leslie seconded this sentiment, describing each day as a reminder of the team’s legacy.
“Every time you step into the clubhouse, every time you step on the field, you have generations [of] thousands of guys who’ve come before you and made the jersey proud,” Leslie said.
For the last three games, the DRFC fell in hard-fought contests with Iona, Fairfield University and Brown University, respectively. Ultimately, Dartmouth concluded their 2023 fall season with a 3-3 record.
Looking ahead, DRFC will compete for the top spot in the Ivy League in the Rugby 7s tournament in the spring. As defending champions, Dartmouth looks forward to training heavily throughout the winter in preparation. Much of their winter training will be dedicated to building strength, but they will continue to conduct play-focused practices to maintain and polish their skills coming into the spring.