Men’s Rugby Wins New York State Championship

Matt Flannery

On Saturday October 27, the Colgate Still Reds Rugby Club took the pitch at Academy Field with a chance to win the Division II New York State Championship and to qualify for its second consecutive national tournament – an unprecedented feat in the 45 year history of the club. The Still Reds capitalized on the opportunity, dismantling a hard-nosed SUNY Oswego squad by a score of 31-15 and locking up one of 16 total spots in the national tournament. As has been the recipe all season long, Colgate’s forwards held their own against a visibly larger Oswego side, allowing junior scrum-half Max Schreyer enough time to spin the ball out the Still Red backs. Led by senior fly-half Alex Heller, Colgate’s back line scored with consistency and ease against an unexpectedly porous Oswego defense. While Colgate’s offensive attack and the final tally would seem to indicate a dominant effort on their part, the team was not without its miscues.

The game began ominously for the Still Reds, as a gap in their defensive back line allowed for Oswego’s captain to break a 40-meter run within the first several minutes of the game. Oswego would have put themselves on the board with the run had it not been for a try-saving tackle by junior fullback J.T. Colucci. Just several minutes later, the Still Reds responded to a sudden change in momentum. On a lineout just five meters from Oswego’s try zone, senior lock forward and club president Colin Cowles appeared to take the ball in for a score but was ultimately held up by a pair of defenders. Just minutes later, the Colgate backs broke a long run that would have resulted in a try. However the run was called back by the referee due to a forward pass. Oswego was able to put points on the board first, as their captain picked a ball off the back of a 5-meter scrum, taking it in for the try. The Oswego kicker missed the conversion, leaving Colgate in an early 5-0 deficit. As has been the case all year, however, the home team responded quickly and efficiently. Colgate’s staunch defense pinned Oswego far into their own zone, where Schreyer was able to get his hands on an attempted clearing kick. The Still Reds scrambled for the loose ball and ran three quick phases with their for- ward pack. Schreyer then swung the ball out to Heller, who quickly shuffled the ball out to sophomore winger Dan Miller, who took the ball in for the try. Shortly thereafter, Miller blocked a kick of his own and took it 25 meters for another Colgate try just before half- time, leaving the Still Reds with a nar- row 10-5 lead. Miller’s offensive perfor- mance, coupled with his strong defense, earned him the “Man of the Match” title after the game concluded. Operating with a lead and plenty of momentum, Colgate pressured Oswe- go’s tiring squad early and often in the second half. Just 10 minutes in, senior winger Joe Kelly received a kick just inside of midfield and returned it 45 meters for the try, weaving his way through the defense and breaking a pair of arm tackles en route to the score. Just ten minutes later, Kelly came through with another electric play, punctuating a well-executed back line play and taking the ball 45 meters for a try, this time reaching the Oswego try zone virtually untouched. With less than 25 minutes to play, the Still Reds had a two-possession lead, and the packed sideline buzzed in anticipa- tion of what seemed to be a guaran- teed victory. However, Oswego swiftly silenced the home fans, tacking on a pair of tries within five minutes of each other. Elated anticipation quickly shifted to nervous chatter, and the fate of Colgate’s dominant season suddenly teetered on the edge of failure. However, Heller was able to reignite the crowd just as quickly as it had been deflated, tallying the final try in the match to seal a Still Red victory. Schrey- er fielded the ball from a clean Colgate scrum and swung the ball out to Heller, who split the defense and emphatically dotted the ball beneath the uprights. Colucci followed with his third conversion of the day, punctuating the Colgate offensive attack with the last two of its 31 points. When Colgate regained possession, Colucci excitedly booted the ball out of bounds, inducing the final whistle from the referee. Still Reds players rushed the field at the sound of the whistle, celebrating their unprecedented victory on the pitch.

The Still Reds will continue to train in the offseason in preparation for the late-April tournament.