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Dartmouth has won the Ivy Rugby Conference every season since its formation in 2009, and since at least 2010, they’ve not lost a single 15s game in conference.
The team best poised to deliver the Big Green its first Ivy 15s loss in recent memory is Brown, which delivered Dartmouth its last Ivy loss of any kind in 7s a couple of seasons ago.
The Bears, like Dartmouth, are 2-0 following hugely lopsided losses to open the Ivy season, Dartmouth pounding Harvard 60-0 and Yale 69-0, and Brown beating Yale 34-0 and Harvard 55-5. They meet Saturday, and the result will go a long way in deciding the league table.
Last fall, a year after losing 107-5 to Dartmouth, Brown came closer to nipping the Big Green than any other Ivy team, falling by just seven, 24-17, at home. That result has shown the Bears that Dartmouth is beatable.
“I think it’s given the guys confidence,” said Brown coach David LaFlamme. “They realize that Dartmouth is attainable if they stick to what we do well.”
Saturday’s game is on Dartmouth’s home ground in Hanover, NH, where beating Dartmouth has proven nearly impossible. The Bears have some continuity on their side, though, as they return their coaching staff and the bulk of their starting roster, while Dartmouth has a new coach, Gavin Hickie, and is adjusting to the loss of several key play makers – Derek Fish, Paul Jarvis, Nate Brakeley, Will Mueller, Will Lehmann and Clark Judge.
“ We’ve been doing a lot of work the last couple of years of kind of trying to refine our systems and getting everyone on board to stick into that and it seems to have had some success,” said LaFlamme. “The area where we tend to struggle more than a place like Dartmouth is in the numbers. Our depth is not as deep as Dartmouth’s would be or has been in the past.
“We’re kind of the tortoise here in the race, kind of slowly slugging away and hopefully, at some point, we’ll get the program into an area where we can be a lot more competitive in the top part of the division.”
Brown relies heavily on the structured play of its pack, with the front row of Micah Baclig, Danny Levine-Spound and Everett Epstein leading the way. “They’ve kind of been the heart and soul of the pack and been playing very well,” LaFlamme said.
And if Brown is to pull of what would be the upset of the year so far, it’ll need flawless forwards play and total adherence to the system.
“The one thing I try to instill in them is that discipline and composure, so even when things start to go out of control, we kind of can reel it back in and work to get back within our structure,” said LaFlamme. “And when they do that, we’re successful, and when they don’t do that, we have negative results.”