The MCRC spring 2022 season kicked off in strong fashion this past Saturday, as the boys went Northward to St. Michael’s College for their first event in the Cross Conference 7s Series. In a pool with St. Mike’s, Western New England University, and Norwich, the team brought a group of 20 ruggers, including 7 freshmen, for the first 7s action for the MCRC since 2019.
The MCRC kicked off the first match of the tournament against St. Mike’s, and a tackle into touch by Charlie Doyle ’24 directly off the kickoff gave Middlebury possession. The lineout was won, the ball went wide, and Sam Madden ’22 turned the corner and left everyone behind to open the scoring. The next restart similarly led to a tackle into touch, and though the lineout was lost, a quick poach by Will Bogatyrenko ’22 gave the MCRC a penalty that was taken quick and passed wide for Eli Horton ’22 to score his first. After a few minutes of play around midfield, a poach by Horton started a sequence that ended with Griffin Shapiro ’22 taking a quick pick and go off a breakdown and scoring under the posts. The next restart ended with a St. Mike’s knock on that drew the final whistle at 36-0.
With this encouraging victory under their belts, the MCRC prepared for its toughest test of the day against Norwich. An early try on the edge by Horton opened the scoring, but the size of Norwich wore down the Middlebury defense. A final of 29-5 handed the MCRC its only loss of the day.
Against Western New England, the MCRC was able to take advantage of tournament rules that allowed an unlimited roster and gave some new faces a chance to take the field. On their first possession off a WNE knock on, the young Middlebury team shipped it wide and let Shaan Kanani ’25 outrun everybody to the try line. Thomas Gao ‘25.5 did it all the next sequence, kicking the restart, winning a penalty off a poach, quick tapping, and stepping a defender to go the distance and score under the posts. Before the end of the half, the MCRC managed another score off a stolen scrum and an offload to Ben Elstner ’22 on the corner. The second half brought more of the same, with the kick received by Luke Van Horn ’24, who offloaded to Kevin Ntoni ’24 for a breakaway try. A defensive battle lasted for the next few minutes, before a series of lovely passes from Lee Summers ‘24.5, Van Horn, and Mael Brouwer ’25 gave Kanani another score around the edge. Van Horn got into the action with his own first ever try as time expired, and the young guns had cruised to a dominant 36-5 win.
The final fixture came against the Norwich B side. While Norwich took a blind-side pick and go the distance in the early going, the MCRC bounced back with a series of strong runs by Bogatyrenko ending with Madden scoring around the corner. The next restart brought the same result, with passes down the line giving Madden another try. It was Will Ebby ’22 who scored the following series off a well-taken poach to give the MCRC a comfortable lead into halftime. The second-half scoring began with a penalty won by Van Horn, a quick tap by Shapiro, and a step by Gao that took him under the posts and cemented him as Man of the Match. Norwich finally broke through again after a scrum for their second score. A great run by Elstner on the restart set up a Shapiro offload to Madden for an answer. Kanani, after subbing in for Madden, took the final try for Middlebury for the 38-14 win.
Unfortunately, Norwich withdrew from the scheduled final, leaving the MCRC without a chance to redeem their only loss. Fortunately, the boys get to make the trip up to Northfield this coming Sunday with plenty to prove on Norwich’s own pitch. Follow the action at the livestream (www.norwichathletics.com/livestream) or on the twitter (@themcrc), and stay tuned for updates on the 50th celebration next fall!