On Saturday September 12, Michigan rugby hit the road and traveled to South Bend, Indiana to face-off against Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish. Although it was the second annual match between the two teams to compete for the DeHaven & Harless Memorial Trophy, this would be the first full game actually played due to last year’s severe thunderstorm that the gods rained down upon us less than 10 minutes into the first game. Fortunately it was a beautiful day for rugby, and two full matches were played without any electricity falling from the sky. Play was mostly Michigan’s own half for the start of the game until 6 and a half minutes in, when Notre Dame was awarded a penalty after Michigan did not roll away in a ruck at the 22. Notre Dame elected to kick for points and the kicker bounced it off the inside of the post to make it in. Notre Dame leads 0-3. Just 3 minutes later Michigan would take the lead after a break lead by Andre Cargill would allow Tohy Rakatovololona to score around the outside and cut back inside to touch the ball down between the posts. Tohy converts and the score is 7-3. On the following kickoff Cargill makes another huge break and offloads to Tohy who looks as though he might score again, but is caught from behind at the 22. After quite a few phases of trying to get the ball in again, Michigan gave up possession because of a penalty. Notre Dame kicked for touch, but unfortunately for them Michigan was dominant on line outs, and Jesse Fenno stole the ball right back, one of many that day. So many in fact, that I would go so far as to call him a line out kleptomaniac. Michigan held onto the ball and got it to Andre Cargill who broke around the outside and made a 50 meter break for a try, getting some excellent turf burn in the process. Tohy converts the kick and the score is 14-3. 25 minutes in, David Caputo received a yellow card for a dump tackle in some wing on wing action. Michigan would have to play a man down for the next 10 minutes. No more than a minute after the card Notre Dame pounded in a try with some lumbering play from the forwards. The conversion is good and 14-10. With only 7 minutes left in the first half, Notre Dame gets a lucky try when Tohy goes for a kick, but unfortunately he kicks it directly into the rear end of inside center Cole Van Harn. The ball deflects up into the air and right into the hands of a Notre Dame back who makes a 50 meter run untouched to score a try and take the lead. The conversion is good and Notre Dame is up 14-17. With time running out in the first half, Michigan was awarded a free kick near the Notre Dame 22 after a high tackle. Rather than kick for points and tie it up, Tohy does a quick tap and sends it wide where the ball makes its way into the hands of Matt Kasten on the wing. Kasten soars around the edge with ease and Michigan picks up 7 points to take the lead at half 21-17.
In the second half the Wolverines came out with guns blazing, and fitness was largely a factor. The first try of the half came from Cole Van Harn when he read the offense and intercepted a pass for a quick and easy try. The conversion is missed, Michigan leads 26-17. It wasn’t long before Tohy got another try for himself after he made a break with his signature steps and speed off of a lineout. Tohy kicks the conversion and Michigan storms ahead 33-17. Notre Dame looked to retaliate though, and big break down the wing. After a few phases in Michigan’s end they were able to find a small gap in the defense and get the try. The kick is good but Michigan leads 33-24. 30 minutes into the second half Cole Van Harn got his second interception and ran 50 meters for his second try. Tohy converts and Michigan leads 40-24. Notre Dame wasn’t out yet though as a penalty for not releasing near Michigan’s own try zone followed by a diving over penalty gave Notre Dame the advantage they needed to smash in a try. The conversion was good, score 40-31, but the floodgates were just about to open. With 10 minutes left in the game, Cole Van Harn got his third try of the game by breaking the line, getting tackled and rucking himself, then shedding two tackles before being tackled into the try zone. Tohy made an excellent kick and the score was 47-31. With 4 minutes left of play, fly half Tohy and wing Matt Kasten executed a beautiful cross field kick, one that would be one of the most beautiful plays I have ever witnessed in the game of rugby. I would describe it, but I cannot with mere words. Rather, I implore you to go to 4:08 in the highlight video below, or 1:19:30 in the full video of the match. Tohy makes yet another conversion and the score is 54-31. With 30 seconds left in the game Chening Duker noodles his way through some tired defenders to score some more points. 61-31. On the final kickoff, Michigan received the ball and Andre Cargill made a fantastic break and tore his way through the Notre Dame defense from one side of the field to the other, breaking and dodging tackles the entire time before getting brought down 15 meters short of the try line. Michigan wasn’t finished yet, though. Cole Van Harn scored his 4th try of the game by lowering his shoulder and charging through tackles to make the try. Tohy Converts and the final score is 68-31.
Full Game Film:
Michigan Vs. Notre Dame A-Side
Following the strong performance by the A side, the Academy side took the field with an air of confidence. Notre Dame fielded the opening kick-off and proceeded to move the ball all the way down to the try line, but Michigan was determined not to let them score. Michigan played great try line defense, eventually forcing a penalty on Notre Dame to get possession back. After 5 minutes of open rugby and a near try by David Caputo, which was called back on a penalty, Fly-Half Tomer Chen takes the ball after a 5 meter scrum and trucks his defender on the try line to score. Guy “Buddy” Burke misses the conversion and the score is 5-0 UMRFC. Notre Dame ends up with the ball after the restart, but ends up knocking it on at their 10 meter line. Smelling blood and upset that his first try was called back, Fullback David Caputo takes the ball after a few passes outside of the scrum and scores a try. Buddy Burke hits the upright on the conversion and it fails to bounce in, 10-0 UMRFC. Both teams trade possession for 10 minutes until 8-man Nick Mattes makes a line break and offloads nicely to center Colin Walters who runs by the Notre Dame back line for a try. Buddy Burke’s gypsy curse strikes again as he just barely misses the conversion, 15-0 UMRFC. The half ends with UMRFC in a comfortable 15-0 lead. 10 minutes into the second half, Michigan and Notre Dame trade possession multiple times inside of Notre Dame’s 22 before Freshman Flanker Will Biel scores his first try as a wolverine on a pick-and-go. Buddy finally paid off that gypsy and knocks the conversion home, 22-0 UMRFC. Notre Dame finally breaks Michigan’s defense and scores a try in the 55th minute, but that was all they got as the game ends with UMRFC securing the game 22-5. It was a great weekend for Michigan rugby.
Academy report wrtiten by Alex Carson
September 21, 2015