On Saturday, March 30, the Old Methodist Rugby Football Club hosted its very first Rugby Sevens tournament. Five teams participated this weekend: Keene State University, Nichols College, Trinity, Amherst, and Wes. After an up-and-down rugby season last semester for the Old Methodist RFC, tensions were high as they prepared for a clean slate and a new opportunity.
Rugby Sevens is played on a full-sized rugby pitch with a team less than half the size of a standard squad. The more intimate roster size gives the game an increased level of excitement and dramatic action. However, it also pushes the players to the limit of their abilities and fitness.
The first match of the day for the Cardinals was against Trinity. The Bantams play in a more competitive Rugby 15s league, proving to be a strong opponent posing a tough match. However, thanks to two nifty tries by Casimir Fulleylove-Golob ’21, the Old Methodists were leading 10-7 with less than three minutes left to go, giving Trinity a run for their money. After an unlucky turnover on Trinity’s own 22, Wesleyan could not stop Trinity’s formidable offense from fighting its way downfield for a game-winning try in the closing seconds of the match.
The next match was against Little Three rival Amherst. There were few key injuries that hampered the Wesleyan team, but they were able to climb back into the match with a try by captain Pete Ryan ’19 to bring the score to 10-10. A controversial penalty was awarded late in the game to Amherst, and the fatigued Red and Black did their absolute best before conceding another crucial try, and lost the match in the dying moments of the game.
The plucky Wesleyan team had a stroke of luck as Amherst lost their next game, giving the Old Methodists another shot to redeem themselves. Amherst possessed an early lead thanks to an unlucky bounce for the Wesleyan side, but a failed conversion put them up 5-0. This gave the lads the fire in the belly they needed and immediately Ryan ran in the kickoff the whole length of the pitch, passing it off to Krzys Nizielski ’20 due to an unfortunate pulled hamstring. Fulleylove-Golob scored the conversion and thanks to a foolish penalty by Amherst, was able to score again with a sneaky try to give Wesleyan a 12-5 lead. Amherst could not keep up with the increasingly explosive Wesleyan team and Kush Sharma ’18 and Will Dempsey ’19 both scored quick tries. Another score from Fulleylove-Golob gave Wesleyan a final score of 29-5, a fantastic effort after two close losses.
This well-deserved victory gave the Cardinals an aggregate score of 39-22 against Amherst. Wesleyan made it to the battle for third place in the final against Nichols College. Injuries had taken a toll at this point, as Ryan and Abe Slavin ’20 were both sidelined with injuries. Wesleyan scored quickly thanks to a superb run by Nathaniel Mathieu ’20, but the Nichols side quickly pushed to a 26-5 lead with greater experience and luck. Ben Diamond ’20 scored a dramatic try in the corner in a last ditch effort to push back and with a clean conversion by veteran scrum-half Dempsey, finishing the match at 26-12.
Though not a perfect tournament, the Old Methodist Rugby Football Club should be proud of themselves with a very respectable 11 tries scored in total and a strong victory against a long-time rival Amherst. Many players scored for the Old Methodists, Sharma taking two and Ryan, Diamond, Mathieu, Dempsey, and Nizielski scoring one each. But it was Fulleylove-Golob who happened to be one of the standout players of the tournament. He scored four tries across four matches and converted some vital tries which helped give Wesleyan an edge in some close games.
The rugby event will happen this weekend on Sunday, April 8, where the Red and Black will be competing at the Holy Cross Tournament.
Jacques Slaughter can be reached at email@example.com.