Poughkeepsie, NY– Vassar College has become a home away from home for Bard Men’s Rugby in 2019. They played multiple 7s tournaments in Poughkeepsie in the spring and, on September 22, kicked off their fall season with a 15s tilt. While Bard has been preparing for 7s, it is Rugby Union season in the Northeast and the hosts lent Bard a pack of freshmen so the Annandalians could field a full side. The fact that everyone got 80 minutes under their belts is much more important than the results, although Bard did get the last laugh with a nice team try to close out the second half.
Bard College men 5 vs. 55 Vassar College Men
Bard arrived at Vassar with 6 players– including 2 rookies– and its team was filled out by Vassar rookies. To say the Raptors were at an experiential disadvantage would be a gross understatement. To compound matters, captains Sam Wilkins and Eddie Dunn played while sick and left early in the first half with an ankle injury respectively. Bard was fortunate, however, that its own alum, Brian Wolf, was the referee; he did a good job explaining penalties while helping maintain a good pace to the game and Bard’s players appreciated his perspective as he rode back with the team to Bard’s campus after the game.
When the initial kickoff from Bard didn’t go 10 meters, the ensuing confusion wasn’t surprising. Vassar opted for a scrum and, with 6 of its 8 pack members having never scrummaged, one could once again not be surprised that Bard’s pack was still engaged while Vassar’s 8-man picked and made a big scamper down the field. An overeager Mitchell Watson took an offsides penalty which led to Vassar’s first try. The defensive backline was in disarray as the game began, however shaped up as the game progressed. Watson replaced former captain JM Knoetgen at flyhalf and, while his tackling prowess is undeniable, Watson’s defensive positioning will need to improve as the entire backline defense builds out from him.
The other biggest defensive issue was overcommitting to defensive rucks when the ball was clearly won by Vassar. This weakened the defensive line and allowed for some big runs by the Vassar pack into wide gaps. Particularly as Bard prepares for 7s, players will need to be certain they can win or seriously disrupt the ball if they’re going to commit to defensive rucks. Otherwise, they’ll need to stay out and form a staunch defensive line.
On the other side of the ball, Watson formed a nice pairing with rookie Achi Tsitsishvilli and the two speedsters nearly scored multiple times in the first half off quick-taps from penalties taken by Tuscany Foussard. Bard was on Vassar’s doorstep for a couple minutes as the first half unwound but couldn’t quite punch it in. Bard’s inexperience showed and their slowness to rucks meant no continuity, with rarely more than one or two phases of possession even after these long runs. It was encouraging that fellow rookie Ari Greenberg seemed to be in every ruck, although he often received penalties for playing off his feet or hands in the ruck. This was his first game action and he ended the game with two strong runs, whereas earlier in the game he looked like a deer in headlights with ball in hand. Greenberg has the right attitude and as he learns the laws of the game he will certainly become a solid forward for Bard.
Bard wasn’t expecting to play 80 minutes, yet they did not quit even as Vassar ran up the score in the first half. With temperatures in the 90s, Bard showed decent conditioning and resiliency, never shying away from making tackles. They looked like another team after halftime, conceding only two tries to Vassar. Bard’s highlight of the afternoon came when Foussard took a quick-tap penalty with a few minutes remaining, shimmied for a nice run and passed the ball to Watson. Watson gave it to the elusive Tsitsishvilli who fed the winger for a try in the corner. The try showcased Bard’s speed, which they will try to utilize next weekend as they play 7s against Molloy.
Bard players: 1) Sam Wilkins 2) Tuscany Foussard 3) Ari Greenberg 9) Eddie Dunn 10) Mitchell Watson 12) Achi Tsitsishvilli
Next: Sunday, September 29 @ Molloy