Dartmouth kicked off their fall season with a pair of tough tests against top Canadian sides Queen’s University and McGill University as part of the Dartmouth Rugby Classic presented by Rockwood and Royall Rugby Saturday and Sunday.
Although The Big Green had a tough opening game against Queen’s, losing 36-0, they bounced back nicely to defeat McGill 32-15 and earn a split on the weekend. Overall, both games were good experiences that helped a side looking to break in several new starters improve, according to captain and No. 8 Paul Jarvis.
“I was very excited to see the team progress over the weekend,” he said. “We still have a ways to go in terms of technique in contact and winning setpiece ball, but the team really showed glimpses of greatness this weekend.”
Dartmouth was on their back heel right away in their first game against Queen’s, as the opening kickoff didn’t go 10 meters, giving the Golden Gaels a scrum at midfield. They quickly moved the ball down the field, taking it to the five-meter line in only a few phases. It was then that Jarvis got hit in the head by an opponent’s knee while going for a tackle, suffering a mild concussion.
As he lay on the field still reeling from the injury, Queen’s quickly moved the ball wide to get its first try. As the guests made the subsequent conversion, Jarvis was able to walk off the field under his own power, but was still unable to return to the game.
“It was immensely disappointing to get hurt so early in the season,” he said afterwards. “Fortunately, it’s only the preseason so I should be back within a few weeks at worst. In the mean time, I'll contribute to the team in other ways and work on my recovery.”
With their captain sidelined and down a score only two minutes into the game, things somehow only got worse for The Big Green. A few minutes later, they would have a kick deep in their own territory blocked, leading to a mad scramble in the try zone for the ball. While fullback Madison Hughes was able to hold up a Queen’s player to prevent the try, the Golden Gaels would not be denied that easily as they deftly moved the ball wide from the subsequent scrum to get their second score and go up 12-0.
They would add another only two minutes later as they once again went wide, this time from a lineout, to increase the lead to 17-0. Ultimately, Dartmouth would not be able to recover from the slow start.
“The first 10 minutes against Queen's evidenced our relative inexperience with one another on defense, as we conceded three fairly routine tries at the very start of the game,” said co-captain and flyhalf Bill Lehmann. “From that deficit, it was always going to be difficult to catch up.”
While the match became a much more even contest as it went on, any hopes of a Dartmouth comeback would be dashed right before halftime, when a Queen’s player caught the ball off the goalpost after a missed penalty kick and passed it through several hands for another try to make the score 24-0. The Golden Gaels would add two more tires in the second half to bring the final score to 36-0.
The Big Green would have a much better opening, and much better go of it overall, in their next game against McGill. Where they had been stifled by the Queen’s defense the day before, Dartmouth was able to move the ball well against the Redmen. Dartmouth was especially effective when they were able to get it with pace to their speedy back three, who in turn created several line breaks.
The team was able to open the scoring this way, as center Owen Scannell hit Hughes, who took it from around the 22-meter line into the try zone to give The Big Green a 5-0 lead. Hughes would strike again about 10 minutes later, once again burning the McGill defenders on the edge to increase the advantage to 10-0.
He would finish off the hat trick five minutes later, and would add on the conversion for good measure to make it 17-0. All in all, Hughes was far and away the best player on the day, tallying 22 of the team’s points (3 tries, 2 conversions, 1 penalty).
“It felt great,” Hughes said when asked about his performance after the game, “After yesterday's loss, it was important for the team to turn around and perform better today. I was really happy to be able to help do that and we got the result we wanted. Hopefully we can build on this and get a winning streak together."
While McGill responded only a few minutes later with a converted penalty to make the score 17-3, the outcome of the game would be put out of question right before halftime, as prop Lawrence Anfo-Whyte bursted through the McGill defense on a set strike move from a lineout and took it the distance to bring the lead to 24-3.
That lead would prove too big to come back from for the Redmen. Although they would score two tries in the second half, good defense from Dartmouth, a Hughes penalty and a try by wing Kevin Clark let The Big Green hold on for the 32-15 win.
Dartmouth will next be in action Saturday, Sept. 10 when they host the Granite State Cup in Hanover. The one-day tournament will see the Big Green’s first and second sides take on college teams from all over New Hampshire and Vermont.