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In the second week of East Coast action, UMass handily defeated defending ECRC champion Middlebury 38-5. Last year, Middlebury reached the ACRC final four, ultimately falling to Penn State. This victory comes as a big shock, as the Minutemen fell comfortably to unranked Boston College last week.
UMass took the opening kickoff and immediately got on the front foot. “We worked our system and banged them up a bit with our forwards,” captain Alphonsus Preza told Rugby Today. In fact, UMass got all six of its tries from the pack.
Prop Todd Theodat scored twice for the Minutemen, and fellow prop, Jonathan Rossini, added another. Flanker Joe Hastry, lock Tim Porter and No. 8 Thomas Thekaekara each dotted down as well.
The UMass win was a stark contrast from last week’s 31-3 loss to Boston College. Unlike last week, the Minutemen were able to monopolize possession and play the game in Middlebury’s end of the field.
“We reevaluated where our strengths were and moved from there,” forwards captain Devin Ibanez said. “We emphasized to 1-15 that winning the rucks and focusing on clean possession was key to our game plan. We have eight forwards that have been playing rugby for at least three years and decided to play through our strengths.”
Alphonsus indicated that part of that game plan included keeping the ball in hand and maintaining possession. “We slowed everything down today. We played defense for most of the game against Boston College," he said. "We kicked away a lot of possession last week. This week we kept the ball in hand and were able to play a lot of ball their half.”
A victory over Middlebury leaves UMass brimming with confidence. “The win today gave us a lot of confidence after a tough loss to Boston College. We didn’t think we're 20 points worse than BC, and beating a program like Middlebury, that has a great reputation, is definitely a confidence booster,” Preza indicated.
“Seeing the team where it has come from since I was a freshman is remarkable. We have gotten better and better and look to continue our success,” Ibanez added.
UMass elected to move to DI after a deep run in the 2009 DII playoffs. Last spring, UMass became the first side to take home both the DI and DII titles in the Beast of the East tournament in the same year.