Dartmouth Rugby: 2006 Ivy League Champs
The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club won their second Ivy League title in as many years this past weekend, fighting their way to a 52 – 16 victory over Harvard in the title match. A bright Sunday in New Haven overcame the driving rain that slowed the pace of play in Saturday’s first-round matches.
By Brendan M. Neff | The Dartmouth Review At the half, the Dartmouth squad led the Harvard squad 31–3 in what proved to be an excellent win for the team. Tight-five co-captain Joe Boswell said “this weekend we started to play complete rugby through the forwards and the backs.” Center Paul Huelskamp found the ground in the try zone as did All-American 8-man Joe Killefer, who made his hat trick before the first half whistle.
With Dartmouth in command of the final match, Killefer crossed the try line twice more along with wing Mike Ribero rounding out the Dartmouth scoring for the day. All-Ivy fullback Andrew Caspary had a flawless performance with his boot—going 7 for 7 on conversions and converting his only penalty opportunity making it a 17-point. The overmodest Caspary gave praise to his teammates saying “the boys did a great job centering their tries, it made my job easy.” A sin binning of Tom Monahan for a dangerous tackle with five minutes left saw Harvard round out the scoring with 13 quick points, the outcome no longer in doubt. After the match, Killefer was named Tournament MVP and Dartmouth captured eight All Ivies spots. Captain Jesse Blom found the memory fantastic saying: “the Ivy Tournament is always the most fun weekend for the DRFC. It is a chance for us to culminate all of our winter and spring training for a rugby bonanza.”
While the championship match was little more than a showcase of talents for the men in green, the morning semi-final proved to be the true test of the tournament. Unlike hapless Harvard, who had narrowly defeated Dartmouth’s Second XV the previous day, a powerful Princeton team pressured Dartmouth to the end of a 17 – 15 contest. The Dartmouth squad leapt to a 12 – 0 lead with tries from scrumhalf Tom Manzo and All-Ivies Center Scott Penner. An early try in the second half and penalty kick by Princeton closed the gap to 12 – 5, but Dartmouth seamed to seal the deal as fullback Caspary gave Dartmouth their final five points.
In the closing minutes of the match, Princeton was awarded a penalty try in a call against Dartmouth for pulling down the maul—on a play that seemed to most spectators like the Princeton side tripping over their own feet. Ultimately, Dartmouth dominated possession and play for the final minutes of the half to clinch what proved to be a very important win. This poised semi-final performance put the club in position to win its 7th Ivy League Tournament title in the last 9 years and keep the new clubhouse trophy cases stocked with fresh hardware.
The previous wet Saturday morning, the club had gone into action against Columbia in the first round. The opening matches featured 22-minute halves in soggy conditions but the Dartmouth ruggers were able string together some strong offense to make the score 29–0 at the half. Strong offense continued in the second half and the Dartmouth men were able to finish with a 48–0 win over the Lions and a place in the semi-finals against Princeton. After the early matches, Yale closed the athletic fields—slating the teams to finish the tournament on a marathon Sunday afternoon with a 44-minute Semi-Final and a 60-minute Final.
The Dartmouth Second XV also saw action on the opposite side of the bracket against Harvard in a close defensive battle. Due to a scheduling conflict, Cornell opted to drop out of the tournament and Dartmouth was given the opportunity to enter a second side. At the half, the Dartmouth 2nd side was in a 5 – 5 stalemate with the Crimson.
In the second half, possession proved ever elusive for the Dartmouth 2nd XV but punishing defense kept them out of the try zone. Harvard was able to put in two penalty kicks, and the men in green came up on the short end of a 5 – 11 score. The Dartmouth second team would ultimately lose to a game Brown side, before prevailing in an impressive performance against Columbia to secure a respectable 7th place finish.