Without a doubt, last weekend was the most exciting two days of the year for the men’s rugby team. After much hard work, the Bulldogs have clinched their first title of season — The Beast of the East.
After a mediocre fourth-place finish at the Ivy League Tournament on Apr. 10, Yale traveled to Rhode Island last weekend to compete in the two-day Beast of the East tournament. Although Yale, which plays in Division II, was put in the Division I bracket, the Elis still came out on top of the Division I schools, posting a perfect 5-0 record to clinch the title.
The Elis defeated Fordham 14-0, Rutgers 20-7, and Brown 22-0 before downing Rutgers 58-0 in the semi-finals and New Hampshire 24-0 in the championship match.
“Defense used to be a weak spot on this team — not anymore.” Yale head coach Jan Pikul said. “Patience used to be a weak spot on this team — not anymore.”
Despite a fierce attack, it was the Elis’ solid defense that led to their ultimate victory. Defense wins championships, and the Elis displayed an impressive defensive effort, allowing only seven points over their five-game journey.
On Saturday morning, the Bulldogs kicked off their weekend’s campaign against Fordham. Fullback Matthew Reagan ’05 had two assists, and outside center Bobby Cardone ’06 and club president Jason Park ’04 each scored a try to secure the opening win for the Bulldogs with a score of 14-0.
“The team’s performance at the Ivy League Tournament was disappointing,” Park said. “But we came back and played hard against solid Division I schools.”
Due to injuries and non-rugby commitments, the squad had only 19 players on Saturday and 16 on Sunday. But this gave the rookies on the team a chance to step up, and they did. In the second game against Rutgers, Terence De Pentheny O’Kelly ’07 led the Bulldogs to dominate the lineouts, which allowed Yale to call offensive plays on defensive lineouts. But it was Reagan, Park and scrum half Garan Geist ’06 who were the scorers for Yale as they won 20-7.
Having secured a semi-final berth for the next day, the Bulldogs took on Brown with a young lineup, but they still managed to beat the Bears with a convincing score of 22-0. Veteran hooker Christopher Petrin ’04 and eight-man Patrick Lombardi ’06, as well as prop Sherman Wang ’07 scored for the Bulldogs. It was also the first try of Wang’s career.
Despite fielding a relatively small squad, the Elis were mentally and physically ready the next morning in the semi-final against Rutgers. With only 16 players, the Bulldogs still came away wi th a large margin of victory. Lombardi and center Robert Pazornick ’04 continued in fine form from Saturday, scoring two tries apiece.
In the championship game against New Hampshire, the Elis had something to prove. Yale lost to USCGA in its regional final this past fall, and the Bulldogs were not going to let it happen again. Park gave the Elis an early lead, and it was extended to 14 before halftime following an assist from fly half Robert Smith ’06 to Reagan. In the second half, the Bulldogs continued to fight, and back Michael Atkins ’05 finally put the match beyond doubt when he took a crash ball to help Yale defeat New Hampshire 24-0.
“This is the best rugby that I have seen us play all year,” Regan said. “Everything that we worked on during practice came together. It was really good to end the year on such a high note.”
The Bulldogs still have one game left, at home this weekend against Western Connecticut.