Tigers fall to Dartmouth in Ivy League semifinals
Take out the first 15 minutes of the match, and the men's club rugby team may very well have advanced to the Ivy League Championship game on Saturday. Against a perennial powerhouse team like Dartmouth, generally recognized as the top dog in Ivy League rugby, however, one cannot afford to start the game off slowly. Dartmouth won the match 29-12, but it was far closer than the score indicated — after letting in two soft tries in the first 15 minutes, Princeton was outscored just 15-12 and won the second half 12-8.
“We came out scared and overwhelmed for no reason,” senior fly-half Phil Halsey said. “Dartmouth is the only team which that happens for. Dartmouth is far and away the best team in the Ivy League, and we have this attitude whenever we play them that we respect them way too much.”
After losing 50-3 just a year prior, Princeton improved upon its performance against a Dartmouth team that was the heavy favorite to win the league. After a sluggish start, the Tigers proved to be worthy competitors for the Big Green.
"Once we got our heads in the game and played our own brand of rugby, it was a much closer contest," freshman winger Michael Rice said.
"We feel as though if we had played that way for the entire match, the result might have been different,” Rice added.
Princeton may have lacked the star power of Dartmouth’s fullback Madison Hughes, an All-America winger who scored a try and kicked all the Big Green’s goals, but the Tigers got contributions across the board. One player who picked up the slack in the second half was junior hooker Chris Hamm, who scored both of Princeton’s tries. Sophomore fullback William Hicks converted one of the tries, and senior winger Ivan Camponogara had a few long runs that put the Tigers in Big Green territory. Rice also contributed key touches throughout the game.
Though those performances were not enough to get them to the next round of the Ivy tournament, the Princeton team will look to build on the loss going forward. Rice thinks the team can learn from its slow start and continue to improve.
“We learned our lesson, and we’ll be better from it next year,” Rice said.
Their season, however, is not over yet. Next week Princeton will take on Penn, the loser of the other semifinal to Brown, to decide third place in the Ivy League. The teams know each other well, as this will be the third time this season Princeton has played Penn. The sides drew their first game 33-33, with Princeton winning their next matchup 17-10.
“Apparently, they just picked up two new ex-football players, which will be interesting to watch out for,” Halsey said. “They have really good line speed, and we also just have to come out strong and hit them hard from the beginning.”
The game will almost certainly be a close one, but the Tigers feel they will have the edge after facing a squad as tough as the Big Green. Rice acknowledged that Princeton may have gotten “caught up in the Dartmouth hype” and underperformed in the beginning of the semifinal but is confident that the same will not be true when Princeton plays a team it knows as well as Penn.
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