Following its record-setting win last week against Yale last weekend, the Harvard women’s rugby team (2-1, 1-1 Ivy) dropped its first game of the season to defending Ivy League champion Brown (3-0, 2-0) on Saturday.
Coming in with a young squad full of talent, the Crimson looked to steal a win in Providence over its biggest Ivy League rival after getting trounced by the Bears, 27-5, in the semifinals of last year’s Ivy League Championship. But Harvard came up short a second time, falling to the hosts by a score of 44-17.
“Clearly Brown had a very similar game plan as we had,” Harvard coach Sue Parker said. “What they had that we didn’t have was some really well orchestrated lines by their forwards and their backs which resulted in tries. They were able to execute their game plan because they were so much bigger than us in the scrum.”
The Crimson’s last victory against the Bears came two years ago when Harvard came out on top, 31-5, in the semifinals of the Ivy League Championship. The Crimson would go on to win the Ivy League title that year.
Brown got off to an early start on Saturday, scoring off a scrum for its first try and then scoring and converting again within the first ten minutes of the match to take a 12-0 lead. Harvard would not relent, however, with senior Ann-Marie Barrett scoring off a successful line-out off an assist from junior Mariah Turner and sophomore Haley Langan.
But despite some key defensive plays from captain Hope Schwartz and a key stop at the try line, Harvard would concede another two tries to leave the score at 22-5 in favor of the Bears at the half.
Coming into the contest, scrum control and making positive tackles were among the things the team felt it needed to work on. Following its first victory at West Chester two weeks ago, Schwartz, a former Crimson sports editor, revealed some of the team’s goals before the start of Ivy League play.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to improve is our mentality at the point of contact; rugby is a very heavy contact game,” said Schwartz following the West Chester game. “It can be a very violent game and what we were able to do this week was really to just up our vision at the point of contact.”
But come Saturday, nothing would come easy for Harvard.
However, in the second half, the Crimson struck first. Harvard scored on a try and converted off the kickoff to cut Brown’s lead to ten. But from there, the Bears went on to score consecutive tries and a conversion before the Crimson would retaliate with a try from freshman Grace Chao on an assist from junior Claire Collins. That try at 20:55 would be the last score of the match for Harvard.
For 15 minutes after Harvard’s last try, a series of good defensive plays would prevent either team from scoring. Brown broke the stalemate, however, when it scored off an offsides penalty against the Crimson. The Bears then scored another try and conversion to close out the game, 44-17.
Despite the loss, Parker referred to the loss as an important lesson for a young squad hoping to compete for the Ivy League Championship.
“This game is singularly important as a learning tool for our young team to understand exactly what we’re going to face if we’re to achieve our goal of winning the Ivy.”
—Staff writer Troy Boccelli can be reached at email@example.com.