Men’s Rugby ends season one game shy of Nationals, Women finish in semifinal round of Beast of the East tournament

Kevin Ahn and Matt He

Photo courtesy of Colby Rugby

Of the many teams on campus, few have two full seasons. Two that do are the men’s and women’s rugby teams, who are currently nearing the end, or have just ended, their spring seasons. Unlike the fall, the spring presents an opportunity for these teams to play a different style of rugby, known as sevens. As the name would suggest, this style of rugby includes only seven players per team on the field at a given time, rather than the typical 15 per side. As freshman Mack Fisher explained, “It’s a brutal game, even if you’re only playing for one half its so easy to get fatigued and tired, since only 7 guys are covering a huge field”. While the men’s team focuses solely on sevens, the women participated in both sevens and 15s tournaments this spring.

This past weekend, the Colby men’s rugby team made its way down to Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts to compete for a spot in the National sevens Tournament. As freshman Mack Fisher explained, “It’s a brutal game, even if you’re only playing for one half its so easy to get fatigued and tired, since only 7 guys are covering a huge field”.

Colby got a strong start to the tournament, crushing Merrimack 29–10. Sophomore Aidan Cyr was able to break away for two stunning tries. Other tries were scored by Ben Shapiro ’20, Griffin Stevens ’19, and Aidan Larned ’21. After a satisfying but tiring first game, Colby went up against Salve Regina, a tough team that was ranked second in the nation in the 15s season by National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO). Colby put up a tough fight, scoring in the last play but still losing 22–19. Colby also had to deal with a tough loss, as Eli French ’20 suffered an ankle injury. Now out of pool play, Colby went on to play Babson, the host team, in the quarterfinals. Babson put up a valiant fight, scoring in the last play. Colby was able to hold off Babson though, pulling out a win 19–15. The next game was a rematch from an earlier sevens tournament hosted by Colby. Seeded number one overall, University of Maine Orono (UMO) struggled to keep up with Colby’s speed, and ended up losing 19–10. “UMO had a lot of really strong and big guys, but we’ve got some really fast kids on our team like Aidan Cyr [’20] and JC [Magnotto ’20],” Fisher commented. “At the end of the day we just had to look for holes in their defense, and there was no way they could catch up to us. Keeping possession of the ball was key.” Colby came into the final matchup against Salve Regina with a lot of momentum. Colby received the kickoff, and kept possession of the ball the majority of the first few minutes, getting the ball down near the try zone twice without scoring. After two failed try attempts, Salve Regina capitalized on their opportunities, handily winning the game 22–7.

Notable performances included Captain Drew Ladner ’19 and John Steenrod ’20, who were relentless workhorses with numerous big plays. Magnotto and Cyr had great breaks to help Colby advance. Playing at positions nine and ten, Stevens and Shapiro were the glue that held Colby together. Reflecting on the tournament, Ladner had this to say about the team, “In a season with guys have never played sevens and some who didn’t even get much time in 15s, we still won two tournaments and were one game away from nationals. To be where we are now vs what we were in Jan Plan is an incredible feat. Now we work toward 15s. We’ve seen what we can be when we play our game and we’re getting back juniors from abroad and new recruits come in the fall.”

On April 14 and 15, Women’s Rugby participated in an annual 15s tournament known as “Beast of the East.” Participating in the Women’s Second Division, the Mules had a strong showing against teams from across the Northeast. In their first match of pool play, the Mules rolled through Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a dominant 34–0 victory. In similar fashion, Colby finished out the pool play against Hofstra University with another large victory gap of 50–0. With these two victories in hand, the women advanced on the second day to bracket play with hopes of winning the championship. In the quarterfinals, the Mules were pitted against local rival UMaine Orono, and were able to pull out a third victory, winning 34–7 against the Black Bears. Unfortunately, Colby was unable to win their game against SUNY Albany, losing in the semifinals 45–7. SUNY Albany advanced to win the entire tournament.

This past weekend, the women’s team participated in a sevens tournament hosted by Bowdoin. This was the first time that the women had played a sevens season since 2015. Unfortunately, the Mules did not have as strong a showing at this tournament as they did at Beast of the East; tying two matches and losing the other two. Despite this, the team was encouraged by their performance, as team member Emma Hofman ’20 noted: “we were all pretty satisfied with how we did considering we had a total of three practices in preparation for sevens.” Considering the fact that sevens rugby can seem like an entirely different game than 15s,the women’s results certainly are impressive.

Unlike the men’s team, the women are not done with their season just yet. This weekend, the team will play in another annual 15s tournament, the Maine States Tournament, where they will look to take home a championship win.