By Justin McKinney, Staff Writer
This Saturday for the first time in eleven years, the UMass Dartmouth Men’s Rugby team earned the title of champions by defeating Wentworth rugby in a hard fought 20-17 win at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton for the Colonial Coast Rugby Conference Championship.
This was the second time in less than a month the Corsairs have played Wentworth and the second time the game was decided in favor of the Corsairs by less than five points. That being said it was evident from the beginning of the game that the Corsairs were in full control of the game.
While Wentworth possessed the ball for most of the first half, their offense had a lot of trouble moving the ball successfully as the Corsairs stifled their offensive attack. Forwards Ehioze Adoghe, Pat Briggs, Daniel McIntosh, and Dickie Gralton had monstrous defensive games as they each were in on tackles early and often.
The Corsairs offensive attack was also seamless as forward Justin McKinney broke several tackles for a long gain where he was stopped just short of the try-line. The Corsairs did manage to finish the drive as captain Chris Holeman made a fantastic effort to put the ball in.
However, in a questionable call by the referee the play was called a knock and Wentworth regained possession.
The Corsairs defense held strong as forwards Louis Saladino and Ben Wirth made great stops along the Corsairs try-line, which led to back Mike Lan to be able to kick the ball for a much more favorable field position.
Upon regaining possession through a line-out the Corsairs, fed the ball to back JD Niles, who managed to scramble through the Wentworth defense for a huge try that put the Corsairs up 5-0 right before the first half ended.
Niles didn’t stop there either in the second half he dominated the Wentworth team for another two scores. By the 60th minute the Corsairs had a commanding 17-0 lead, however due to several injuries mid-game it was tough to hold as Wentworth managed to creep back and tie the game up at 17-17.
With the momentum swinging very far in the other direction hope seemed lost for the Corsairs as Wentworth had a full starting line-up in the game and the Corsairs were missing several starters due to in-game injuries. However, the corsairs held strong as they kept Wentworth out of their try-zone and managed to keep possession going into extra time.
With the game tied, in extra time, and the Corsairs keeping possession a kick or a try would give the Corsairs the win. But, if play stopped they would have to face the uncertainty of overtime where the first score wins.
The Corsair offense surged as they pushed into Wentworth territory and were rapidly moved towards their 22-meter line. When the Corsairs were about six meters out of the 22-meter line Wentworth committed a costly penalty which gave the Corsairs two options, attempt to kick for three points and end the game of set up an offense that could move towards a try. With the fact that the kick was so far out, it seemed logical to just keep playing and hope for try.
However, senior back John Melanson had other plans as he told his team that he could make the long and daunting kick. The game was coming down to a kick that could bring so much earned glory to the Corsairs or heart wrenching defeat.
Melanson was not to be denied though as he drilled the kick and pushed the Corsairs to a championship. The Corsairs will be moving on to play in the New England Bowl on Saturday November, 19th again the Irish Cultural Center in Canton.