|Teams:||MIT vs Springfield|
|Played:||05/20/2012 @ Newport, Rhode Island|
|Score:||36 - 7 MIT win|
MIT proved beyond doubt they are the dominant force in New England's third division, by lifting the NERFU cup after an undefeated weekend of comprehensive victories in the picturesque town of Newport RI.
Usually, the sun basking on the boats sailing in the bay would be thing most visitors would come here to appreciate, but for many of the crowd that descended on Fort Adams on Sunday May 20th, it was the display of rugby in the men’s D3 final that was the thing of beauty to behold. MIT concluded their spring season with what was undoubtedly their finest performance and a true display of rugby for the purists.
From the starting whistle, the pack brought the aggression to a large Springfield unit. They played hard direct Rugby and quickly recycled the fast ruck ball they were able to provide the half back. They patiently built phases that grinded up the field towards the Springfield line. When good attacking field position had been acquired or enough defenders were sucked in, captain for the tournament and outhalf John G linked in the backs who repaid the forward graft with great hands, running straight lines until they broke tackles, and showing fantastic skills in finishing once forcing their way into space.
That said, the first try after 8 minutes was a display of individual brilliance after Frank stole a ball from Springfield deep in the MIT half, he offloaded to LeBlanc who weaved his way into their half and all the way to the try line, leaving a trail of Springfield defenders in his wake. The next try did not come for another 12 minutes but was the perfect example of the rugby MIT were playing. Forward graft to get them into the opposing half, followed by some great back play and linking before excellent finishing and pace by Mike B. Springfield were next to get on the board with a try on the half hour, but the final say of the first half went to MIT with Niall on the wing showing a fine piece of brilliance in running back an attempted kick to touch from the 22 through both the opposing pack and backs to touch down, though he probably owes the openside Flanker Frank a thank you for a smoother than expected passage through the forwards territory.
MIT refused to take their foot off the gas in the second half, and despite a spirited attempt by Springfield to try and force their way into the game, it was MIT that kept putting up the scores, and most fittingly, the loose forwards started getting on the scoreboard with a try for Dave M 5 minutes into the second half followed by man of tournament, openside flanker Steve after 20, but only after another trademark drive by the Number 6 Frank. Massive credit must go to the front five for the work they put in at every breakdown all weekend, the result of which allowed numbers 6, 7 and 8 to be explosive off the back and provide great displays of talent and power. The amount of times Frank emerged from rucks with a turnover, could only be beaten by the amount of yards he carried, while the work of Steve off the ball as much as on was the reason for him receiving distinction by his peers.
The final say went to Jason at scrum half, running in a try with a little over 10 minutes to play in what will surely be a memorable moment for a man who has given so much to MIT, but will probably not be around to defend the trophy next year as he moves on to further pastures.
What was probably most enjoyable about the final performance was the way the team corrected problems exposed in the two games the previous day. Despite two solid wins there was concern for the coach as ball was lost in contact, passes failed to go to hand or unnecessary penalties were given away. That said, MIT were much too strong for Monadnock in their opening match on the Saturday morning, running in 6 tries in each half to win 74 / 0. The opening tries giving a clear indication of who MIT were going to prove they were over the coming days. The first being the result of some great running and passing between backs LeBlanc, Mike B and Zach, only to be followed by a couple of tries from Steve on either side of a try from prop Schechter. Dave M and John G finished off the scoring for the first half, before Torro got the board ticking again early in the second half with a perfectly executed finish to a move worked out on the training field. Frank was next to score after a great run and offload by Oggy, before Niall on the wing gave clear proof of his ability to finish, breaking through from inside MIT's half and weighting a kick to keep it between the try, deadball and touch line, he left the Monadnock back three behind as he beat them for pace and touched down in the corner. The same three that linked to deliver the initial cut to Monadnock in the opening minutes delivered the killing blows by sharing the last three tries between them. LeBlanc first followed by Zach and finally Mike B touched down after a searing run and offload by substitute out half David W.
The second match was a much more competitive encounter and the scoreline probably flatters MIT, although it could also be argued that staunch defense when inside their own 22 was the result of Framingham not being able to convert pressure to points. Framingham opened the scoring with a charge down of a kick by full back and acting captain Mike B. MIT hit back with a drive down into Framingham territory and driven over the line by Cody. Framingham responded by making it to the MIT 5 meter line showing this game was going to be a battle decided by key plays. Which is exactly what MIT produced next in turning over the ball and marching all the way back up the field for Mike B to avenge the earlier disappointment and cross the line to make it 12-5 to MIT with 5 minutes to play in the first half. But MIT were not finished and Outhalf David W crossed again just before half time to give MIT a 17-5 halftime lead in a very close contest. MIT found better consistency in the second half and turned the heat up on Framingham who were not able to match the intensity. The result being a half that produced 4 tries to 0 for MIT, with Joe on the wing crossing the line twice to put his hand up for potential selection in the final. And two tries for the forwards, including Manus who had given strong performances in both games and was pushing hard to wrestle one of the spots in the starting lineup of an extremely competitive pack. The final score of 36-7 guaranteeing a place in the final. In the other side of the draw, Springfield handed Seacoast a surprise defeat and backed it up with a win over Rutland to secure the remaining final berth.
If the final proved anything it was how well coached the MIT side are and the respect the team collectively holds for their coach. They showed strict adherence to a game plan from the starting whistle and never strayed from it. The defensive line held its shape all day while the back three were in constant communication with each other. In attack, no man found himself isolated going to ground. But the coup de grace for Springfield, was probably the three charged down kicks in the first half, resulting in turnovers and ultimately points. They had won their previous two games employing clever kicks over the top by the halfback pairing, it obviously didn't go unseen by the coach. A final score of 36-7 to MIT, a championship and cup to take home. Sweet spring success for a team that proved itself by boxing above its weight in Division 2 throughout April and May. And judging by the strength in depth available on the sidelines at the final whistle, MIT will continue into the autumn, the standard bearers of D3 Rugby in New England, and will be pushing hard to get promoted to D2.