UMass rugby tames Great Danes

By Thomas Johnston

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UMass Rugby defeated Albany 111-5 on Saturday. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian

UMass Rugby defeated Albany 111-5 on Saturday. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s rugby club recovered from its two game losing streak by hitting triple digits for the first time this season, defeating Albany 111-5 on Saturday in Amherst. The Minutemen improve to 4-2 on the season, while Albany falls to 0-6.

“I think we bounced back,” UMass coach Phil Ciccarelli said. “We had two really tough losses in a row. We lost to the two top teams in our league, but we got the next best team coming up, but I think this is a good confidence builder moving into next week.”

Though Albany was at the bottom of the East Coast Rugby Conference, the Minutemen did not take them lightly. They got out to a quick start, leaving no doubt as to who was the better team. Captain Thomas Thekaekara got things started, scoring a try off a scrum one minute into the game. Joe Jenkins executed the conversion, putting them up 7-0.

That was just the beginning for the team. They would go on to rally off six more tries in just the first 20 minutes of the game. These came from Timmy O’Connor, Phil Janvier, Max Pomeranz, Joe Gifford, Thekaekara and Mike Griffin, respectively. Many of these scores were set up by line breaks from Joe Hastry and Gifford. Jenkins made all the conversions, and in the blink of an eye, the Minutemen held a 49-0 lead.

“We basically wanted to move guys around and get guys in different spots in anticipation of AIC, and I think it worked very well.” Ciccarelli said.  “We had some guys sliding in the back line who are normally forwards who played really well, and I think it’s going to be a good set-up for next week.”

The team was not done scoring yet. Pomeranz had his second try of the day, followed by a try from Hastry to bring the lead to 63-0, after the conversions from Jenkins. An Albany try right before the half ended the shutout, but the Great Danes failed their conversion, making it 63-5.

The Minutemen quickly answered with a Mike Ruther try right before the half, extending the lead to 70-5.

Hastry knew how important this game was for his team ahead of a big matchup against American International, and the Minutemen used it to work on their game and try out different things they ordinarily wouldn’t have done.

“Yeah, we knew this (team) was the bottom of the conference, but we wanted to come out and work on our game, wanted to kind of tweak some things” Hastry said. “Next week we have a big game against AIC, so we really wanted to play tight, play our system, just kind of play our game, control the game, and I think we did a really good job of that today.”

In the second half, UMass was able to substitute players and get most of the team involved in the game. The offense was still dynamic, as the Minutemen scored seven tries in the second half, with two from Ben Brzoski, two from Oliver Vickery, one from Max Tenenbaum, Janvier’s second of the game and Thekaekara’s third to make it 111-5.

“AIC will be a whole different opponent they will be very tough, but if we keep playing how we played today, we’re going to be good for next week.”

The Minutemen will take on AIC next Friday in Springfield.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected]