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Eleven weeks of rugby in the ECRC ends next Saturday in Springfield, Mass. with one game for the glory of the conference. With identical records at 7-0 and 35 standing points, #10 AIC and #23 Boston College will play for the ECRC Championship after they took care of business beating UMass and UConn. In other games, New England College pummeled Albany, 82-6, and Middlebury survived against Fairfield, 15-12.
UMass at #10 AIC
Under the lights on Friday night at Abdow Field in Springfield, Mass., AIC racked up six tries to beat UMass, 41-11, and remain undefeated. UMass didn’t lay down for AIC and played a highly physical game until the end. Sophomore flyhalf Jihad Khabir was the star of the game with his sixth straight game with at least two tries giving him a total of 19 tries on the season.
“It wasn’t clean, but we got it done,” AIC’s Khabir said. “We have suffered some injuries to key players, but we know we have guys ready to step up and fill those holes. We are looking forward to our conference showdown next week. We are saving our best for last.”
AIC racked up an 18-6 halftime lead with tries by Deshae Edwards, Christian Adams and Khabir and a PK by Lui Sitama. UMass started the match with a penalty kick by Joe Jenkins and he slotted one more by the end of the period. Khabir, Adrian Ray, and Nick Franklyn scored tries in the second half and Sitama was four for six on his conversions. The Minutemen’s lone try came off a Thomas Thekaekara quick tap.
With the focus shifted to Boston College, AIC head coach Josh Macy is confident in his team’s ability to finish the season with a championship. “The game is a definite championship game considering we are both at the top of the table. Boston College is a great team, and we've gone back and forth for a year now. Our very first year in the league, Boston College stuck it to us 20-0 on a miserable and rainy night. They bullied us around the field, they kicked deftly, and were just the better team that night. That game has stuck with me and with a few of the guys still on the team. We've been fortunate to have their number since then, but that night is fresh in my mind.”
With plenty of history between the programs, Macy knows his opponent well. “BC does a great job of moving the ball around the field. They will work you into a frenzy if you let them. Backs and forwards alike are strong attacking options. We'll definitely be on the look out for Tom Edwards and Joey D'Antonio, they are all over the place and can put points up in a hurry. We'll also want to continue to stand by our defensive shape and be sure to cut down on penalties to take the kicking talent of BC out of the game.”
#23 Boston College at UConn
Boston College earned their seventh consecutive victory by smacking UConn for nine tries for a 56-27 victory. The Eagles are averaging 53 points this season, while only giving up an average of 11 points a game. The speed and skill of the backs proved to be the difference in the game for Boston College.
“UConn has traditionally been one of the hardest hitting teams in our league, and we expected a physical battle to take place this afternoon,” BC captain Ben Nathan said. “At the beginning of the game, we went back and forth with our forwards, but by halftime, we were able to spread the ball wide to our backs which was the difference in today's game... Once we got the ball wide, Dan Casey and Danny Schatzman, our centers, were able to create what they wanted. Our forwards also ran great lines in support today, which kept several of our runs alive.”
Schatzman led all scorers with three tries with Nathan remarking, “Danny Schatzman had an unbelievable game once again, basically doing whatever he wanted when he got the ball. He's a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and sets up as many opportunities as he takes advantage of himself.” Tyler Shelepak, Tim Burke, Mike Demakos, Tom Whittam, Colm Mulvaney, and Willy Hock each scored for the Eagles and Dan Casey slotted seven conversions in the win.
Looking forward to next week’s championship game at AIC, Nathan said, “AIC has had a great season, but so have we. I'm confident that if we play the way we've played all season, we'll be happy with the result of next weekend's game. AIC has a lot of talented players that take advantage of every mistake a team makes during the game. We're hoping to play as mistake-free as possible.”
Fairfield at Middlebury and New England College at Albany
For the Fairfield at Middlebury match, 80 minutes of play was decided in the last two minutes of action. Playing a man down with 1:30 left, Middlebury was up 15-12, but Fairfield had a scrum put-in around mid-field. After multiple penalties, Fairfield worked themselves down to the 20 where the Red Ruggers found an overlap out wide and raced in for the try. Unfortunately, the referee called a forward pass eight meters from the tryline disallowing the score. Middlebury held and escaped with it’s third win of the season.
“It was not a pretty game,” Middlebury head coach Pete Sickle said. “Neither side was able to mount much coordinated attack. Too many dropped balls, penalties, and some scruffy exchanges off the ball. Fairfield had nothing fancy on attack. Came straight at us and demanded we stop them again and again. We played far below our level and let Fairfield stay in the contest right until the very end.” Adam Markun was the impact player of the match for the Panthers scoring two tries in the second half by using his speed on the wing.
In the last game, the Pilgrims of NEC blasted Albany for 12 tries as the Danes hardly put up a fight in route to an 82-6 victory. Isaiah Lopez scored a hat trick, and Gavin Devine (2), Cathal Finneran, Daryl Wilson, Will Darbouze, Zach Hall, Malik Wilbon, Carlos Arteaga, and Christian Nepa each scored for NEC in the stampede.