UPDATED: April 24, 2017, at 10:20 p.m.
In sports, long hours of practice come down to fleeting moments upon which the entire season is judged. For Harvard women’s rugby, the team’s conference performance came down to a 14-minute game against rival Dartmouth.
Coming off a pool play loss against the Big Green in Hanover, N.H., the Crimson executed a second half comeback in a low-scoring affair to claim its second consecutive 7s rugby Ivy League championship.
HARVARD 10, DARTMOUTH 5
Facing off in competitive matches against Dartmouth was nothing new. Last fall, the Crimson fell to the Big Green in the 15s Ivy championship.
On Sunday, perhaps the most important thing that helped the Crimson to victory was a belief that the team could win. This belief, combined with the desire for vengeance, fueled Harvard.
Just two weeks ago, the Crimson beat Dartmouth 24-0 in the Brown 7s Tournament, providing confidence that its Ancient Eight foe was beatable. The win especially showed that Dartmouth’s defense was vulnerable and that points could be scored quickly by Harvard, which was looking up at a five point deficit with seven minutes to go in its Ivy league season.
“After Dartmouth scored the first try in the championship game, we all looked at each other and something clicked,” sophomore Caitlin Weigel said. “We realized this isn’t happening. We are not going to lose this game.”
The Crimson capitalized on the positives by converting a team try just minutes into the second half using sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
“We knew that possession would be key, that the team that could hold on to the ball the majority of the game would probably come up with the win,” senior Claire Collins said. “We really focused on getting our support there really quick, making sure that we weren’t taking any risky offloads, that we weren’t running into contact first so we always had teammates with us.”
Punching in the score gave Harvard the lead and a chance for its defense, which the team has emphasized throughout the season, to shine. The iron wall held up and eventually led to a penalty kick, which junior captain Maya Learned converted to cap off the conference championship.
HARVARD 22, PRINCETON 19
Playing against Princeton for the first time in the 7s season, the Crimson exploded out of the gate by scoring three tries to begin the game. Harvard seemingly controlled the entire game, asserting its dominance as a varsity team playing against a club program.
However, the game ended up being a wake-up call to the experienced squad because Princeton came roaring back as the Crimson relaxed.
“In the final minutes against Princeton, we gave them a lot of space and played a little soft on defense and they were able to get through the holes and put good stiff arms on us and find the try line,” Collins said. “That just kind of reminded us how important being aggressive at the point of contact and in the defensive wall would be and I think that we brought that experience into the final.”
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