The MCRC crushed Empire Conference Champs Stony Brook University on their home pitch to the tune of 57-3 in last Saturday’s National Quarterfinal. The Blue dictated the action from the opening kick-off and never looked back.
Next up Middlebury will host Penn State in the National Semi-Final on Saturday, 11/23. The match will be the Nittany Lions first trip to Middlebury, and also marks the first time Middlebury will host a National play-off match. Penn State defeated Clemson by 1 point to reach the semi-finals.
Full match report:
Saturday the 16th dawned clear and crisp and full of promise. The Blue woke up rested and eager to take the pitch and would not disappoint. From the opening kickoff from outside center Adam “this IS a beard” Schreiber ’14, Middlebury dominated the play. Terrific defense kept the Seawolves pinned in their own zone and Midd captalized just 2 minutes in with an easy penalty kick. Inside center Jake “Flo” Feury ’16 slots it home to put the Blue in front 3-0.
The next five minutes are indicative of how this day is going to go, as Middlebury refuses to allow Stony Brook to get anything going. The first few scrums of the day are totally dominated by the Blue pack, with Middlebury driving back their opposites 5, 10 and 15 meters. The front row of loosehead Cliff “The Kraken” Hanich ’15, hooker Madison “Plank” Stebbins ’14.5 and tighthead Cole “LPF” Baker ’16 is absolutely savage. Together they take control of the scrum and make it clear that this is going to be their game. Middlebury’s forward dominance earns another shot at goal which Feury converts. The score is 6-0 after 8 minutes of play.
The next five minutes see the backline start to connect with the pack and Middlebury shows it is a complete rugby team. The backs string together multiple phases, helping one another immensely with rock solid rucking after each tackle. After more constant pressure fullback Alex “Coco” Ruocco ’14 pins his ears back and scores the first try of the day in the corner. The difficult conversion is wide and Middlebury has the lead 11-0 after 14 minutes.
The game is still young and both teams have worked hard to be here. Stony Brook stormed through the Empire Conference en route to an undefeated season and nobody expects them to roll over. They attack in Middlebury’s half, but are undone by loose passes and knock-ons. With The MCRC firmly in control of the scrum the attacking opportunities are few and far between for Stony Brook. After a series of phases the Blue defense stands firm and clears out of danger. Solid work from all 15 players sees the Blue march confidently down the pitch and into the red zone. Feury takes a pass and despite being triple-teamed does what he has done all season long: score. The big man fights thru several defenders and then turns the corner on them showing a (un)surprising turn of pace. Feury converts his own try and after 24 minutes Middlebury leads 18-0.
Mention must be made of the season of Mr. Jake Feury. In this his first full season with the team, Feury played both inside and outside center and had a torrid campaign. Jake led all try scorers in the Conference with 13 tries, and also all scorers with an amazing 110 points (thru 6 games.) This total was nearly TRIPLE the next closest scorer and higher than the cumulative season point total of three teams in the ECRC. Needless to say, Feury presents opposing defenses with countless problems and his day was far from over.
Stony Brook knew that it was now or never and they came out clawing at the subsequent kickoff. The two teams duked it out, but the home side is unable to break thru. Rock solid defense from lock Tom “Deep Heat” Lynch ’14 and flyhalf Captain Allan “El Natural” Stafford ’13.5 set the tone. Stafford is unbelievable making tackle after tackle, while Lynch is relentless at the breakdown clearing one ruck after another. Fellow senior flanker John “Escuter” Hawley ’14 is totally dominant at the lineout, and one almost starts to feel bad for the hosts. Almost.
Stony Brook earns a penalty at the breakdown near midfield and takes the rare chance for points. The kick is good from over 40 meters and the score is 18-3 after 32 minutes. These would be the Seawolves only points on the day.
Middlebury swept the ECRC by taking advantage of opportunities and always answering back after a score. The Blue kicks off and immediately puts Stony Brook under pressure. Middlebury earns a penalty and kicks to touch, gaining valuable ground. The forwards win clean ball and drive it up with loosehead Hanich pounding thru the defense. Quick ball sees Stafford free and he unselfishly pops to roommate and fellow captain lock Ben “Firenuts” Stasiuk ’13.5 for the easy try under the posts. It is a beautiful and well-earned team try, which Feury, of course, converts. 25-3 with five minutes remaining in the half. The play also demonstrates the growth and maturity of Stafford who is used to scoring tries. The career fullback made the switch to flyhalf mid-season and continues to improve each week. “El Natural” finished the regular season the 2nd leading try scorer (and 4th leading scorer overall) in the conference, but this simple pop pass shows he more than just a pretty face and a try scoring machine. Allan Stafford is a rugby player.
Feury converts one more penalty just two minutes later and Middlebury goes into the break with a 28-3 lead. Midd knows it is their game to lose and the focus remains laser-like. Injured 8-man Silsby challenges his teammates to bring a renewed energy and the team returns the pitch ready to go.
As expected, Stony Brook comes out of the gate with new life. The teams trade blows for nearly 20 minutes with neither team able to turn opportunities into points. Middlebury knows it needs to weather the storm and they do so brilliantly with shutdown defense and lethal counterattacks. Middlebury penetrates deep into Stony Brook’s territory and attempts to pound it across the goal-line but the ball gets buried underneath a pile of bodies and the referee blows the whistle. Scrumhalf Alec “Beefcake” Mackenzie ’15 and flanker-turned-8-man Griffin “Gym Rat” Jones ’16 link up for what looks to be a picture-perfect try, but the exchange is ruled forward and the scrum is given to the Seawolves. No matter, as the Blue pack steals the put in, drives them back, and Jones is able to touch down for the try. Feury converts and the lead is 35-3 with 21 minutes remaining.
Middlebury takes advantage of its depth and Jones comes off with flanker Miller “I need a nickname” Judge coming on to flank and Hawley taking over the #8 duties. Hanich also gets to rest, with Baker moving to the #1 spot and tighthead Mike “Traps” Wysota ’14 coming on with fresh legs. Sam “Gluten Free” Finkelman ’14 takes over the hooking duties for Stebbins, and Middlebury shows what it means to have a true squad.
A few minutes later the Seawolves have an opportunity inside Middlebury’s 22 but the ball is turned over by openside flanker Devin “I’m so glad he’s on my team” Risinger ’14. Risinger has been a force all day, nay, all SEASON, at the breakdown and his breakdown work sets free the backline who counterattack roughly 75 meters down the field. Stony Brook, penalized repeatedly at the breakdown, finally commits one infraction too many and earn a yellow card. Feury drives home the penalty kick and Middlebury stretches the lead to 38-3.
Smelling the blood in the water, The MCRC moves in for the kill. Risinger scores a forward’s try off a beautiful driving maul which Feury pushes just wide from out wide. New assistant coach Junior Tuiqere (long time head coach of the Burlington Men’s Club) has helped take the forwards to another level, and the maul is the finest example. It is a well-earned try and gives the Blue a 40 point lead.
The Blue strike again quickly, with young Canadian winger Julien “Why is it so cold?” Miller ’17 turning on the jets and finishing off another attack in the host’s try zone. Feury converts and the lead is 50-3 with roughly 10 minutes remaining. Stony Brook’s player returns from the sin bin and his absence has been a costly one for the home team as Middlebury tallied 15 points in those 10 minutes.
Lock Charlie “What does the fox say?” Kunze ’15 relieves teammate Lynch and immediately announces his presence with authority thru several crushing tackles. The fresh legs in the forwards keep the Seawolves on their back foot and they are called for another penalty. Middlebury kicks to touch, wins the lineout, and attacks. Stafford looks for space, but it isn’t there, but Stasiuk is and he is not to be denied. The big captain muscles through several would-be tacklers and pounds down the ball for his second try of the day. Schreiber slots the conversion to extend the lead to 57-3 with just minutes to play.
The final whistle blows and Middlebury has a convincing victory and first ever Division I playoff win. It is an unbelievable team effort and well-deserved celebration for the club. Many thanks to Stony Brook for hosting and for a hard-fought match. We have no doubt we will see this team again in the future!
FIRST XV: Cliff Hanich ’15, Madison Stebbins ’14.5, Cole Baker ’16, (C) Ben Stasiuk ’13.5, Tom Lynch ’14, John Hawley ’14, Devin Risinger ’14, Griffin Jones ’16, Alec Mackenzie ’15, (C) Allan Stafford ’13.5, Sam Schwarz ’16, Jake Feury ’16, Adam Schreiber ’14, Julien Miller ’17, Alex Ruocco ’14
RESERVES: Mike Wysota ’14, Sam Finkelman ’14, Miller Judge ’16, Charlie Kunze ’15, Henry Thomson ’17, Vince Mariano ’14, Tucker Hopkins ’16, Max deJong ’17
SCORING: Feury – 25 points (1 t, 4 p, 4 c), Stasiuk – 10 points (2 t), Alex Ruocco 5 points (1 t), Griffin Jones – 5 points (1 t), Devin Risinger – 5 points (1 t), Julien Miller – 5 points (1 t), Adam Schreiber – 2 points (1 c)