Men's Rugby Wins Home OpenerBy Eric Oliver
With several starters from last year's Eastern Regional championship team gone or on the sidelines with injuries, a relatively inexperienced men's rugby club took the field last Saturday for its first match of the season, against the New York Mud Dogs.
For the first 15 minutes, MIT controlled the play, with the forwards taking charge, pushing the ball deep into New York territory. Just inches away from scoring, the Mud Dogs gained possession and started their own march down the field. After a missed kick on a penalty play, possession returned to the New York half of the field. The Mud Dogs used its size and passing plays to push the ball inside the MIT 22-meter line with time running out in the first half. When New York swung the ball out to the backs to try and score around the wing, the pass from the inside center to the outside center slipped through his hands, where it was picked off by MIT wing Jens Legallet G. He sprinted past the stunned New York backs 40 yards down field, and just before being caught from behind flipped a pass to Mike Fife G, who took it the rest of the way for the try. The conversion kick by Miguel Ortiz G was successful, and MIT had a 7-0 lead at the half.
For the second half, MIT played like a team that had been together for years. The forwards, led by Jaco du Plessis G, executed excellent rucks and mauls, and succeeded in controlling many of the scrums. Fly half Dave Stracher G used pounding kicks several times to move possession to deep in New York territory, and started many back line plays with swift passes and crashing runs. Soon after the start of the second half, after one of Stracher's kicks put the ball near the New York 22-meter line, a passing play down the back line led to another try by Fife, who looped all the way from scrum half to take the pass from the wing and score in the corner of the end zone. The kick was unsuccessful and MIT led 12-0. Not letting up, MIT maintained control of the ball, and, after a sideline run by Mark Johnson G left many defenders watching him from behind, the Engineers had control in New York territory. A flip pass by Ortiz to du Plessis resulted in another try. Ortiz's kick split the uprights and MIT led 19-0.
However MIT was not finished. A surge by the Mud Dogs pushed the ball close to the end zone, but a turnover and another kick by Stracher on a penalty play pushed the ball back deep into the New York half. They tried to move up field with back line passes, and once outside their 22-meter line, the inside center tried a squib kick through the MIT back line. Fullback Eric Oliver G was waiting for the kick and fielded it on one knee. Oliver then burst up field, catching the Mud Dogs off-guard, and found an opening, where he outraced a Mud Dog back into the end zone for the final try of the game. The kick fell wide, and the final gun sounded with a 24-0 MIT victory. The rugby team next plays UMass-Amherst tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Briggs Field.