This weekend the Amherst boys traveled down to Hartford to face off against the Hartford University Hawks. The large campus, stellar facilities, and 40 plus member Hartford squad were an imposing sight for Amherst, who was traveling with weak numbers. The absence of veteran Thomas Burnett at outside center meant that rookie freshman Julian Scott would start his first game for Amherst. Rookie prop Chris McHale was also out for the weekend, giving sophomore rookie Tim Poterba the start.
During warm-ups it was made evident that while Hartford had numbers and size (their pack must have outweighed the Amherst pack by a few hundred pounds), they also seemed to have weak ball handling skills. It was obvious that Hartford would rely on their massive pack in a straightforward contest of strength and physicality.
Amherst received the kickoff and immediately kicked the ball deep into the Hartford 22. With forward momentum the Amherst forwards initially rolled over the larger pack, advancing with scoring intent. The shocked Hartford pack responded the charge by conceding a penalty. Although the penalty attempt was missed, the Hartford team was clearly shaken by the aggressiveness of the Amherst forwards.
The rest of the first half was marked by great build up in the backs that put the Amherst forwards in scoring position. But poor handling in contact saved Hartford time and time again as the ball was repeatedly knocked on. With so many stoppages, the Amherst scrum was really put to the test as they faced the larger Hartford scrum. But despite the size difference Amherst held their own, winning all of their own put-ins and on occasion driving the Hartford forwards back.
Near the end of the half, Amherst scored from a penalty in front of the posts kicked by back’s captain Nicolas Parada. With a majority of ball possession and field territory, the Amherst squad could well have been winning by a couple tries, but the half ended with Amherst leading by just 3-0.
At halftime energy was still high despite the brutal and slow pace of the game. Thumping tackles and mauls left both sides physically drained, giving the rookies a true baptism of fire, the likes of which can only offered by the game of rugby.
At the start of the second half Hartford scored off of a bit of loose play at half field, easily beating the last man with a 2 on 1. The conversion was missed, making the score 5-3.
Amherst surged back 10 minutes later after patiently working the ball through the backs, crashing with the forwards, and then spinning the ball out again. Outside center Julian Scott supported veteran center McCoy where a precise offload allowed him to skip through the Hartford defense and set up a ruck inside the 22.
Unfortunately, Amherst knocked on once again and conceded a scrum. But the relentless pressure had the Hartford forwards exhausted. The frustrated Amherst pack hit the scrum hard, forcing the ball to squeeze out the back of the Hartford side, where Amherst scrumhalf Jon Christian “JC” Evensen scooped and scored in the corner. With a nasty crosswind and hostile crowd behind him, Parada added the extras in style, silencing the rabble. Amherst now led 10-5, but with plenty of time left for Hartford to equalize.
The final 15 minutes of the match saw Amherst pinned on their own goal line. The Hartford forwards crashed and mauled the ball towards the line for what seemed like an eternity, but the Amherst defensive line held strong. Prop Joe Moffit led the defense with a manic aggression that left more the one Hartford player rolling on the pitch. With not a single ounce of energy left, Amherst was relieved by Hartford’s indiscipline at the breakdown. The ball was cleared and the final whistle sounded, releasing a chorus of groans from the Hartford sideline, and jubilation from the other. With a final score of 10-5 Amherst is now 2-0 on the season.
Congrats to the whole team and the rookies in particular on a hard fought victory away from home.
This Saturday Amherst hopes to go 3-0 against a strong Eastern Connecticut State team at home. Kick off 11:00 AM.