After what felt like an endless Winter break, the big games are now coming thick and fast, with the quarter final of the Varsity Cup the next challenge to face the Dartmouth Men’s 15.
Though there have been Collegiate Championships over the last 33 years, this is the first Varsity Cup.
In the organisers own words ‘The mission of the Varsity Cup is to grow American rugby by harnessing the collective strength of collegiate rugby and collegiate sport in general.’
The tournament is single elimination with quarter, semis then a final in May. It features eight of the most recognized and accomplished collegiate rugby programs – U.S. Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, the University of California, the U.S. Naval Academy, Notre Dame, Los Angeles, Central Washington University and Dartmouth College – all vying to be top rugby dogs.
We faced Navy in our quarter final. Dartmouth last met in the USA Rugby National 7s Championship in Texas in December where we narrowly lost to them in the opening game so we had experience (of sorts) of taking them on.
Navy were hosting the encounter in their impressive Naval Marine Corps Stadium and this was also the venue for the other Eastern Regional QF between Cal Rugby and Notre Dame which would be played before our match.
— ThisIsAmericanRugby (@ThisIsAmerRugby) April 20, 2013
I haven’t been keeping track of my miles going to games but this is not untypical for teams looking to play quality opposition in a country as vast as America. We were almost quicker to fly to Ireland!
Dartmouth was coming off the back of our Ivy League Championship win against Brown. We picked up some knocks and other players were back from injury as is always the case. I was optimistic that the work we had done in the week could see us squeeze passed our rivals.
What was expected to be a close game was not.
Dartmouth lost 32-0. As in previous games, we gave away too many penalties and struggled to get momentum.
The match reports below breakdown the play but the result and performance wasn’t what we hoped for or in truth expected. Navy weren’t a team 32 points our betters but we failed to take the few chances we had.
Taking nothing away from the fantastic Navy rugby program, led by Head Coach, Mike Flanagan, the midshipmen were simply better then us on the day. In the final minute we crossed the line only for the ball to be stripped from hand before it could be grounded. It summed up the 80 minutes in a single play.
So a frustrating and disappointing first experience of the Varsity Cup then for Big Green. I didn’t like losing as a player and can confirm it’s no less upsetting as a coach.
Lessons will be learned. Hopefully by next Saturday as we head to Pittsburgh for the D1AA Championship Quarter Finals!
That’s another 10 hours in the bus…
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Varsity Cup: Navy v Dartmouth Match Reports
Navy Shuts out Dartmouth
The US Naval Academy looked superb in a 32-0 shutout of a very capable Dartmouth squad Saturday at Navy Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Md.
This game was the second Varsity Cup Super-Regional, and promised to be a more competitive game than Cal’s 77-0 defeat of Notre Dame.
It was, but in the end Dartmouth could not score on a tough, physical Navy squad.
Navy used their forwards to batter through the Dartmouth defense, and while they only were able to score two tries in the first half, the tactic wore down the Big Green D.
Dartmouth did get some ball to work with, but in the first half they hurt themselves with a series of ball-handling errors, and support runners being a little too eager, and thus a little too flat – passes, then, ended up going behind the recipients.
In the second half, Navy was able to open up the game a bit, and when Dartmouth got the ball back, they found they had 80 meters or more to cover. It was too much to ask, and Navy were clinical in putting the match out of reach.
It was supposed to be the closest match of the Varsity Cup. Dartmouth was supposed to win. Navy didn’t get the memo.
Though the 32-0 score was actually the closest match in the first round of the inaugural Varsity Cup, the outcome surprised everyone except Navy’s home crowd. Normally shutouts speak of a team that either can’t get anything started or can’t get their star player the ball. Neither of those were the case yesterday as Dartmouth’s team was extremely capable and it’s best player, Madison Hughes, had his hands on the ball plenty of times. Navy’s defense simply proved to be too much for Dartmouth, refusing to let them score even a consolation try in injury time. When Navy’s Brandon Willis stripped the ball from a would-be Dartmouth try in the end zone to end the match, it seemed to be an accurate summation of the entire eighty plus minutes for Dartmouth’s offense.
Offensively, Navy seemed to stick to their game plan of using extremely fit attackers to grind down their opponent, then get the ball wide to the back three for a score on a tired defense. Junior Jack Mcauliffe showed a lot of finesse scoring a try himself as well as moving the ball through the back line to get tries from fullback Ron Helms and wing Justin Lamascus. Navy forwards also showed their power inside the 22 with a slow ball try from Darien Green. The excitement of the Varsity Cup clearly energized Navy who also used the foot much more than previous matches.
The win guarantees Navy another 80 minutes of rugby where they will travel to face Cal on Cal’s home field. The two teams spent time together in Annapolis when a few Navy players escorted Cal on a tour of the Academy. Though their next meeting will be on less friendly terms, both teams have ample respect for each other proving the Varsity Cup’s professional setting.
Navy Muscles its way over Dartmouth
This is American Rugby
Riding physicality and great execution, Navy 32-0 to advance to the Varsity Cup semi-finals against Cal. In front of vocal home crowd Navy got on the board first to take a 7-0 lead ten minutes in the match. That lead would hold in a fairly even first half. Navy dominated most of the possession and had several chances to get add to their try total only to be stopped short by Dartmouth. That persistence nearly paid off as Navy tried a chip and chase only to have it come tantalizingly close.
However, Navy would add to their total shortly before halftime. After giving Dartmouth a put in at the scrum after their own put in went awry, Navy turned the ball over. A quick pass then found Navy star J McAuliffe, who rumbled over for the score. He converted his own try to give Navy a 14-0 halftime lead.
McAuliffe quicky found himself in the action once again as the second half got underway. He slotted home a penalty to increase Navy’s lead to 17. All American Madison Hughes tried to reply on a minute later with a penalty of his own only to see it fall short. Most of Hughes’s penalty attempts were from deep and on a windy day it was always going to be tricky.
Soon after the penalty miss Navy began to put the screws to Dartmouth and turn what should have been a close match into a blowout. For the next 25 minutes Navy looked to score every time they touched the ball. Justin Menke got the Midshipmen on the board next before McAuliffe added another penalty. Navy added another try to increase their lead to 32-0.
The only action for the rest of the match came as Navy had a man sent to the bin with eight minutes left allowing Dartmouth to go on the front foot. Dartmouth nearly got themselves on the board in the final minute of the game but the ball was dropped in the try zone.
For Navy it was a strong win but was also something they expected. Like all military academies Navy relied on their fitness and strength to dictate the game. According to McAuliffe it all comes from practice. “We were very pleased. We knew we needed to get a good week of practice in, especially on our patterns. We knew if we got the fundamentals right we would be able to dictate the pace of play.”
On the Dartmouth side, head coach Gavin Hickie was disappointed with his team’s play but gave credit to Navy. “We’re very disappointed to be honest. None of us believe Navy is 32 points better than us. Having said that the only two games we’ve lost this year in 7’s and 15’s is to Navy. We’ll accept that but it’s frustrating when we’re not executing the basics. That’s what’s killing us at the moments. We’re either forcing that half pass or conceding the penalty as opposed to being patient and executing.”
Overall, Navy were the deserved winners in this match and looked like a team that could surprise Cal if they aren’t taken lightly. McAuliffe did a fantastic job of getting his teammates into the space and the overall commit from the players to play their style was strong. Still, it will take all that and more as they head to Cal next week for the semi-finals.