It was a muddy, rainy scene down on Cole field this Saturday, weather that promised to make the season home opener a sloppy affair in which mental mistakes could make the difference between a win and a loss, but the Men’s Rugby Football Club was able to overcome both the elements and the St. Michael’s rugby club to notch its first two wins of the season.
In the A-side game, the WRFC was once again outsized in the scrum, a position that would be exacerbated by the deteriorating footing on the pitch. With Williams’ strengths of speed and skill at the line positions held in check by the slippery ball, it was up to the team to pull together as a single unit to get the job done.
The White Dawgs rose to the challenge, playing intelligent, defensive rugby and making excellent use of field position to completely hog-tie the St. Michael’s attack. Despite several brilliant line maneuvers that nearly broke for long tries, the WRFC was held in check until Ben McAnaney ’01 broke through the St. Mike’s line to stuff a kick in the try zone, and Ian Lewis ’01 pounced on the ball for the score.
The game continued to be a defensive battle, with the WRFC making use of its athleticism and quickness to negate the St. Michael’s scrum advantage. A penalty conversion by captain Keil Mueller ’99 made the half time score 8-0 in favor of the WRFC. As the pitch continued to deteriorate in the second half, the WRFC held strong; not allowing St. Mike’s near their goalline and sacrificing only two long penalty kicks.
As time ran down, St. Mike’s threw everything they had at the White Dawgs, twice driving inside the Williams’ 22-meter line. However, the defense held strong, and Williams was able to kick the ball to safety and preserve the hard-fought, 8-6 win.
In the B-side game, the initial victory had the Dawgs thinking sweep. Every member of the young B-side pack stepped up his play, and the unit showed tremendous improvement over its two previous performances, man-handling the larger St. Michael’s pack and producing consistent ball for the talented Williams’ backs from both set pieces and loose play.
The line was able to take advantage, as crisp passing and fierce running by John Murnane ’02, J.J. Asarch ’00, and Matt Lipinsky ’02 continually drove through the St. Mike’s line. In a brilliant second-phase play, the backs broke free, and Emmitt Tracy ’02 found Nickolas Brandt ’02 for a tremendous try. The conversion by Ryan Kurlinski ’01 gave the B’s a lead that would not be challenged.
The B-side pack continued to beat St. Michael’s to the ball, and the backs began to make use of the open field with long kicks behind the defense. The field position dominance brought several penalty opportunities, and Kurlinski was able to convert 2 of 3 kicks despite miserable footing. With the game out of reach, the B’s continued to dish out punishment, shutting St. Mike’s down offensively, and cruised to a 13-0 shutout victory.