When the men’s rugby team started its game this past Saturday, the coach was not present, the captain was injured, and it was one of the coldest and rainiest days this fall. But the men’s rugby first XV still had a lot to cheer for.
The Bulldogs (3-0) showed their depth and talent against Fairfield (1-2) by outscoring their opponent seven tries to one in a thrashing 47-7 victory at home. The Elis have won all three of their games this season and are ranked second in the New England Rugby Union Tournament (NERFU). The top team in the six-club tournament moves on to nationals. The Bulldogs will have to win their remaining matches against Trinity and U.S. Coastal Guard Academy (USCGA) to finish at the top of the table. Last season, the Elis finished second, behind USCGA.
This past weekend’s game did not start out like the score might otherwise suggest. The Bulldogs came out relatively sloppy in the early minutes of play; they failed to exert their dominance when they penetrated into Fairfield’s territory, despite consistent backline plays.
It took the Bulldogs 25 minutes to make their mark on the scoreboard. Winger Matthew Reagan ’05, who played in the fullback position this game, broke through on the left-hand flank of the Fairfield defense to give the Bulldogs their first try. After scoring a hat-trick against Providence two weeks ago, Reagan again played an inspirational game at his new position.
“Matt [Reagan] played so well,” winger Michael Freedman-Aponte ’05 said. “He was always there to pick up the kick and tell me what to do at the back.”
Fly half Mike Marion ’03 also stood out in this game as a kicker for the Bulldogs. Marion converted the first six of his seven kicks, to give the Bulldogs an extra 12 points on the scoreboard.
After the opening try, the Bulldogs only waited for seven minutes for Mike Atkins ’05 to score the first of his double with his pace to put the Bulldogs ahead by 14-0 at halftime.
The second half saw the Bulldogs playing more aggressiveness. Tries from All-Ivy inside center Andrew Williams ’04, Atkins and a brilliant individual play by Freedman-Aponte soon put the game beyond doubt.
The backline combination of Regan, Freedman-Aponte and Matthew Fong ’05 played a sensational second half, initiated waves of attacks from the Bulldogs’ territory and assisted the last two tries by Matt Devlin ’05 and Nick Moscow ’06.
Although Fairfield scored a consolation try late in the game, the Bulldogs closed the game with a margin of 40 points, the largest so far this season.
“We were sloppy in the first half and there wasn’t enough support on the field,” captain Matthew Pawlowicz ’04 said. “But we regrouped well in the second half and there was a lot of communication between the forwards and backs. I think that was a big key to our win.”
Pawlowicz did not play in the game due to injury, but coached his team from the sideline, along with Jason Park ’04, the club’s president.
After three rounds of play, the Bulldogs are now tied with USCGA in wins and losses but are behind points difference. USCGA (3-0) defeated the Bulldogs’ next opponent Trinity (0-3) 38-3 over this past weekend.
Although the Bulldogs rebounded to reach the finals in the spring Ivy League Tournament last season, their failure to qualify for the postseason last fall was still a disappointment for many.
“If we played Coast Guard in the way that we played against the Ivy League schools, I definitely think we have a chance,” Reagan said in a preseason interview.
The Bulldogs next play at Trinity Saturday. The final game of the NERFU league will be played at the IM fields against rival USCGA Oct. 18.
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