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Dartmouth shocked Penn State with a 30-25 victory in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Led by flyhalf Dawit Workie, the Big Green played an extremely clinical game to come away with the victory.
Penn State opened the scoring with a penalty but prop Will McNamara earned the games first try for Dartmouth. Center Will Konstant intercepted a pass and a few phases later the prop found his way over. With the conversion, Dartmouth led 7-3.
Both Will’s are new to rugby from the Dartmouth football program. Although they both only have a handful of rugby games under their belts, both had solid performances and contributed to the win.
“We have a fantastic relationship with our football program here. We are pretty close with both teams and I think we are going to align the two programs together. We love getting these football players, starting with a blank canvas and trying to coach some rugby into them. They are great athletes, they buy in, they learn very quickly. That relationship is so important to us,” said Dartmouth Coach Gavin Hickie.
Dartmouth added to its lead with a penalty a few minutes later. Disciplinary issues plagued Penn State all day and in this instance saw a player sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. Despite being down a player, however, the Nittany Lions evened the score with a try from Chris Burian.
The hosts retook the lead thanks to a well-executed kick from Workie. The flyhalf sent a kick up in the air and back rower Hayden Aldridge ran underneath it. Arthur Sants was the beneficiary a few phases later for a 15-10 halftime lead.
Jimmy Ronan added his second penalty for PSU to cut the lead to 15-13. However, the Nittany Lions yielded a try to winger Andrew Zhu in the corner to make the difference a converted try. Things went from bad to worse for PSU, as it had a player sent off for a deliberately late hit on Workie.
Workie bounced back from the hit to set up teammate Struan Coleman. The flyhalf was coming off a hip injury and was just getting back into form for this match.
“Dawit is a class act. Every player that has had the opportunity to play with him here at Dartmouth knows that. I’ve known that for a long time,” Hickie said of Workie. “He needs to be consistent in his high standard. What is really pleasing from our point of view is he is really starting to deliver on that.”
At 25-13 Penn State refused to quit, however, and despite being down a player, scored a well-worked team try. Discipline, however, cost the visitors once again. A high tackle resulted in a second yellow card forcing the Nittany Lions to play with 13 players for 10 minutes.
Dartmouth added another try to extend the lead to 30-20. Malcolm May dotted down for PSU late but the Big Green held on to win the match.
“We are very happy. I don’t think anybody really gave us a chance in this game. That is fine, we used that a little bit as fuel for ourselves,” said Hickie. “We were very confident going into this game, just very quietly being able to fly under the radar. We were confident that we could if we could execute what we were trying to do, we would come out on the good side of the score.”
The Big Green got inspiring performances from a couple of unexpected players. Along with the football players, Chris Banks played a tremendous game at hooker. Coming off a pair of ACL tears on the same leg, the former Junior All American played his first game in a couple years.
Dartmouth will take on the winner of BYU and Arizona State next weekend.