by Justin McKinney, Staff Writer
On November 19th the UMass Dartmouth men’s rugby team played for the Minuteman Cup at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton, Massachusetts. As they squared off against Springfield College.
The men started first and received the kick, forward Justin McKinney fielded the kick cleanly and gained to about midfield until he was met with a swarm of Springfield defenders. The Corsairs proved to hold strong though as fellow forwards Danny McIntosh and Dickie Gralton were quick to secure the ruck, thus withholding possession.
The Corsairs were moving the ball well up the field as Springfield gave up a number of yards in penalties. As the Corsair offense made waves down the field Springfield was handing out yardage on high tackles as well as hands in the ruck.
In a great show of athleticism back Antone Gomes found the try-zone on a 20 yard run where he seemed to shake off defenders effortlessly.
The five point lead that the Corsairs had was short-lived though as offside penalties proved to be a huge problem for the Corsairs.
The Corsairs were using a strategy known as fringe rucking, which is legal in rugby, however last weekend the referee deemed it a penalty during this outing and it proved to cost the Corsairs throughout the game. Abusing the fact that the Corsairs defense was reeling and having to make on the fly adjustments Springfield scored two unanswered tries to go up 10-0.
The Corsairs found their footing just before half though as they again marched up field after the kick off. Regardless of what player had the ball, back or forward, it seemed as though the Corsairs could not be stopped. It was true for at least that drive as back John Melanson found the try-zone for a score which tied the game at ten going into the half.
In the second half it was again a shoot-out as neither team could find any room for a lead, as Corsair backs Gomes and Mike Lan found the try-zone so did Springfield as there were three lead changes in the second half.
While leads were not consistent one thing was and that was the heart of the Corsairs. No matter how bleak the outcome looked at any point of the game, they picked their heads up and played tough.
At no point did any player on the field ever give up. While many were battling injuries from a long season of work, it never seemed to bother any of them as the team forged on as one.
Down by a try late in the game it seemed as though the Corsairs could tie the game up as they were less than a yard out of Springfield’s try-zone. However, it was not to be so as the Corsairs could not break-through Springfield’s defense.
Springfield managed to get back possession and in a strange turn of events, kicked from within their own territory. The kick was fielded by a Springfield player put out of bounds and the game was over as was the Corsairs season.
While the Corsairs season ended with a seven point loss, the team were Colonial Coast Rugby Conference Division 2A Champions and had their most successful season in five years. While the team faced adversity immediately being that they had many new starters as well as a new coach in Art Santini, they never missed a beat.
The leadership exhibited by Santini as well as captains Chris Holeman and Aidan Fitsimmons kept the Corsairs on a winning path that brought them a conference championship.