On a windy Friday night Harvard looked to avenge last year’s Ivy League semifinal loss against Brown and claim its first win on newly inaugurated Mignone Field. On the opposite side of the ball, the Bears were aiming for a comeback win after suffering a blowout defeat to defending Ivy League champion Dartmouth on Sept. 17. The matchup pitted two of the Ancient Eight’s most prominent rugby teams against each other, leaving only one on top.
The Crimson (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) won in emphatic fashion, 45-15, against the Bears (0-2, 0-2 Ivy), putting the game away early and getting off to its best start in program history.
“I think we showed tonight that when things aren’t going perfectly well for us, we have the ability to score and rally and regroup,” Crimson coach Sue Parker said. “But also that when we are under pressure, we have some areas to improve on.”
Harvard spread around its scoring, as eight different players contributed tries to the winning effort. The spread was in part the result of long strings of passes to widen the field. The Crimson took advantage of the scrums that drew Brown defenders into one location and then distributed the ball to the edge players.
After an opening penalty kick, freshman Robyn Beese scored Harvard’s first try of the evening, set up by a driving run from senior captain Claire Collins to put the Crimson up 8-0. Two more tries by sophomore Rachel Harkavy and freshman Delia Hellander quickly placed Harvard into a commanding position that they would hold for the rest of the night.
Hellander’s drive into the end zone including juking five defenders, capping an 18-0 start for the Crimson. The team is building up from the bottom with youth and the rookies are starting to play a larger role on the team.
“They are unbelievable,” Parker said. “The freshman class—tons of personality. They aren’t afraid of working hard, they are not afraid of putting themselves out on the field. They have tremendous athleticism and it’s a joy to see them improving every single day.”
Brown played spoiler in the final minute of the period with a penalty kick to break a shutout streak that lasted around 160 minutes and dating back to the first half of the Navy season-opener.
Freshman Dominique Cantave continued Harvard’s run by scoring the first try of her collegiate career. Sophomore Jenny Kronish added her own try to make it 40-3.
Brown then responded with two tries late in the second half. The Crimson was never in danger, but the Bears capitalized on Harvard’s lack of focus.
“I think that we took a game plan that we only had worked on for a week and did it well, but we only did that for a very short portion of the game,” junior captain Maya Learned said. “The score would have been a lot higher if we had done more of the game plan.”
Some of the sour taste was swept away by sophomore Caitlin Weigel, who went on a 60 yard run to cap off the victory for the Crimson.
During every score the crowd erupted in loud cheers from the stands overlooking Mignone Field. But this was the first year with this atmosphere.
“Amazing,” Parker said. “You can hear it. I mean, it was so fun playing here. It was so inspirational to have the support of all these fans. Roberto [Mignone], who couldn’t be here tonight because he’s running an ultramarathon,…is with us in spirit and we are with him in spirit. It’s not just the field. It’s actually him and his support of these programs that fuels us.”
Friday’s match-up was the first of consecutive conference games Harvard will undertake, with the team facing off against Dartmouth next weekend.“Dartmouth is going to be our biggest challenge,” Learned said. “I’m really, really excited to see what this team can do against Dartmouth because I think that we have the makings for greatness. This team has everything we need within the team, so it’s going to be great.
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