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AIC did well in the desert. Ian Muir photo

AIC spoiled New England College’s division one debut with a 24-7 victory in the Inaugural Presidents Shield. NEC, who made the jump from NSCRO to the ECRC, held its own against a formidable opponent.

“Believe it or not a lot of division one teams are not much better than division two teams or NSCRO teams. Just because they have a DI next to their name does not make them a better team. ….We are going to take it one game at a time and we will see how it goes. We are certainly not going to back down and we are going to fight and continue to improve and win,” NEC head coach Jeremy Treece told Rugby Today.

The Lions, in fact, jumped out to an early 7-0 lead minutes into the match. After a penalty yielded a lineout deep in Yellow Jacket territory, the Lions busted through the center of an uncontested ruck to dot down for the early lead. It was all the scoring NEC would do however, as the AIC defense maintained strong shape throughout the evening.

“I was really happy with how we played defense,” AIC coach Josh Macy told Rugby Today. “The guys just stayed on their feet, they stayed patient and made their tackles. We just kind of waited for them to cough up the ball or for a chance to turn it over.”

Treece indicated that NEC did commit a number of turnovers that hindered its effort offensively. “We hurt ourselves, we made a lot of really really fundamental mistakes.”

AIC responded to the NEC try with a pair of tries, one from each of their wingers. Fly half Jihad Khabir sent a couple of well-executed kicks in behind the NEC defense and Deshae Edwards and Lui Sitama scooped up the first and second respectively. Khabir, who assisted on the first two scores, added one of his own to round out the first have at 19-7.

“Their wings played up really tight. I think they were worried about us getting wide on them and Jihad did a good job did a good job kicking down to the corner and our wings had a really good chase,” added Macy.

The second half was much more of a defensive struggle but center Adrian Ray powered his way over to cap off the match at 24-7 in favor of the Yellow Jackets.

“We didn’t get a lot of clean ball in the backs but Adrian is strong enough and quick enough and patient enough to turn that into good ball for us,” stated Macy.

AIC dominated the set piece in the second half, in particular, winning a number of opposing lineouts. “We had a couple of injuries to key players on our forward pack that really hurt us in our scrum and line outs,” Treece added.

It was a nice win for an AIC team that was playing without to of its prominent players. Winger Christian Adams took a knock to the head last week so Macy kept him on the sidelines out of precaution. Flanker Gavan D’amore-Morrison has played a tremendous amount of rugby this year so Macy elected to give the dynamic forward some time off early in the season. D’amore-Morrision went from AIC straight into a rigorous 7s campaign with Old Blue this summer. After the 7s circuit and forays to Denver and Philadelphia for the Rugbytown and Elite City 7s respectively, Macy thought some time off would be prudent. The loose forward did not participate in preseason camp or the first two preseason games, but came on as a reserve for the final 15 minutes of the game Friday night.

“Our forwards have been playing great but he just adds a completely different dimension,” Macy said of D’amore Morrison.

Although AIC was missing a couple of key contributors and only has a roster of 30-35 guys, the team is comprised of plenty of talent and a surprising amount of depth. Macy praised the play of hooker Blake Gurgule. Although he has had to come out with a blood sub every game so far this year, he has been one of the rising members of the pack.

“I think we are going to get in trouble like the Harlequins. People are going to start suspecting he’s cutting himself or something,” Macy said of his forward. “He is so active around the field...He does such a good job and is really having a good year so far.”

NEC will search for its first league win when they play the other league newcomers Fairfield next weekend. AIC will take a break from conference play and will take on Dartmouth next week.