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Men's Rugby Loses Championship Game

By Eric Oliver
Team member

For the second consecutive year, the MIT men's rugby team reached the USA Rugby Eastern Regional Grad School Championships, but this year they could not defend their title, falling to Temple University 288. The playoffs took place Saturday in Philadelphia, with the top four teams in the region represented by MIT, Temple University, Columbia University, and Uniformed Services University.

The first semi-final game pitted MIT against Columbia, with MIT claiming a hard-fought 10-3 victory. The scoring started with an MIT drive that started at midfield on the right sideline. A series of passes amongst loose forwards and backs resulted in a three-on-one in the left corner, with Guy DeBelle G feeding Mike Fife G, who took the ball 5 yards for the score. The conversion kick was unsuccessful and MIT led 50.

MIT's first mistake of the game, a penalty 15 yards outside their own end zone, allowed Columbia to convert a penalty kick for three points, cutting the lead to two. Undaunted, the MIT pack pushed the length of the field and found themselves a few yards out with time running out in the half. A tough goal line stand left MIT with the ball less than a foot away from scoring as the half time whistle was blown.

The second half featured tough defense and no scoring until 4 minutes remained. On an MIT penalty play outside the Columbia try zone, the ball was dished out to the backs, where Fife passed to a looping Chris Perry G on the wing. Perry dove through two defenders for the last yard and the score. A strong Columbia thrust was thwarted by MIT's high intensity defense, and the game ended with a 103 victory. The second semi-final game had Temple thrashing Uniformed Services, setting the stage for the championship game.

It was evident from early on that MIT would have to play the game of their lives to win the championship, as their only substitute player had broken his nose in the first game and Temple's sidelines were stocked with fresh players and hometown fans. However, the first half was played evenly. Temple drew first blood, with a penalty kick from 20 yards out taking a 30 lead. Soon later MIT scored on a penalty kick of their own, a 30-yarder from Perry to tie the score.

A critical play occurred soon after, as two MIT players collided near their own 22-meter line. Both players received head wounds that would have normally removed them from the game, but the lack of substituting players forced them to remain on the field. Although both would continue to play well, one wonders how much it affected their game. Both defenses seemed fired up, as neither team was able to put the ball in the try zone in the first half, and the whistle blew with the score deadlocked 33.

A seemingly well-defended goal line stand by MIT early in the second half was neutralized when the Temple fullback put a surprise drop kick through the uprights for three points and a Temple lead. This broke the ice for the offense, as MIT controlled the ball the length of the field. A scrum down at the 15-yard line led to a back line passing play with Dave Stracher G passing out to the wing. Miguel Ortiz G skillfully avoided the pass, and Mark Johnson G took it and beat his man in the corner, giving MIT a 86 lead.

Falling behind, unfortunately, fired up the Temple team, as they stormed down the field, eventually scoring with a 5-on-1 at the wing. The kick failed, but Temple had a lead it would never relinquish. Soon later, Temple was back threatening the MIT try zone, with the fly half placing a pop kick perfectly on the goal line, chasing and catching it in mid-air and falling on it for the score. This was undeniably the best play of the game, and it gave Temple the momentum it needed to finish the game. They would score twice more, but the battered and bruised MIT squad fought hard and never conceded. When the final whistle blew, giving Temple the championship, MIT knew it had played well, and would be in good shape to get the trophy back next year. The team finishes its season with a non-league game against Babson May 21 at 1p.m.