Colby Men’s Rugby hosts conference finals

On Nov. 9, Colby Rugby faced off against Plymouth University for a chance to  reach the New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) conference final. This game is crucial to not only go to the NERFU finals, but also to continue in the race to regionals. 

The Mules started off strong. They booted the ball down the field while the fierce back line pressured the Plymouth State full back into fumbling the ball. Out of nowhere, Nate Goddu `21 recovered the ball and scored, his first try for Colby. Steven Ditzler `22 was a sharpshooter, attempting seven kicks and converting all of them. Most notably was the conversion of Goddu’s try. It was an impossible angle and an impressive range, unfazed, Ditzler kicked the ball through the middle of the posts and added two extra points on the board for Colby. 

A little later, in the first half, Aidan Cyr `20  decided to put the opposition on skates. Indeed, he picked up the ball from a scrum and juked his way around three defenders to score another try. With 13 minutes left, the Mules obtained a lineout inside Plymouth State’s territory. The ball was overthrown, but Demetrius Ramirez `20 caught the ball and ran it for another try. 

Shortly after, in a very similar situation, Colby controlled the lineout and passed the ball all the way down the line until it got in the hands of  Mack Fisher `21. At this point, Fisher turned on the afterburners and flew by Plymouth’s defensive line to score a try. 

Finally, with a minute left to play in the first half, Colby had possession within five yards of the try line. Scrum-half Will Bedingfield `22 saw an opening and drove through the Panthers’ defense to score another try. Colby’s defense was like a brick wall, keeping the Panthers scoreless in the first half. At half time, the score was 35-0 in favor of the Mules.

The second half started as the first half ended. After eight minutes of playtime, Cyr pulled something special out of his bag of tricks. Plymouth State was passing the ball to try to get space outside, but out of nowhere, Cyr intercepted the ball, ruan and danced his way to the try zone to make the score 42-0. Plymouth State, however, showed great heart and continued competing. 

Shortly after Colby’s try, their efforts were rewarded. They used their power to move closer and closer to the try zone and were able to score. With 15 minutes remaining, Plymouth State obtained a scrum close to Colby’s try zone. Their scrum had been dominating Colby’s all game, and they were able to take advantage of that by pushing their way for another try. Nevertheless the Mules pulled off an impressive 42-12 win over the Panthers. 

Colby head Coach Leo Lafaiali’i’s techniques worked like a charm. Colby used their quickness by kicking the ball repeatedly down the field and creating a lot of pressure on the Plymouth full back. Although the Panthers were dominating the scrum for most of the game, Colby used their fast defensive line speed to make tackles early and prevent momentum.

Colby moved on to the conference finals against Holy Cross University on Nov. 10, who beat the University of Maine Farmington 52-7. This was the Mules’ first trip to the championship game under Lafaiali’i, as they looked to cap off their historic, undefeated season by taking home the NERFU cup. Not only would the winner of this game be the NERFU conference champions, but their team would also earn a bye-week before playoffs, crucial for late season games when injuries are high. 

It was the second game of the doubleheader weekend for the Mules, and after routing the Plymouth State Panthers 42–12 the Mules set themselves up nicely to go into the championship game; however, this win came with the loss of lock Kyle Slager `20 and prop Goddu , along with multiple minor injuries that the squad would have to play with in the game against Holy Cross.

At 1:00 p.m. the Mules received the kickoff from Holy Cross and quickly went to work. After only eight minutes, a Colby scrum on the Holy Cross five meter line led to the first score of the day, a try touched down by Jamenard Exavier `22 in the far corner of the try zone. Ditzler, who held a 100% conversion rate, narrowly missed the kick from the seemingly impossible angle. The Mules were up 5–0 after eight and went back to work to add to their lead. Unfortunately, the Mules turned the ball over soon after the kick, leading to Holy Cross responding with their own try and conversion, putting them up 7–5 midway through the first half. Soon thereafter, Ramierz  touched down his own try which Ditzler converted to put the Mules up 12–7. To Colby’s dismay, Holy Cross was able to respond with their own try, tying the game at 12 just before half. The Crusaders potted a penalty kick, putting them up 15–12 going into halftime. 

After consulting with Coach Lafaiali’i, the Mules were reinvigorated to battle the next 40 minutes. With the help of several substitutions, both sides had fresh legs to compete for the glory of being NERFU champions. After a multitude of scrummages that led Colby into Holy Cross’ half of the field, the Mules were rewarded with a penalty that Ditzler  placed between the uprights to tie the game at fifteen. 

After 30 minutes of back and forth between the sides, the Mules found themselves in Crusader territory with a penalty. Coach Lafaiali’i opted for the team to take the kick, which Ditzler  nailed once again, putting the Mules up 18–15, with eight minutes left in the match. All the Mules had to do was hold back Holy Cross until time was up. Unfortunately, the Mules were unable to control the kickoff and Holy Cross took over in Colby’s half of the field. The Mules battled in ruck after ruck, keeping the Crusaders from advancing past the 22. Two untimely penalties gave Holy Cross the opportunity to touch down the game ending, and winning, try, but the Mules held them up time and time again. 

Eventually the Mules received a scrummage in their favor which looked to lock up the game. All they had to do was secure the ball in this scrum and kick the ball out, they were unable to do just that. The Holy Cross scrum took away the ball and picked the ball into the try zone. The Mules lost the match 20–18.

Reflecting on the weekend, Cyr  said the following: “This weekend was and immense statement of character for our team. We played potentially the best game of rugby I’ve played since coming to Colby against Plymouth State on Saturday. 

Our kicking strategy was executed to perfection in the first half, and we relied on our toughness and defense to carry us through the second half. On Sunday, it was a testament to the commitment and heart of anyone who played for us in the second half of a brutal back to back weekend. Our bodies were punished from the game before but we left the excuses on the sideline, and everyone gave more effort than any captain or coach can ever expect. After a herculean goal-line stand at the end of the game by our guys, Holy Cross was eventually able to win the game with no time left on the clock, leaving us with no chance to respond and take the lead back. 

While we didn’t come away with the win, we are still in the playoffs and salivate at the opportunity to see those guys later in the bracket. Thank you immensely to Colby for broadcasting the games for the first times in club history, as well as to our amazing fans who gave us an immense boost in both games. We are excited and ready to play UMass Dartmouth this weekend on our home field, and hope to see people back out there braving the cold and supporting this incredible run.”

Though the Mules were faced with this heartbreaking defeat, they still look to move forward in the postseason. Colby will host The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth at home Nov. 16. 

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