FARMINGTON – Winning seems to be contagious these last two weeks in sports and helping the University of Maine at Farmington claim its bragging rights lately has been the men’s rugby team.
The general consensus going in to last Saturday’s game on the 20th against University of New Hampshire was that it would be “a brawl,” “a slug-fest,” or what is more commonly known to the public as, “a hard fought match.” UNH decimated UMF’s lacking roster the previous fall, hinting that our boys shouldn’t travel to their state again unless they have their starters on the bus and a tad more game plan.
This time it was our home-field advantage, and we proudly displayed our real grass in front of the old train trestle that marks the rugby pitch in Farmington. Despite the amount of experience on the team and the unheard numbers that show up for practice, the team knew that a win was well within our grasp, but they would have to fight in order to get it.
The game was scheduled for 2 p.m. but got pushed back due to an extended match between UMF and UNH women’s rugby teams. This game was hard fought on both sides, but UNH came out the victor after pushing past Farmington’s weaker line of defense and scoring a handful of tries (goals). However, because this was UMF women’s first game, the experience of simply being out on the field and having an aggressive opponent was clearly etched on every girl’s face walking off the pitch.
The bumps and bruises they received would certainly remind them later of a job well done and a fight fought hard.
Once the women’s teams limped off the field, the men’s teams jogged on, fresh and ready to play some rugby. UMF was conscious of one threat in particular: UNH’s fly-half Andrew Briers, who could drop-kick a ball in between two posts at the drop of a hat. Although a drop-kick is only worth 3 points compared to a try’s 7 (try=5 + extra points kick=2), it can prove to be the difference between a win and a loss.
UNH scored early in the match, which quickly put them on the board and rewarded them for their aggressive start and urgency with the ball. However, instead of despairing over the sudden situation UMF found itself in, the team responded to the Wildcats with good rugby where two things in
particular were focused on: quality rucking and clean passes between the backs. As long as we could keep the possession of the ball with this reinforced rucking, while simultaneously completing all the passes, UMF realized they could out-play their opponents from across Maine’s border.
Although UNH has a group of strong and able athletes, UMF’s experience took advantage of the less-than-nimble hands of “UNH Wildcat Machine.” Twice UNH found itself on the brink of scoring only to fumble and lose the ball to our forces. Three times Farmington pushed past the opposing ranks without crumbling, and each time touched the ball down for a try. However, it wouldn’t take long for UNH to make things interesting by sliding in for an additional try.
Throughout the game UMF was unsure whether they had been able to maintain their lead after a few missed extra-point opportunities, and after watching Briers knock in an impressive field-goal, the team was at the least skeptical. As the ref’s whistle ended the match, there was no simultaneous celebration until the final score was quickly settled and UMF dubbed victorious; the score was 20-15, the good guys.
It had been an intense game for both teams, and the hard fight was paid off by the proud walk back to the sideline where the ever-faithful fans stood in applause. It was a good day for Farmington sports, for the losing team drove out of Maine over the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge knowing that they had faced a much better team, as well one that was much different from the year before.
UMF vs. Bowdoin
The UMF men’s rugby team recently had another victory this past weekend, where they drove down to Bowdoin to play 80 minutes of rugby. The first half was lousy for UMF in particular, where they failed to do three things: win the scrum downs, get the ball successfully to their wings on the outside, and succinctly ruck against the hard-hitting Bowdoin front line. However, after an explosive second half from the Beavers led them to a 39-21 final score with the implementation of solid rugby.
The next game in the area that fans will want to catch is Oct. 11, when UMF plays their largest rival UMO, here in Farmington. Currently number 2 in the conference, UMF hopes to win this particular because it will help decide whether UMF will be able to host another game at home—but this time it would be for the play-offs!
I would like to thank the fans we have see out their already this year, and also encourage as many people as possible to come down and be a spectator at the game, especially if you have never actually seen a rugby match played out. Generally, people don’t know what is going on at first (so don’t feel bad), but everyone walks away with their adrenaline pumping and a new-found respect for a sport they knew little about before. So give it a try!