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Saturday, Jun 25, 2022

Despite first-round playoff loss to Colby, men’s rugby reflects positively on fall season

Men’s rugby captain Red Douoguih ’22.5 escapes a tackle during the Panthers’ 20–17 win against Holy Cross on Oct. 23. (Courtesy of Bo Ebby)
Men’s rugby captain Red Douoguih ’22.5 escapes a tackle during the Panthers’ 20–17 win against Holy Cross on Oct. 23. (Courtesy of Bo Ebby)

After a first-round playoff loss to Colby last Saturday, the season is over for men’s rugby. But despite their exit from competition, Middlebury College Rugby Club (MCRC) has a lot to be proud of.

The team pieced together three impressive wins to open the season, only conceding seven points over those three games while scoring a resounding 163. The team’s crowning achievement came in their fourth match, when they battled bravely to a 20–17 victory over nationally recognized Holy Cross, who entered the match ranked No. 1 in the small school division of National Collegiate Rugby.

Against Holy Cross, the Panthers came out with fire in their belly, putting up two consecutive scores to take an early 10–0 lead before the Crusaders even managed a legitimate possession. Holy Cross regrouped and showed their prowess, however, as they battled back to a 10–10 scoreline going into halftime.

“That was right where we needed to be,” club president Griffin Shapiro ’22 said. “We had a fresh 40 minutes in the second half against the best team in the country; we had played for that all season.”

The Panthers once again started in red hot form, seizing a 15–10 lead. Holy Cross, not to be deterred, fired back shortly after and grabbed a late 17–15 lead. With just over a minute left to play, Alex Milligan ’25 intercepted a pass between two Holy Cross backs and raced it over the goal-line for a try to put the Panthers up, 20–17. 

“They almost got us back right in the dying seconds of the game,” Shapiro said. “Our defense came up with a big stop to keep them out.” 

Along with team captains Matt Dulaney ’22 and Red Douoguih ’22.5, Shapiro felt the result was not only a huge achievement for the team but also a result that was years in the making. 

“That was the pinnacle of really four years of work from our seniors,” Shapiro said. “In the past we’ve always had great athletes, but this year we’ve had something special out there where we’ve connected as a team and been able to run some really great plays.” 

The win saw Middlebury usurp Holy Cross as the top ranked team in its division, earning them a spot in the regional playoffs. But in a playoff match-up against Colby, the winner of the men’s small college north division, the Panthers fell to a defeat.

“A lot of guys on the team were devastated to lose,” Shapiro said. “It was a tough defeat, but the reaction shows the passion our team had; everyone really bought into it.” 

Although Shapiro and his fellow seniors may not get to play another fall season in a Middlebury shirt, he was highly optimistic and well-spirited following the conclusion of the season. 

“The group of guys that showed up in September was hardly a rugby team, with guys who had hardly played and guys who had never touched a ball,” Shapiro said. “Now we have a program that has proven it’s capable of competing with the best. I think the club will remain at this high level for a long time to come.”

More information on the men’s rugby team can be found at their website or on the National Collegiate Rugby site.

Charles Crounse

Charles Crounse '24 is a sports editor. 

He writes primarily for the sports section, contributing both coverage of team performances as well as feature articles. This is his second year writing for The Campus. Crounse is pursuing a double major in French and Environmental Studies with a focus in environmental policy. He is also a writer and editor for Middlebury Geographic, the school's primary travel magazine, and is a presenter for the Language in Motion program. In his free time, Crounse enjoys reading, writing, and being outdoors. 

He is also a member of the men's crew team and competes with them during the fall and spring seasons.