Men’s club rugby missed the fall season playoffs but finished the spring season on a much higher note. Going 3-1 in their last four games, the Bulldogs placed second in the Ivy League Championship and blew out Southern Connecticut State University in their final game.
In the first round of the Ivies, Saturday April 12, the Bulldogs (3-3) had their most exciting game of the season against Cornell. The fourth game of a very rainy day, the No. 7 Bulldogs and No. 2 Big Red were set for a low-scoring battle on the muddy New York Athletic Club home field.
Captain Micah Block ’03 left the game early in the first half with a pulled leg muscle, and third-string scrumhalf Garin Geist ’06 filled Block’s position for the rest of the tournament.
Cornell took advantage, scoring first to take a 5-0 lead.
“[The field conditions] especially hurt us because we are strong in our backline,” flanker Matt Pawlowicz ’04 said.
Yale scored its only points on the game’s final possession. Wing Shawn Fields ’03 received a reverse hand-off and ran it in for a try. With time expired, Mark Marion ’03 kicked in the winning conversion and the players on the sideline rushed the field.
“It was amazing,” B-side flanker Nick Moscow ’06 said. “It was a relief [since] we thought we were going to win it.”
The first-round upset got the players pumped up for their second-round match against No. 4-seeded Brown.
“The win really showed us we could play with these types of teams,” Pawlowicz said.
In a much better offensive effort, the Bulldogs shut out the Bears, 17-0. Two of the team’s three tries were scored by Luis Neiman ’03 and Matt Reagan ’05. Reagan’s score came at a cost, however, as he hurt his leg on the play and was sidelined for the championship game against Harvard.
Despite being seeded No. 4 for the Ivy Championship, Yale considered the Crimson, along with Dartmouth, one of the top two teams in the tournament. Because the seedings are determined by the previous year’s championship results, Harvard’s strong play this season had no effect on its seeding, putting the tournament’s two toughest teams against each other in the second round. After the Ivy League Championship, Harvard went on to compete in the final four of the men’s nationals after winning several matches in the earlier rounds.
Although the Bulldogs, a second division team, lost to the Cantabs, a first division powerhouse, by almost 30 points in the fall season, their second meeting on April 13 was much closer.
Yale maintained a 7-0 lead for most of the first half, but Harvard scored several tries to go ahead at the end of the half.
Still, Pawlowicz said he was impressed with the team’s defensive effort.
“We shut down what they wanted to do on offense — something we didn’t do in the fall,” he said.
One of the Yale’s highlights came from Second Team All-Ivy center Andrew Williams ’04, who tackled a Harvard player in the end zone before the Cantab could touch the ball to the ground, stopping him from completing the try.
The Bulldogs returned to New Haven for their final game last April 26 against Southern Connecticut. A number of alumni came out to watch the Bulldogs defeat their opponents by more than 30 points, as all of the seniors finished the game and their careers with a huge victory.
“I think that [the team’s success] will carry over into the fall,” Pawlowicz said.
He is right in more ways than one: Not only has the strong finish boosted its confidence for next year, but the team’s second-place Ivy League finish will give Yale the No. 2 seed in next year’s tournament.