Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass club rugby dominates as American Collegiate Rugby Championship Bowl Series approaches

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(UMass rugby defeated Middlebury 76-10 on Saturday. Collegian Archives)

(UMass rugby defeated Middlebury 76-10 on Saturday. Collegian Archives)

Coming off a tough loss last week against American International, the Massachusetts club rugby team came out strong against Middlebury College Saturday, dominating from start to finish in a 76-10 win in Amherst.

“We played a tough game (last week), some of us are a little beat up, so we did some recovery and just got back to what we do best and just played some great rugby,” senior Jonathan Rossini said.

Playing in their final home game of the season and final East Coast Rugby Conference matchup of the year, the Minutemen (4-3) quickly pulled away from the Panthers. Alex Mejia scored the first try of the afternoon just four minutes into the game and Joe Jenkins finished the conversion to give UMass an early 7-0 lead.

It wasn’t until the 10th minute that Middlebury (3-3) managed to get on the scoreboard, but a missed conversion only got them within two.

The Minutemen’s second tally of the game started with a scrum awarded at the five-meter line, which quickly led to a Jenkins try followed by a completed conversion to make it 14-5.

The momentum was with the home team and UMass was unstoppable for the rest of the first half.

The highlight of the game was Mike Griffin’s smashing block on a Panthers kick that bounced into the hands of Ben Brzoski for a try in the 20th minute of play. A missed conversion made the score 19-5 with only 20 minutes remaining in the first.

“We tightened everything back up, we wanted to make sure we got back to basics,” Rossini said of his teams’ fast start.

The Minutemen finished out the half with tries from Joe Hastry and Timmy O’Connor along with one conversion to stretch their lead to 31-5 at the end of the first.

The second half opened up with Middlebury’s last try of the game, but the conversion was missed and the Panthers trailed 31-10. It was as close as they would get for the remainder of the game.

Not long after, Mike Ruther carried in a try and Jenkins completed his first conversion of the second half to bring the score to 38-10. Jenkins went on to complete five of the next seven conversion attempts for UMass.

Middlebury looked tired as the afternoon wore on, and the result was a substantial amount of possession time for the Minutemen. Rossini and Mejia had back-to-back tries that increased the lead to 50-10 in the 57th minute.

The physicality of Saturday’s game began to pick up around the 65th minute, and a sequence of steals and tackles around the Middlebury try-zone finally led to Jenkins’ second try of the game with a completed conversion making it 64-10.

Oliver Vickery completed a try right before time ran out to provide the final score of 76-10.

The Minutemen now shift their focus to the American Collegiate Rugby Championship Bowl Series, where the team’s talent will be tested against 16 other prestigious rugby teams across the country.

“We’ll probably take a little bit of time off this week to recover again, and just keep doing what we do best,” Rossini said. “We’ll have regular practices throughout the week, have a little bit of fun and just keep rugby fun.”

UMass is set to play North Carolina State in the first round on Nov. 20 at The Rugby Athletic Center in North Carolina.

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected]

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