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In East Coast Rugby Conference action AIC completed a perfect 6-0 season with a 45-20 victory over Middlebury in Springfield, Mass., Sunday. With the win, AIC earned its first ever ECRC conference title.
AIC opened the scoring through a Jihad Khabir try, and a successful conversion from Bryce Neff gave the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead. Seth Halliman made the game 12-0 before Middlebury cut the lead to 12-3.
AIC was without the services of All-American wing Christian Adams, thanks to a red card he received against Boston College two weeks ago. Not to fear, filling his place was Gavan D’amore-Morrison, who normally starts at flanker for the Yellow Jackets. D’Amore-Morrison spelled nicely, scoring twice and narrowly missing a third due to some confusion with the touchline. His first try of the game gave the Yellow Jackets a 17-3 lead.
“He’s a fantastic athlete,” AIC coach Josh Macy said of D’Amore-Morrison. “He took Christian Adams' spot out on the wing and he did a fantastic job defensively and offensively.”
Middlebury chipped away and was able to barge over right before halftime to go into the break down 17-10. Two penalties to AIC and one to Middlebury made the game 23-13 with 30 minutes left to play. However, AIC broke the game open in the second half with three more tries, as Khabir and D’Amore-Morrison both picked up their second scores. Mathew Jones added the third before Middlebury picked up a try. Scrumhalf Adrian Ray dotted down in the waning moments to seal the 45-20 victory.
The midfield pairing of Ray and Halliman proved to be dynamic all afternoon, but it was the work of the defense that sealed the victory. AIC focused on containing a potent Middlebury backline, and in particular, Jake Feury. “Middlebury is really strong out wide this year, but we did a good enough job pressuring the 10 with the forwards so that our midfield could focus on him and really shut him down,” Macy said.
The Yellow Jackets were able to slow down Middlebury thanks to tremendous effort in the scrum. Both AIC props, Jamal Hadley and Captain Skyler Adams, played tremendous games, disrupting Middlebury ball and winning numerous scrums against the head.
Overall, it was a solid victory for AIC, who is proud to be conference champion. “It is a good conference, with some really good coaches and good players," said Macy, "and this was the first time we won the conference, so we are very happy with it.”