On a beautiful early fall day in Hanover, Dartmouth rugby welcomed some of the tops sides from around New Hampshire and Vermont to Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse in Hanover as part of the annual Granite Cup. Although they had their fair share of struggles on the day, both of the Dartmouth sides that took part proved victorious.
The Big Green’s 3rd XV side mounted a 2nd half comeback to beat Plymouth State’s 1st XV 19-12 to win the men’s tier II championship, while the 2nd XV side gritted out a 17-5 win over the University of New Hampshire to take the men’s tier II championship despite not having the services of several of their top players, including all four of their captains.
The 3rd XV kicked the one-day tournament off with a match-up against the 2nd XV from St. Michael’s College in the tier II semifinals. Hooker Danny Driscoll ’13 started off the scoring after only a few minutes with a try. The Big Green would add two more tries before the half to give them a 17-0 lead heading into the break. While they weren’t as explosive on offense in the 2nd half, they more than made up for it with stellar defensive play that helped hold their counterparts from St. Mike’s without a point in the match. Ultimately, center John Descalzi ’14 would add another try right before full-time to make the final score 24-0.
Up next was a rematch of sorts between the 2nd XV for Dartmouth and St. Mike’s 1st XV in the tier I semifinals. Unfortunately things didn’t go much better for the visitors, as scrum half Quinn Connell ’13 got the try 5 minutes into the game to give The Big Green an early 7-0 lead. The offense would lay dormant for about the next ten minutes before wing Kevin Clark’14 put in another try to increase the lead to 12-0. His counterpart on the outside, wing Justin Ciambella ’13, would add another minutes later to make it 19-0. From there, Clark would step to the fore again, adding a try both before and after the half to complete the hat trick on the way to The Big Green winning 36-0.
From there, the 3rd XV retook the pitch to face Plymouth State’s 1st XV in the tier II final. This time it would be the Big Green who found themselves on the back heel, as they conceded two tries in the first half to go down 12-0 heading into intermission. However after picking up some fresh legs from the bench their fortunes began to change. Perhaps no sub was bigger than wing James Sharpe ’14, who scored two tries along with setting up wing Tyler Morange ‘14 for another. As a result Dartmouth turned their deficit into a 19-12 lead, which they would hold onto for the win.
The 2nd XV would also have a tough time in the tier I finals as they took on UNH’s 1st XV. Unlike against St. Mike’s, where they more or less had their way, The Big Green had a much tougher go of it against the tough and physical Wildcat defense. Without the on-field leadership of some of their best players, the Dartmouth attack was stifled early on, leading to a scoreless stalemate for the first 15 minutes. It was then tough that Ciambella broke the tie, scoring the only points of the first-half with a try to put the home team up 7-0. After halftime Clark and prop Matt Robinson ’13 added tries of their own, which along with Dartmouth’s sturdy defense helped put the game away. While the Wildcats would get a try before full-time it would not be enough, as Dartmouth took the title with a 17-5 victory. “The UNH game was a great benchmark as to where we are as a team right now,” flanker Will Mueller ’12 said after the match. “Dartmouth was consistently challenged at the gain line throughout the day by the disciplined forward pack of UNH, and I think it showed that we still have a lot of work to do in many different aspects of the game.”
Nonetheless Mueller, who served as captain for the 2nd XV with the four regulars being held out of action, believed the Granite Cup was an overall positive experience for the Big Green. “I think it is always challenging to have multiple senior leaders out for the game because it forces younger individuals to step up and provide a voice on the field that they normally would not provide. I think many players at different phases of their rugby career continued to improve in providing that leadership today.”
Dartmouth will have one final preseason tune-up before entering Ivy Rugby play, as they hit the road to take on traditional northeast rivals Army. The friendly match will kick off in West Point at 5 pm on Friday, Sept 16th. From there, they’ll start the Ivy season Sept 24th at Cornell.
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