Poughkeepsie, NY – The last day of March marked the first time the Bard College Men pulled on their jerseys for official rugby matches during the 2018-19 school year. A constant rain fell throughout the afternoon as five local colleges clashed in Poughkeepsie at Vassar’s Hudson Valley 7s Tournament in preparation for next weekend’s Conference Championship. While the temperatures plummeted all afternoon, Bard’s play showed notable improvement from game to game.
Game 1: Bard College Men 5 v 30 Vassar College Men
Tries: Mitchell Watson (1)
The day began inauspiciously as host Vassar kicked to Bard and, with no one calling for the ball, it landed between two Bard forwards and bounced to Vassar for an immediate try. Senior Alex Beatty called for the ensuing kickoff but a Vassar player came flying in and stole the ball away. Bard didn’t shy away from tackles, but Vassar put in another try to make the score 10-0. Bard did close out the half on a high when freshman Mitchell Watson showed his athleticism and innate knack for the game, running in an impressive long try in his first half of play and making it 10-5 after 7 minutes.
The second half saw Bard win their share of offensive rucks, but an absence of offloads, players taking passes flat-footed instead of at pace, and lack of depth led to slow play. On defense, Bard committed too many players to rucks which led to advantages for Vassar and a final scoreline that heavily favored the hosts.
Game 2: Bard College Men 17 vs. 20 Marist College Men
Tries: Mitchell Watson (2), Edward Dunn (1)
Cons: John Michael Knoetgen (1)
After getting the butterflies out of their bellies, Bard regrouped quickly in a back-and-forth affair against the other Poughkeepsie school. Marist took an early lead as one of their players beat Bard’s defense to the outside and scored an impressive solo try. The Annandalians responded, however, by receiving the next kick, winning a ruck and, out of the breakdown, seeing a two on one advantage emerge. Captain JM Knoetgen timed his pass perfectly and put Mitchell Watson away for his second try of the afternoon, while fellow freshman Tahm Siddiquie followed perfectly in support. Knoetgen converted the try and Bard had their first lead of the day, 7-5. Unfortunately, they quickly saw how a single missed tackle and poor positioning can lead to havoc as Marist players got behind and then outside Bard’s defense, putting Bard down 15-7.
Bard adjusted their defense at the half, making a concerted effort to defend players on the outside and force opponents to the middle where defensive help is aplenty. The second half began brilliantly on offense as Beatty ran a strong line, offloaded to sophomore Sam Wilkins at pace in support, who in turn offloaded to Dunn again at pace and in support for the try of the day. Bard was back in the game at 12-15 and, after recovering their own fortuitous kick, got deep into Marist’s territory before knocking it on 5 meters out. The pressure, however, forced Marist to kick out of the scrum and, while the kick should have gone to touch for territory, it was placed in the middle of the field and returned by Watson for a try and 17-15 edge to Bard with only two minutes remaining. After Tuscany Foussard stole a scrum for Bard, it seemed certain they would hang on for the win. Unfortunately, Marist was awarded another scrum and a missed tackle led to their lone try of the second half and the Red Foxes stole a 20-17 victory from Bard.
Game 3: Bard College Men 10 vs. 0 New Paltz Men
Tries: Sam Wilkins (2)
The first game was a dud and the second a heartbreaker, but the third was a hard-earned win. It seemed Bard could and should have run away with this one, as that is literally what Sam Wilkins did on the first kick of the game, taking it 60 meters by himself for a try and an instant 5-0 lead. Bard dominated possession and graduate student Barkin Cihanli made huge gain after huge gain on quick-tap penalties. While led by Siddiquie on the wing, Bard did a great job of defending the outside in this contest, on multiple occasions they forgot to attack to the outside on offense. At one point Foussard made an excellent break to open up a two on one attack but then instead of shipping the ball wide for an easy try, cut back infield and the score remained 5-0 at the half.
Once again, Bard showed the ability to adjust deftly at the half. Knoetgen’s nose for the ball led him into too many defensive rucks in the first half but, in the second half, he anchored a solid defensive backline that held New Paltz scoreless. Freshman Perry Zhang was more active in rucks and made some runs by taking the ball at pace. Foussard looked strong at hooker and Dunn made a long run off a scrum which led to an offload from Beatty to Wilkins for his second try of the match. While the final score was only 10-0, Bard probably could and should have added a couple more tries, however, was happy to walk away with its first win of the season.
Game 4: Bard College Men 0 vs. 20 Seton Hall Man
The rain increased and the temperature decreased after Bard’s victory over New Paltz and the final scheduled game was canceled due to the weather. However, instead of closing on a high note, Bard played a final impromptu contest against Seton Hall. All things considered– without rest between the final two games, running on fumes with only nine players, increasingly poor weather conditions– the results were not too bad. The fatigue, however, was evident as offloads went awry and breakdowns went unrucked. The lone bright spot in this game appeared to be coming when Watson made a tremendous juke, broke a tackle, and nearly was away for yet another try. Seeming to embody the team’s overall state at this point, he was just barely tripped up and ran out of gas before he could escape. Unfortunately, he did not realize Siddiquie was running behind him for an offload, as he was all afternoon, and could have been put away for the score. As these two were only both playing in their first game action, there will be plenty of time for them to hook up for tries in the future.
Overall, Bard showed improvement throughout the day, the ability to make in-game adjustments, fearlessness in contact and a relentless spirit. There is a solid mixture of leadership and new players eager to learn. There will be plenty to build on during practice this week as they prepare for the Tri-State Championships next week back at Vassar.
Game 1: 1 Sam Wilkins, 2 Barkin Cihanli, 3 Alexander Beatty, 4 Tuscany Foussard, 5 John Michael Knoetgen (C), 6 Mitchell Watson, 7 Tahmid Siddiquie Subs: Perry Zhang, Edward Dunn
Game 3: 1 Sam Wilkins, 2 Barkin Cihanli, 3 Perry Zhang, 4 Tuscany Foussard, 5 John Michael Knoetgen(C), 6 Mitchell Watson, 7 Tahmid Siddiquie, Subs: Edward Dunn, Alexander Beatty
Game 2: 1 Alexander Beatty, 2 Barkin Cihanli, 3 Perry Zhang, 4 Edward Dunn, 5 John Michael Knoetgen (C), 6 Mitchell Watson, 7 Tahmid Siddiquie, Subs: Sam Wilkins, Tuscany Foussard