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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Rugby Wins Leauge Title for Fourth Straight Year

Author: Doug Haber Staff Writer

This past Saturday, the Middlebury Rugby team annihilated an inferior Williams opponent 49 – 0, finishing the regular season undefeated, clinching the New England Western League title for the fourth consecutive year, and securing a spot in next weekend's New England Championships. Not one try was scored on the Midd Ruggers throughout the regular season, and the Panthers outscored their opponents 228 to nine.

Kevin Immonje '02 led the offensive charge for Middlebury. He faced the daunting task of outplaying his skilled brother, a firt-year at Williams, who lined up opposite him in the backline. Immonje showed which brother dominated the Immonje household, scoring three tries and shattering the hapless Williams defense with his brilliant bursts of speed and agility. Epeli Rokotouivekau '04 and Nick Dutton-Swain '02 also sparked the Middlebury offense, the latter breaking through the entire Williams defense after receiving the kick after halftime. Rokotouivekau juked his way to two tries, and improved his team-leading number to nine.

Although shaky at first, the team's defensive rucking and tackling proved solid. William's attempts to skip out to their speedy wings proved futile as Middlebury's speedy backs rapidly crashed on the Williams backline and disrupted their attempts to circumvent the Panther defense. Chris Lord '02 and Joe Fernandez '02 displayed their strength to the numerous fans, shutting down the Eph's efforts to transform the play to crash-style. Once again, Middlebury's pack proved too quick, strong and fit for the opposition, consistently spoiling the William's scrums and running through the fringe defense. Tim Tutsch '04 proved his indispensability to the team, performing brilliantly on offense and making bone-shattering tackles on defense.

To the disappointment of the Midd Ruggers, scrumhalf Brian Martin '02 tore his ACL in last week's game, and will not be able to return to the pitch to lead the Panther's quest for a national championship. Martin has been an invaluable addition to Middlebury's Rugby program for the past four years; his unmatched skill and leadership has commanded the respect of all both on and off the field. However, Jody Kramer '03 returned to the field this past Saturday from shoulder surgery he underwent this summer. Kramer, normally a fly-half, resolutely stepped up to the challenge before him and performed brilliantly this past Saturday, directing the Panther offense to victory. Robert Waithaka '04 analyzed the team's performance, "We have played amazingly this season. It is great to have Jody back on the field, and our forwards demonstrated their remarkable ability."

This weekend the Midd Ruggers travel to New Haven, Conn. to compete against Yale, Providence College and Bowdoin in the New England Championships. Providence, the returning Northeaster Champions, is Middlebury's likely first round opponent. The Panthers wish to carry the momentum from the regular season to the playoffs, and finally realize their dream of a national championship.