Rugby Gears Up for Division II National Championship

Matt Flannery

On Saturday and Sunday, November 12 and 13, the Colgate men’s rugby team traveled to Poughkeepsie, New York to compete in the Northeast Rugby Union Championship. The Still Reds advanced to the semi-finals of the tournament one week earlier, disposing of William Patter­son with relative ease. However, the final two opponents presented Colgate with a challenge that they had not yet been exposed to.

In the semi-final round on Saturday, Colgate took on Marist College, a team that at one point this season was ranked in the top-25 Division II teams, according to Marist RFC jumped out to an early 5-point lead over the Still Reds, but that was as large as the deficit ever became for Colgate. The Still Reds fired back with a barrage of tries, taking a 20-5 lead at the halfway point. Marist managed to squeeze one more try through Colgate’s phenomenal defense, but the Still Reds were never truly threatened by Marist for the final 40 minutes of the game. Earlier that morning, Fairfield Uni­versity RFC defeated host Vassar College, leaving Colgate and Fairfield as the only two teams remaining.

At 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, the Still Reds received to kickoff from Fair­field University RFC. Colgate used a bal­anced offensive attack to wear down the Stags’s defense, tallying 45 points over the course of the 80-minute fixture. Ju­nior winger Joe Kelly broke a pair of long, winding runs, punishing the Stags with two tries. Senior rookie Dan Menken also scored five points for the Still Reds, choos­ing an opportune time to score the second try of his young rugby career. Sophomore impact substitute Eric Clopper filled in phenomenally for injured junior outside center Tyler Swiggett, making several key tackles and scoring a try after missing several weeks of action with a knee injury. Senior winger Dean Cohn was 5 for 7 on conversions on the day, recovering from a tough semi-final match in which he was troubled by swirling winds. The Still Reds held Fairfield to just 3 points in the first half, and led the Stags by a score of 12-3 at halftime. Fairfield came on strong in the second half with 17 points, 5 of which were scored in “garbage time.” The Still Reds piled on several more tries and with 10 minutes left, a Colgate victory was all but certain. The Still Reds rushed the field after the final whistle, celebrat­ing their 13th victory in 13 games and an NRU Championship.

The victory automatically qualified the Still Reds for the Division II National Championship, to be held in late-April at a location to be determined. Only five teams, including Colgate, have cemented their bids to the national tournament, but Colgate’s first-round matchup has already been decided, as the Still Reds will take on Bentley RFC. In the upcoming months, the members of the squad will begin a consistent lifting routine and will be out on the pitch as early as possible in the spring to maintain their physical fitness and skills.

Contact Matt Flannery at [email protected]