Williams College RFC
Williams Rugby Finishes Season with Win over Rival, Amherst
With pride and jerseys on the line, the Williams College Men’s Rugby Team defeated Amherst College 17-13 on Saturday, October 31st. Every season, fall and spring, the two teams finish their regular season schedules with a match against each other with the losing team giving their jerseys to the victors. More importantly, for two of the top academic schools in the country, pride is on the line. Due to the storied history of the two rivals and the intense nature of the match, the game is always sure to be intense and exciting.
The game opened with both teams being relatively equally matched. The teams took the ball through multiple phases, each driving down into the other’s territory just to turn the ball over and allow the other team to do the same. Despite the even contest, the game lived up to the promise of a rivalry match, with both teams making big hits, exciting passes, and long breaks. The first score came at minute 14 when Amherst was able to go through a series of short “pick-and-go’s,” slowly wearing down the Williams goal-line defense and finally punching through for the try. Amherst’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful and Williams was down 0-5. The next 17 minutes continued very similar to the first 14, with both teams making drives into the other’s end just to turn the ball over. Then at minute 31, Amherst was called for “diving over” during the ruck and Williams elected to go for points, about 20 meters out from goal and 10 meters to the right side of the posts. Junior full-back, Sean Spees, attempted the kick and was spot on, giving the White Dogs three points, making the score 3-5. The remainder of the half continued back and forth and the half ended with Williams down, 3-5.
At the start of the second half there was a palpable energy in the air as the teams took the field. Williams appeared that they would strike first, driving down into Amherst territory within two minutes of the restart. After six phases the White Dogs attacked the far corner of the field, making a series of pop-passes from contact and diving in for a try. However, the opposition touch judge ruled that the Williams player had stepped out less than a foot from the try zone so the score was reversed and the ball was turned over. Amherst then started putting the pressure on Williams, attacking both edges of the White Dog’s defense. Williams was able to stop the Amherst attack but not without giving up territory. Finally, due to Amherst’s continued pushing and Williams backing up and on their heels, Williams’ discipline broke down and a White Dog was called for joining the ruck off-sides. Amherst opted to attempt a kick, being about 15 meters from goal and nearly dead center. Their kick was successful and Amherst was winning 3-8.
Williams showed no concern though, quickly forcing a turnover during the kick and attacking Amherst. Sophomore hooker Peter Lugthart was able to single-handedly drive four Amherst ruckers off of the ball, creating the turnover. Almost instantly upon winning possession the ball was spun out to senior wing Forbes Wilson, who then dodged three Amherst Defenders and sprinted nearly 40 meters into the try zone, tying the game at 8-8. Spees’ conversion attempt was successful and Williams took the lead at the 10-8 with 27 minutes left in the game.
The true momentum shift occurred around minute 55, when Spees fielded a high long kick from Amherst. Spees was able to dodge two tackles and break another, when the Amherst tight-head prop egregiously clotheslined Spees. The Amherst player received a red card for the infraction and Amherst was forced to play a man down. Spees was evaluated by the trainer and deemed to be well enough to continue play. The following 24 minutes was almost exclusively played in the Amherst territory, with Amherst refusing to allow Williams the score for the first half of it. Finally, after knocking on the door for twelve minutes, Williams was awarded a penalty about 20 meters out from goal. Williams executed a play and senior fly-half, Nick Dyja found a seam and was able to dive in for another Williams score, making the score 15-8. The kick by Spees was good and the score was 17-8.Williams continued to control the game until there was only about two minutes left. With virtually no time to come back, Amherst rallied together and began pushing at the Williams defense. The White Dogs were not ready for this and discipline began to break. Williams committed seven penalties in a row, allowing Amherst to just walk up to goal. Amherst used this break in focus to their advantage and was able to punch one in as time expired. Their kick was no good and the game ended with Williams on top, 17-13.
“This was a heated game,” said head coach, Jeremiah Madison. “There was a lot of emotion on the field, before, during, and after the game, by both sides. Ultimately, we just dug down deeper and gave more in order to find that win. It was a good way to cap off the season.”
The Amherst win was Williams’ final game this Fall. Williams finishes the season at one win and four losses, missing the playoffs. Of those four losses, three were at home and all by one score (four points) or less. Amherst finished their season with no wins and five losses.
Williams will play a shortened spring schedule beginning in April. Madison is looking forward to the spring. “We have a young team – a lot of rookies. But throughout the season, including today, they are showing a lot of potential and growth. We are only losing two players for this spring – one to studying abroad, and one to injury. Both will be missed but I believe we have guys that can step up and feel their roles. Then for next fall we will only be losing two more players due to graduation. The future for us is bright and limitless.”
One of the two players Williams will be losing for the spring is senior center and captain, Tucker Burleigh. “He is a true leader. The younger players and older ones alike look up to him and his presence on the field will be a big loss. However, his leadership has naturally groomed other leaders to step up and fill his role, so the transition should be rather smooth. Besides, Tucker will be returning this spring to be a student coach for the White Dogs, so we are not completely losing him, and a little Tucker is better than no Tucker… at least when it comes to having him on your rugby team,” said Madison.
The Williams College Men’s Rugby Team faced Trinity College at home on Saturday, 10/24/15, and lost 5-8. The game began with a lot of intensity with both teams hitting hard and playing brutal defense. However, a breakdown in discipline ultimately gave enough points for Trinity to come out on top.
The scoring began only six minutes into the match when Williams was called for off-sides. Trinity opted for a chance at points was successful, making the score 0-3. The next 34 minute was a test of wills and defense with both sides pushing into the others territory just to turn over the ball. The half ended with Williams down 0-3.
“From the beginning it seemed that the game was relatively evenly matched,” said head coach Jeremiah Madison. “Both sides were making similar breaks and both sides were making similar stops. The intensity and eagerness on the field was palpable. It was an exciting first half to watch.”
The second half started in a fashion reminiscent of the first with big hits and hard running dominating the game. However, ten minutes into the second half, the Trinity 8-man was able to find a small seam and plow his way into the try zone, scoring five points. Trinity’s kick was off mark and the Trinity was up 0-8.
“We didn’t give up. We knew we were still in the game, despite being two scores down. You could actually see the resolution and determination on the guys faces,” stated Madison, referring to the team’s attitude after Trinity’s try.
The rest of the second half continued as the first with both sides probing the other’s try zones, but ultimately solid defenses prevailed. Then, with only about a minute left in the game, Williams caught a break. Junior fullback, Sean Spees, was able to catch a pop pass and hit a gap in the Trinity defense, sprinting 60 meters for Williams’ first try. Spees attempted a quick extra point attempt, looking not to waste any time on the clock, but was unsuccessful. Trinity then kicked off to Williams and the White Dogs started making a push at goal again. However, the clock put a sense of urgency in the Williams players that lead to a break in discipline. Williams turned the ball over and then was caught off-sides again. Trinity kicked the ball out of bounds, ending the game, Williams – 5, Trinity – 8.
Madison was disappointed in the loss but not discouraged. “It is tough to lose another game, especially that close to winning.” This is Williams’ third loss at home this season by four points or less. “But the boys played hard. It was the best defense I have seen us play all season. Trinity has been dominating most of their competition and we played them to within three points. I don’t believe in ‘moral victories’ in sports per se, but if I did, this would be one that I classify as a moral victory. We definitely improved this week.”
Next week, Williams travels to Amherst to play their rivals on Saturday, 10/31/15, at 1 p.m. “We have Amherst next week. This game absolutely helped us get ready for Amherst, but no matter what, due to the rivalry, Amherst is going to get up and give us their best. But if we play like we did today, Amherst is definitely going to have their hands full!”
Williams College Rugby Team fell to Connecticut College, 24-26 on an unseasonably warm, Saturday, October 10th. This loss puts Williams at zero wins and three losses, and unfortunately, probably out of the playoff picture.
Despite the loss, head coach, Jeremiah Madison, saw a lot of positive. “Our rookies really stepped up today. They were the only ones to score tries today. And our vets really showed leadership and an unselfish play that allowed the rookies to score.”
Connecticut College got off to a great start, scoring three tries and two conversions for 19 unanswered points by the 27th minute. However, after injured senior captain, Tucker Burleigh, had a pep talk with the team after Conn’s third score, the team showed new hopes of life. A short high kickoff to Connecticut College resulted in a turnover and Williams started to make a drive. After several phases, solid ball handling, and dominating rucking, sophomore flanker Seth Perlman was able to scoop up a loose ball and sprint in for his first career try, giving Williams five points. The conversion was no good.
Eight minutes later, with visions of déjà vu, freshman prop Ben Gips, was also able to scoop up a loose ball, break a tackle and sprint 30 meters for his first career try, making the score 10-19 in favor of Conn, but revitalizing Williams and promising the spectators a good game.
At the end of the first half, Connecticut College was able to turn multiple phases into a try when their eight-man dove in for five more points. Their conversion was good and the half ended with Williams down 16 points, 26-10. Despite the score, Williams knew they were still in the game and the wind did not leave their sails.
The second half scoring opened 12 minutes into the half, when Gips received a pop pass off of a player being tackled and was able to plow in for five more points. Junior fullback Sean Spees' kick was true and the score was 17-26. The next 15 minutes was an intense battle of wills with both teams contesting the try zones but strong defense knowledgeable play was able to prevent scores by holding the ball up in the try zone. Then, with only seven minutes in the game left, Williams was awarded a penalty. They kicked the ball out of bounds five meters from the try zone and took the lineout. Williams lineout was executed well and Gips once again found the try zone, driving three opposing players back. Spees kick was good again and the score was 24-26.
A sense of urgency took Williams and they were clearly playing with reckless abandon. Williams maintained ball position for the majority of the remaining six minutes. However, with less than 30 seconds left, Williams faltered on a lineout and turned the ball over only 15 meters from scoring. Conn kicked the ball out of bounds and the time expired, Williams losing, 24-26.
“The boys never gave up,” said Madison. “They kept fighting. And we had some huge play from the rookies. We are playing well, we just can’t seem to find a way to win in the end. That comes from a lack of experience. We are young. But if we keep having contribution like that from our rookies, this team can only go up!”
The Williams College Men’s Rugby Club traveled to University of New Haven for an evening game on Saturday, 10/3/15. The White Dogs fall to 0 and 2 for the season after losing to Univ. New Haven, 33-12.
The first two scores came at only the five and seven minute marks in the game when Williams committed penalties near the try allowing UNH to kick for points and take the lead 6-0. Williams then, at the 20 minute mark, was able to maintain ball possession for over nine phases of attack, finally dishing the ball out to senior wing, Forbes Wilson, was able to draw multiple defenders and offload to junior fullback, Sean Spees, who dove in for five points. Spees then missed the kick and the score was 6-5. Unfortunately, senior center and captain, Tucker Burleigh was injured during the score and forced to come out. Despite the score, the momentum shifted to New Haven with the injury and with only about eight minutes left in the half, UNH was able to power their way through the Williams defense to punch one in. The conversion was good and the half ended 13-5.
The momentum seemed to stay with UNH during the second half. Williams was able to hold New Haven at bay for nearly 20 minutes in the second half. However, at the 21 minute mark of the second half, Williams committed their ninth penalty of the night. UNH to advantage and kicked for points, scoring 3 more points, going up to 16-5. The penalty kick, combined with the lack of the ability to score themselves, seemed to exhaust Williams, and UNH took full control of the game. New Haven was able to score three more trys with one conversion, ultimately taking the lead 33-5.
Despite the game being out of hand, the White Dogs refused to quit, and when UNH made a mistake, dropping a ball, freshman wing/scrumhalf, Julius Kindfuller was able to take advantage of it. He kicked the ball on the ground and began to chase it down. He had the bead on the ball for the try but about five meters from the try zone he was illegally speared in the back by a UNH player. The ref awarded a penalty try and Spees’s kick was successful and the game ended with Williams down 33-12.
“It was a difficult game to watch,” said Head Coach, Jeremiah Madison. “It is tough to know that you are able to play much better than the score is telling you. It is tough to know that you are giving the other team the momentum through your lack of discipline. It is tough to see your captain, the guy that all the players look up to and depend on, forced out due to injury.” But Madison was not completely discouraged. “The guys put up a good fight and would not give up. UNH is big and strong and we refused to give. The guys executed the game plan that we developed this week the best that they could. They made strong goal line stands and played a tight defense. Unfortunately, our technique and discipline just broke down at the wrong times for us and New Haven was able to capitalize on those mistakes.”
Williams next game is home versus Connecticut College at 1 p.m. on Cole Field, Saturday, October 10th.
At Williamstown, the White Dogs couldn't recover from a 12-5 halftime deficit, falling 19-15 to Wesleyan.
Tucker Burleigh scored William's lone first-half try, with Spencer Thomas and Noah Wright adding tries in the second half for the White Dogs. Williams had possession in Wesleyan territory in the last three minutes of the match, but the White Dogs' push for the go-ahead try came up short when they comitted a knock-on from 4 meters out as time ran out.
"It was a great game," Williams coach Jeremiah Madison wrote in a message to the Eagle. "The guys made adjustments in the second half and we had some great phases. We need to work on spreading our defense out but there are a lot of good things to build in for next week. Two more minutes or one more solid pass and we probably could have won."
Former Hoosac Valley athletic standout Zach Larabee started at flanker for Wesleyan. Williams travels to New Haven for a match next week.
The Eph women, meanwhile, fell 60-7 to Colby. Morgan Harris, supported by Johanna Dombrowski, scored William's lone try in the first half. Rachel Oren added the conversion. Coach Gina Coleman's Williams squad is now 1-1, having defeated Amhearst 15-5 last week.
This article, by Matthew Sprague of the Berkshire Eagle, ran in the 9/27/15 edition.
Williams College hosted a scrimmage against the Division 1 UAlbany Great Danes, on Wednesday, September 16th. On a beautiful night under the lights, Williams College lost the hard-fought battle 10-22. Williams scored the first two tries and 10 points within the first twenty minutes of the scrimmage. However, UAlbany’s experience kept them in the game, tying Williams 10-10 by the end of the first half. During the second half of the game, Williams made several changes to the line-up, moving players to new positions and giving rookies their first taste of the game, and UAlbany was able to score two more tries and covert one extra point attempt to take the lead. The game ended with a score of 10-22 in favor of the Danes.
This scrimmage was designed to be an instructional opportunity for both sides with occasional stoppage of play to explain rules and technique. This was the first time the Williams Rugby Club had taken the field against a live opponent this season while UAlbany already had multiple games under their belt.
Head Coach Jeremiah Madison felt this was the primary reason for the loss. “UAlbany has more than 60 players on their team and they started their season three plus weeks ago. We on the other hand, just started practice last week. In addition, more than half of our 26 players are rookies - brand new to the sport,” said Madison.
However, Madison was very proud of his team’s performance. “Our veteran players really stepped up and lead the team. Our rookies showed an intensity and fearlessness that usually is not seen from unseasoned players. As we learn and grow as a team, we will be a force on the pitch.” Williams begins their season Saturday, September 26th, with a home opener against Wesleyan College. The game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Cole Field. For more information on Williams College Rugby Team, including their season schedule, go to williamsrugby.com.
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