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In Hanover, NH Saturday, Navy escaped with a 23-22 victory over Dartmouth. In a game that saw several lead changes, Navy managed to get the final blow, earning a date with Clemson in the round of eight.
Navy controlled the game early and looked as though it might run away with the contest. The Midshipmen placed intense defensive pressure on the Big Green early, and after forcing a knock on, took a 5-0 lead. Jack McAuliffe added a penalty and a drop goal to extend the lead to 11-0.
“Our forwards were really dominant and we were able to keep the ball in our hands,” Navy coach Mike Flanagan said of the early stages of the match.
Dartmouth hung tough with a bigger Navy side, however, keeping the deficit at 11 for most of the first half. After spending a number of minutes inside the Navy 22, the home side was rewarded with a man advantage. Off an ensuing lineout Dartmouth mauled its way over the try line to go into halftime trailing 11-5.
The second half opened with a miscue for Navy, but the Midshipmen withstood Dartmouth pressure until a scrum at midfield. A piece of individual brilliance from former track star John Abraham opened the scoring in the second half. Abraham took a pass from the scrum and scampered down the sideline for a try. Dartmouth missed the conversion but led 12-11.
Max Parker, at the other wing position, extended the lead after great phase play from the home side. Parker dotted down in the corner to increase the lead to 17-11.
“There scores were a typical Dartmouth kind of game,” Flanagan said of Dartmouth. “They get the ball out in space and support the runner well.”
Navy showed great resilience, immediately following up the Dartmouth score with a try of its own to take the lead, 18-17. The visitors used their strong pack once again to take a pick-and-go over the goal line.
“Our scores were typical to us, I suppose. They came from our forwards, some big strong guys working around the goal line,” added Flanagan.
Former Dartmouth football player Steve Dazzo regained the lead after fielding a line drive kick and breaking two tackles to score a try in the corner. At this point, Dartmouth led 22-18.
Once again, Navy responded quickly, pounding in a forwards try to take 23-22 lead. The Navy defense did not crack anymore, and the visitors got out of Hanover with the narrow victory.
“They got together in goal and looked at each other and said we are playing for 80 more minutes of Rugby,” Flanagan said of his team. “They wanted it pretty badly, fought and clawed all the way down the field and scored.”
Ultimately, this was a game of contrasting styles. The smaller but skilled Dartmouth side went to toe to toe with an aggressive and stronger Navy team. Flanagan indicated that this match could have very easily gone in favor of the hosts.
“Dartmouth played really well. That was the best game Dartmouth has ever played against us.”