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Princeton rugby's coaches and seniors following the match at Rutgers. Photo Credit: Princeton rugby

On Saturday, the men’s Princeton Rugby Football Club traveled to New Brunswick to take on Rutgers in a spirited local affair. Having not played for the last few years, the teams were looking to rekindle the local rivalry between these two teams, and the game lived up to the hype.

The Scarlet Knights took an early lead entering halftime up 14–0. The Tigers dominated much of the territory in the first half forcing Rutgers to play from deep in their half constantly. The Scarlet Knights were able to break out well with their outside center on the edges, creating problems for the Princeton defense. The Tigers had several opportunities to score that they were unable to convert.

The second half saw Princeton turning the pressure it applied in the first half into points. Off a Rutgers penalty, the Tigers began to run the ball in tight, pushing towards the Scarlet Knights’ goal line. A dive over the line from one meter out put Princeton on the board. The Tigers kept the pressure going and a break from senior openside flanker Benjamin Hildenbrand followed by a fantastic offload to sophomore outside center Bascombe Traywick saw the sophomore cross the line and pull Princeton to a tie game.

The Scarlet Knights scored next off a nice kick and chase to retake the lead, but a missed conversion left it at 17–12. In a move they had been working on just this week, Princeton had a pop from the base of its scrum to sophomore number eight Justice Chukwuma who danced and crashed his way through the Rutgers’ defense to tie the game before a conversion from junior wing Mike Hallee gave Princeton the lead. A try from senior blindside flanker Jamie Denham iced the game and gave the Tigers a 24–17 victory.

Part of the inspiration for the two teams getting together this year was in honor of the 150th anniversary of the first “football” game between Rutgers and Princeton, won by the Scarlet Knights 6–4. The two teams played again a week later at Princeton where the Tigers won 8–0. The games played then largely resembled a more savage form of rugby as the players wore no padding, much like today’s rugby players. The true celebration of this anniversary will come when Princeton football takes on Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9, but for these two teams, it was an experience that they will not forget, paying homage to the origins of football.

Denham had the following to say on playing the game: “This was a game that we were looking forward to all summer. We also wore a new throwback striped uniform, with a gold ‘1869’ on our right chest to honor this historic moment. Like the original game 150 years ago, our match against Rutgers was hard-fought and close-scoring, except this time Princeton came out on top. It was a tremendous reflection of effort and sportsmanship from both teams; I think both sides recognized the historic nature of this game.”

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