White Dawgs edge out Southern Connecticut, 22-17

The White Dawgs entered Saturday’s playoff match against the No.1 team in New England’s Eastern Division with a do or die attitude; the losers of this game would hang their boots up for the season while the winners would move on to play in the region’s championship.

The teams met six weeks ago in the annual Beantown Tournament, where Southern Connecticut topped the Williams ruggers. Going into Saturday’s game, both teams had the same record (5-1) and had been working in the regular season to improve their play.

Southern Connecticut dominated most of the first half, spending almost the entire time within a short distance from the White Dawgs’ try line. Williams was playing a defensive game, repeatedly trying to clear the ball without gaining any ground.

About 30 minutes in, Connecticut finally broke through the White Dawg defense and scored its first try. Williams responded by putting pressure on the kickoff and finally keeping the ball on the other side of the field. Flanker Jacquita Richardson ’10 muscled through several tackles pushing towards the try zone, before dishing the ball to Hannah Rosenthal ’10 who scored the first White Dawg try, tying the game, 5-5. Connecticut then scored another try, leaving the score 10-5 at the half.

Dissatisfied with their play at the beginning of the game, the White Dawgs picked up their intensity noticeably in the second half, focusing for the first time on continuity and maintaining possession of the ball.

The change in the pace and control of the game frustrated Southern Connecticut players, who were not prepared for the pressure. The scrum, led by front rows Morgan Phillips-Spotts ’09, Anya Zaitsev ’09 and Jessica Herzer ’11, began to dig into the muddy ground and drive through scrumdowns.

Eventually, after several cycles of punching and rucking, Rosenthal received the ball from a ruck and dove over the try line to score. Stephanie Brooks ’10 followed the try by completing her conversion kick, bringing the White Dawgs to a 12-10 lead. Brooks contributed again later in the half, when a penalty called on Connecticut allowed her to make a three-point penalty kick, upping the lead to 15-10.

Southern Connecticut was not finished however, and they answered back with another try and conversion kick of their own to pull ahead 17-15. With only a few minutes left in the game, Liz Pierce ’08 punched the ball up the pitch, stiff arming some Connecticut players along the way, and passed the ball out to Kim Dacres ’08, who ran over half the length of the field to score the final try. Brooks then followed with another conversion.

Connecticut attempted to retaliate, and nearly did so in the last plays of the game, but the White Dawg defense was able to hold up their players in the try zone, winning the game 22-17. Jess Beck ’08 and Laura Huang ’11 played remarkable defensive games, with key rucking by Leah Lansdowne ’11 and Rachel Savain ’10.

The Killer B’s also won their match against Southern Connecticut’s B-side with notable performances by Brittni Micham ’10, Alessandra LaFiandra ’08 and Carol Tsoi ’11.

The White Dawgs will face Norwich University this Saturday at the New England Rugby Football Union Championships hosted at Bowdoin. UConn and University of New Hampshire will also be in attendance, and the top two teams from the weekend will proceed to the North Eastern Championships the following weekend.

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