Deep freeze: rainy end to ruggers' season
Not even the mud on their faces could hide the tears of the seniors as the final seconds of the match ticked away last Sunday. Over the loudspeaker, Journey's immortal words in "Don't Stop Believin'" were of little consolation to the ruggers in black, whose season was ended last weekend with two devastating losses in the New England Division II championships.
After a brutal 31-0 loss to host Babson College Saturday afternoon, the Bowdoin ruggers fell to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Sunday, and lost their chance to advance to the Northeast Rugby Union championships.
The weather conditions in suburban Boston last weekend did not help anyone, as Saturday's match was played in the bitter cold and pouring rain. Although Bowdoin was able to seek shelter from the storm in the Babson hockey rink, by the time the match started every rugger on the pitch was shivering and soaked head to toe.
"Those were certainly some of the worst conditions for a game I've ever seen," said coach Rick Scala. "Everyone was sliding around in the mud and dropping the ball, and none of our backs could make progress up the field. Their forwards were bigger than ours, and without the strength of our passing game we got hit hard."
Although the ruggers in black played hard and kept the game close for most of the afternoon, Bowdoin completely fell apart in last 20 minutes, and Babson ran away with the match. Even center Dennis Kiley '03, Bowdoin's leading scorer this year, was unable penetrate Babson's defense and put some points on the board.
"We played in miserable conditions and we played a good club, but the bottom line is that we couldn't get it done," said Kiley. "We didn't tackle, we didn't ruck, and when we fell behind we completely lost our heads."
After Saturday's loss, Bowdoin had to win Sunday's game in order to advance to the next round of playoffs. Coast Guard had already put up an impressive showing against defending Northeast champion Middlebury, and in Saturday's tempest had lost by only 7 points. "We knew [Sunday's game] would be a battle," said flanker Alex Meszaros '05.
When the Bowdoin ruggers arrived on the pitch Sunday morning, Babson's once pristine field was a mess from the previous day's rainy matches. The mud was an inch deep in the middle of the field, and everyone knew that footing was going to be an issue.
Bowdoin kept the game close for most of the morning, but Coast Guard wore down the ruggers in black, and in the last 15 minutes they ran away with the match. The mud kept Bowdoin's speedy backs from breaking away, and Coast Guard's superior pack rucked Bowdoin's forwards all over the pitch.
"It was tough to have the season end like that," said senior prop Tim Yanni-Lazarus. "For the seniors it was even tougher, to end their Bowdoin rugby careers on three straight losses. I think everyone was pretty emotional."
No one played harder last weekend than senior captain Dave Kirkland. "Losing sucks, there is no way around that," Kirkland said, "But it's hard to look at the season as anything but a complete success. Despite all the seniors we lost last year, and despite all our injuries this year, we still won the conference and went to the playoffs, and that counts for a lot. We played some tough teams this year and we lost, but that doesn't take anything away from us. We played with a lot of heart, and I'm proud of that."
Senior fullback Jed "Rambo" Miller echoed Kirkland's sentiments. "This was the second time in four years that we won the conference, and I will always be proud of that," he said. "We can't expect to win all the time, and we lost to some very good teams. Leaving the field [last] Sunday was very bittersweet, but all in all I can't be too upset about anything."
Although the Bowdoin ruggers were outmatched last weekend, they still finished the regular season with a record of 4-1-0, and finished 4th overall in New England Division II rugby.
On a personal note, as a senior I would like to thank all of the coaches and players for an outstanding season. I don't know what my time at Bowdoin would have been like without the rugby team. I will bid you all a fond farewell in print by paraphrasing an old Irish toast:
Here's to cheating, fighting, stealing, and drinking:
Good luck next year, boys. GO BLACK!