Rugby Scrums Well, Wins the Match
The Women’s Rugby team defeated Tufts University 30-5 last Saturday morning to finish the spring season 6-0.
MIT dominated the game from the beginning, with players making runs up the field between good scrums by forwards and fast, clean rucks. (A scrum is a fight for possession of the ball after a stoppage in play, and a ruck is a spontaneous scrum.) In previous games, the team has had trouble winning rucks, partly because of their relatively small size compared to other teams. This time players consistently came in low and hit hard, pushed back the other team to establish their position over the ball, and allowed scrumhalf Rebecca Asser G to take the ball out easily.
Eight-man Margret I. Nelson ’07 and flanker Amy F. Perfors G both had several impressive runs, fighting off defenders or dragging them behind as they carried the ball up the field. The entire team showed improvement in placing the ball down neatly after being tackled, often allowing their support to pick up the ball immediately and keep moving forward. Lineouts, or throw-ins, have been difficult for the team throughout the season.
Last Saturday was less windy than previous Saturdays, which helped thrower Olivia Leitermann ’05 put straight throws into the lineouts for jumpers Michele C. Verticchio G and Perfors to catch.
MIT’s defense was solid throughout the game. Players were aggressive, coming up to meet the other team, and tackling low and hard. Twice, Tufts reached their try zone only to have the ball held up. MIT’s back line, led by flyhalf Synthia L. Tonn ’06, ran the ball throught Tufts’ defense to gain yards and score. Sheila A. Longo ’05 assisted in the game’s first try by carrying the ball up the middle of the field and evading several opponents before passing the ball off to Christiana O. Obiaya ’04, who ran the last few yards into the try zone and touched the ball down. Longo later scored her own try, as did Maria E. Stiteler ’04 and wings Lucy E. Rodd G and Danielle M. Gilbert ’04. Although MIT did not complete any conversion kicks after scoring, Gilbert and fullback Mary P. Harding ’07 made several long kicks down the field during play to advance the ball.
The MIT Women’s Rugby team has come a long way in the past couple years. During the 2002-2003 season, the team did not win a single game. Even last year, the team often had difficulty fielding a full side of 15 players. This year, with the addition of many talented rookies and the guidance of coaches Alison Elliott and Trey Dean, the team has completely turned around. At the beginning of last fall’s season, only three members of the forward pack had played rugby before. Undiscouraged, the team practiced hard to improve individual skills and learn how to play together. Progress was visible in the team’s record. They lost the first two official games of the fall season but then won the next three. UMass Lowell was defeated 48-5, and Hartford College was beaten 45-0. The win against Tufts puts the MIT team on a nine-game winning steak.
MIT plays in the New England Rugby Football Union’s Division III. Three of the recently defeated teams, including Tufts, belong to Division II. With a strong record behind them, MIT is looking forward to more victories next fall.