Dartmouth welcomed some of the top sides from around New Hampshire and Vermont to Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse in Hanover Saturday as part of the annual Granite Cup. Although they had their fair share of struggles on the day, both of the Dartmouth sides that took part proved victorious.
The Big Green’s third XV side mounted a seconnd half comeback to beat Plymouth State’s first team 19-12 for the men’s tier II championship, while the second Dartmouth side gritted out a 17-5 win over the University of New Hampshire to take the men’s tier I championship, despite not having the services of several top players, including all four captains.
Dartmouth's thirds kicked the one-day tournament off with a match-up against the seconds from St. Michael’s College in the tier II semifinals. Hooker Danny Driscoll started off the scoring after only a few minutes with a try. The Big Green added two more tries before the half to give them a 17-0 lead heading into the break. Center John Descalzi scored another try right before full-time to make the final score 24-0.
Up next was a rematch of sorts between Dartmouth's seconnds and St. Mike’s in the tier I semifinals. Big Green scrumhalf Quinn Connell got the try five minutes into the game to take an early 7-0 lead. The offense went dormant for the next 10 minutes before wing Kevin Clark put in another try to increase the lead to 12-0.
His counterpart on the outside, wing Justin Ciambella, added another minutes later to make it 19-0. From there, Clark stepped to the fore again, adding a try both before and after the half to complete the hat trick on the way to a 36-0 victory.
Then Dartmouth's third side retook the pitch to face Plymouth State’s in the tier II final. This time it would be the Big Green who found themselves on the back heel, as they conceded two tries in the first half to go down 12-0 heading into intermission.
However, after picking up some fresh legs from the bench their fortunes began to change. Perhaps no sub was bigger than wing James Sharpe, who scored two tries along with setting up wing Tyler Morange for another. As a result, Dartmouth turned their deficit into a 19-12 lead, which they held onto for the win.
Dartmouth's seconds also had a tough time in the tier I finals against UNH. Unlike against St. Mike’s, where they more or less had their way, The Big Green had a much tougher go of it against the tough and physical Wildcat defense. Without the on-field leadership of some of their best players, the Dartmouth attack was stifled early on, leading to a scoreless stalemate for the first 15 minutes.
Then Ciambella broke the tie, scoring the only points of the first-half with a try to put the home team up 7-0. After halftime Clarke and prop Matt Robinson added tries of their own, which along with Dartmouth’s sturdy defense, helped put the game away.
“The UNH game was a great benchmark as to where we are as a team right now,” Dartmouth flanker Will Mueller said after the match. “Dartmouth was consistently challenged at the gain line throughout the day by the disciplined forward pack of UNH, and I think it showed that we still have a lot of work to do in many different aspects of the game.”
Dartmouth has one final preseason tune-up before entering Ivy play, as they hit the road to take on traditional Northeast rivals Army. The friendly match kicks off in West Point 5pm Friday, Sept 16th. From there, they’ll start the Ivy season Sept 24th at Cornell.