The men’s rugby team advances in the Northeast Championships this weekend, after the team defeated Coast Guard, 17-16, to win the Div. II New England Championships Sunday in Middlebury, Vt.

The Bulldogs doubled up Middlebury, 10-5, Saturday to move into the finals.

“This year is Yale’s best team since I have been here,” Captain Michael Atkins ’05 said. “In past years, we had really good backs who we relied on, but this year is a more complete team effort because the forwards are playing really well, which takes the pressure off the backs. It is a two-front effort.”

The rugby team is 5-0 after this weekend’s wins. Both games were close, especially the Coast Guard contest, which was decided by a single point.

“The Coast Guard game was closer,” flanker Nick Moscow ’06 said. “They had a kick with no time remaining that if they had made it, they would have won. It was pretty intense.”

Prop Sean Clifford ’06 said that Atkins played a key role in the victory.

“Captain Mike Atkins scored against Coast Guard with a pretty big play,” Clifford said. “As captain, he has been holding up his end of the bargain.”

Moscow added that prop Will Harper ’05 took some big hits that contributed to the win.

“Will Harper made huge tackles — absolutely necessary,” Moscow said. “Harper really stepped it up to another level against Coast Guard.”

In Saturday’s game against Middlebury, more was at stake than just a spot in the finals. Both the Panthers and the Bulldogs entered the weekend undefeated this fall. With both flawless records on the line, it was the Elis that emerged triumphant. The victory over the Panthers also marked a significant achievement for the Bulldogs, who had lost their last three match-ups against Middlebury.

Despite taking the title, Clifford said that the Bulldogs did not play up to their potential in either of this weekend’s games. If the Bulldogs can play to the best of their abilities, they believe they can contend for the Northeast crown.

“Things are going pretty well so far,” he said, “We have the potential to go further than we ever have. We have the ability to win the next three games.”

The Elis return to action Saturday against Colgate in the Northeast quarterfinals. If they win, they will advance to the semifinals the following weekend. The finals will take place the weekend after next.