Welcome to a new season of rugby with the DWRC! We opened the season with a big change in our tour plans, but we turned our disappointment into a great spring tour.
Our original plan had been to take a trip to Ireland over our spring break, but the recent outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in England caused the Irish government to discourage any outdoor activities. A little over a week before tour was scheduled to begin, the team decided to get our plane tickets refunded and take a bus down the U.S. east coast to Orlando instead.
A lot of last-minute planning (some of it while we were actually on tour) paid off, and we set off from Hanover on March 14. The long drive to Maryland was broken up by a yummy dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse in Philadelphia, courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Pope.
We started for Savannah, GA the next day for their annual St. Patrick's Day rugby tournament -- named "The" St. Patrick's Day Rugby Tournament. Games in the tournament had 25-minute halves. We played our first two games on March 16, in weather so hot we were tempted to cut the sleeves off of our jerseys. Our first-round game resulted in a loss against the South Seniors, but we came back to win our second-round game against Stony Brook.
The South Seniors team is a representative side, which means that the players were selected from different club side rugby teams around the south (i.e., an All-Star regional team). The DWRC found some kinks to work out in the first game of the season, as the Seniors took the game by a score of 48-0.
In the game against Stony Brook, Dartmouth fared better, winning 26-0. Five minutes into the game, flyhalf Abby Berniker '03 touched down the first try of the game for Dartmouth off of a pass from scrumhalf AmyLynne Frankel '03 out of the back of a scrum. The second try of the game was touched down by center Bridget Waitkus '02 off of a play in the back line, and Berniker kicked through the conversion.
In the second half of the Stony Brook game, wing Catherine Dale '04 scored her first A-side try, and then added another in the same game. Berniker made both of the conversions on the tries.
The next game was on March 18, after a day off for St. Patrick's Day. Our third and final game in the tournament pitted us against the University of Wisconsin -- La Crosse. The DWRC gained a second victory, winning 15-10.
The match against La Crosse was much more even than either of Friday's games, and the DWRC seemed to be getting back into the rugby state of mind. In the first half, flanker Stephanie Babbidge '01 scored the first try of the game with an assist by Waitkus, who had carried the ball down the field and broken several tackles to get the ball by the tryzone. Berniker kicked through the conversion. Near the end of the half, Dartmouth gained a penalty near the tryzone, and Berniker went for the three point conversion to put the score at 10-0. Aided by penalties, La Crosse managed to push through the Dartmouth defense at the very end of the half, making the halftime score 10-5.
In the second half, prop Karin Ljungquist '02 put in a try for the DWRC in the middle of the half, skirting the defense after a lineout near the tryzone. La Crosse managed to tally the last score of the game with about 10 minutes left to play, a try that was also helped by penalties against Dartmouth.
We spent the next few days in Orlando, FL, where our main goal was to practice and improve our rugby. On our last day in Florida, we practiced at the same fields we will be playing at in April for the National Tournament.
Our next games were on the evening of March 22, when we faced both the Cape Fear club side and Smith College at a pitch in Wilmington, NC. The DWRC was victorious in both games (which were 30 minutes apiece), winning both by a score of 29-0.
Against Smith, the first try was touched down in the first few minutes of play by Berniker after a scrumdown. She also made the conversion. Dale scored a try for Dartmouth not long after, and Berniker kicked through the conversion. The next two tries were both touched down by Waitkus, as she burst through the Smith defense both times to get to the tryzone. The last score of the game was a result of an pickup by 8-man Johanna Willer '04; the pickup resulted in a ruck just in front of the tryline, and Willer picked up the ball again and crossed the tryline to score.
In the game against Cape Fear, fullback Sara Jane Carpenter '03 touched down the first try of the game for Dartmouth not long after play had begun. Wing Elisse Gaynor '03 put down the next try for the DWRC after running the ball down the sideline, and Waitkus scored the third try of the game. Flanker Sarah Foy '01 converted Waitkus' try. Gaynor scored again soon after, and near the end of the game, Foy touched down a try of her own and kicked through the conversion.
On March 24, we played our last two rugby games of tour in extremely windy conditions at the tip of Hanes Point in Washington, D.C. (Our games explain the sharp increase of the presence of rugby balls in the Potomac.) Dartmouth faced both the Washington D.C. Furies, a club side, and the American University team. Dartmouth lost both games, 17-14 and 16-12 respectively, but the team showed much improvement from the beginning of tour.
The first half of the Furies game ended with the Furies ahead 10-0, from two unconverted tries. In the second half, Waitkus pushed through the defense into the tryzone, and Berniker converted to put the DWRC on the scoreboard. The Furies answered back with a try and conversion, but Dartmouth battled to the end. Waitkus was able to break through for another try and Berniker scored another conversion, putting the final score at 17-14.
The game against American University started off with American kicking for points twice in the first half. However, flanker Amanda Behm '04 was able to touch down a try off of a beautiful run by Gaynor up the field, and Waitkus converted to end the half ahead, 7-6. In the second half, American kicked for points once again to regain the lead. They followed the kick with a try and conversion to put the score at 16-7. Waitkus touched down a try near the end of the game, but it wasn't enough to gain the win.
We finished up tour with a day in D.C. and a huge dinner at the Ennis household. In all, it was an amazing tour. We had a great time, improved our rugby skills, and bonded as a team. Even though it was last minute, everything seemed to work out beautifully, thanks to the tireless efforts of our tour planners. Thanks to all of the friends and family who supported us and made this tour a possibility, including our awesome bus driver Jack.