Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

UM meets BU in NERFU Championship

The Massachusetts club rugby program has broken out of its losing ways, in the same way the Boston University program has. Both squads seek to triumph in the New England Rugby Football Union Championship (NERFU) as they go head-to-head this weekend in Middlebury, Vt.

The Minutemen have moved through to the semifinals after eliminating Bentley last Saturday, 17-12. Facing a 7-5 deficit at halftime and trailing 12-5 late in the second half, UMass played resiliently, clawing their way to a win.

This weekend, the Maroon and White hope to get on the board early and put the pressure on their opponent.

“We want to keep them off the board early and score early, putting them in a position they aren’t used to,” UMass coach Al Baker said.

The Minutemen have had success when getting out to an early lead, scoring first in each of their last four wins. Getting a head start on its opponent will help UMass, but at the same time, it hopes to have a steady dose of defense and scoring against the Terriers.

“Scoring first gives [the players] a margin of error,” said Baker. “It’s big, but they still have [a lot of time] to go.”

Adverse weather conditions, including a steady rain, slickened the field and made it hard for players to keep their footing, causing penalties. A sunny forecast for this weekend will bode well for the Minutemen who, according to Baker, are ready to play in any condition.

On Saturday, UMass will face second-seeded Boston University which had a regular season record of 4-1-1. It began its season blowing out Bentley College, 31-0 on its way to three-straight victories. Mid-way through their schedule though, the Terriers faced some adversity, registering a tie in a rematch against the Falcons, 21-21. BU then lost its following match to Maine, 19-13.

Coming into this season, the Terriers’ rugby program appeared to be on a steady decline, winning six games total in 2005-06 and one game in 2007-08. This is not unlike the Minutemen’s recent woes who had won three times in the five years leading up to this season.

BU advances to the semi-finals on the heels of a come-from-behind victory against seventh-seeded Norwich, 17-7. The Terriers’ quarterfinal match was strikingly similar to their counterpart’s in that they found themselves down, 7-5, at the half only to stymie the Cadets in the final 40 minutes. Much like UMass, which scored in its first of two game-winning tires, BU also managed to score its go-ahead points with a man-down.

The Terriers are performing well on both sides of the ball this year. During the regular season, BU tallied 32.8 points per game and allowed 14 points per game, a difference of 18.8 points, which is second only to the Minutemen, 25.9, in the NERFU.

Baker will be on the same field with a BU program that he knows very well. He held the reigns for the Terriers for eight seasons, from 1982-‘90, and led them to three NERFU Championships. After leaving BU, Baker coached for seven seasons at Harvard where the Terriers weren’t able to beat his team. The match will definitely produce a unique dynamic in Baker’s eyes but won’t influence the game.

“It’s always going to add something. They definitely would like to beat me,” said Baker. “It’s about the players. Both programs are working their way back from defeat. They’ll be more worried about the game, not the coach.”

This match will be followed by the other semifinal contest featuring Middlebury and Vermont. The winners of each semifinals match will meet for the New England Championship on Sunday.

Regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s games, both teams will still compete in next weekend’s Northeast Regional Championships. The top four teams in the NERFU tournament all earned automatic bids to the tournament.

Daniel Gigliotti can be reached at dgigliot@student.umass.edu

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