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Scrum-half Jacqueline P. Simpson ’14 is tackled while passing the ball to fly-half Stephanie E. Sallum ’12 during the women’s rugby game against Wentworth Institute of Technology on Oct. 9. The Engineers will be playing in the regional semifinals against Middlebury on Briggs Field at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
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This past Saturday, the MIT Women’s Rugby team braved the wind and cold on Briggs field to take on Wheaton College in the first round of Regional playoffs. Despite some inconsistent play and early problems with penalties, they easily defeated Wheaton, 39-7. Undefeated in regular season play for the past three years, the Engineers are looking to defend their national title.

The sport of Rugby includes two 40-minute halves and, similar to timing in soccer, there is no stoppage of play. As in American football, the objective of the game is to advance the ball into the opposing team’s end zone. Players are only allowed to pass the ball backwards (like a lateral), but can move it up the field either by kicking it or running. The defense tries to stop the forward motion of the ball by tackling the ball carrier, following the rules of safe tackling (only below the shoulders).

Points are scored when a member of the team runs into the end zone with the ball (like a touchdown in football, but called a “try” — worth five points), the ball is kicked through the goalpost after a try (like the extra point, called a “conversion” — worth two points), or the ball is kicked through the goalposts on a free kick (called a “penalty kick” — worth three points).

In the first half, MIT scored four tries and two conversions, jumping out to a 24-0 lead. After halftime, the Engineers managed to score another two tries, one conversion, and one penalty kick bringing the score to 39-0. After a try and conversion by Wheaton in the last few minutes, the game ended with a score of 39-7.

During the match, the Engineers seemed almost unstoppable and, according to forward Sophie E. Lee ’12, MIT beats other teams through their “strong fundamentals and strong fitness.”

However, there are still plenty of teams to beat before MIT can call themselves national champions for the second year in a row. According to Coach Teagan Thibodeau, the team is just beginning to hit their stride, and “still has room to grow…what’s scary about this team is that this isn’t their best.”

In past seasons, the team has improved as their season progresses, and if they were able to win 39-7 when they, as Thibodeau put it, “weren’t one hundred percent disciplined,” then they will be hard to beat in the playoffs.

The Engineers are scheduled to play their second-round playoff game tomorrow at 1 p.m. on Briggs Field, their final match at home this year. If they win, they will travel to Rhode Island the week after for the Regional Championships and be one step closer to defending their national title.