The Jeffs got off to a strong start with tries from Colgan Johnson ’03 and Molibi Maphanyane ’06 in the early minutes and a kick for points from Reed Knox ’04 to take a 17-0 lead.
“The first 20 minutes were almost perfect rugby. They basically never got in our half of the field in the beginning of the first half,” Dave Babbot ’05 said.
With Amherst well ahead, Williams drove down the field but was forced to settle for a kick for points by the tough Amherst defense, bringing the score to 17-3. The three points would be Williams’ only points of the game.
The Ephs challenged again late in the first half, driving down the field in pursuit of a try that would have cut Amherst’s lead to 17-10. The tough and well organized Amherst defense held and Williams was unable to put any points on the board. The Jeff defense was aided by a colossal hit from Irv Rakhlin ’04 that simultaneously gave a concussion to and separated the shoulder of the Williams ball-carrier.
“We just had a stifling defense. Any time they got the ball, especially out to the wings, they just got shut down,” Duncan White ’03 said.
The second half was even more lopsided. The barrage of Amherst scoring continued, with tries from Adrian Althoff ’04, Charlie Hoxie ’05, Mark Lentz ’05 and Sam Sturm ’06, while Amherst’s tenacious defense continued to keep Williams out of the try zone.
Along with an efficient, unselfish passing attack, size and strength were the keys to the Jeffs’ victory over a smaller Eph squad.
“We just have some big bruising runners, like Dave Stasiak [’03]. Stasiak didn’t score a try, but he ran all over them,” White said.
The only blemish on an otherwise perfect morning was a fight that took place late in the second half. With about 15 minutes left in the game, a Williams player shoved Knox, who responded with an uppercut that knocked the player’s teeth out. A scuffle insued between the teams, and Knox, who had cut his hand in the fight, was ejected. For his actions, Knox faces a possible 45-day suspension at the start of the spring semester. Amherst played the rest of the game a man down.
“He overreacted, but you can’t be mad at him for what he did,” White said.
“It was too bad that [the fight] happened, because it had been a pretty well-played game up until then. The captains did a good job of separating the teams, of calming things down,” Babbot added.
Amherst’s victory was the culmination of a week of intense preparation. On Thursday night the team met with Gareth Rees, the head of the Canadian national rugby team and a veteran of four Rugby World Cups, to work on strategy.
“The whole week before, we were very focused on the game. I didn’t sense any doubt that we were going to win. ‘Failure is not an option,’ that was the prevailing attitude before the game,” Babbot said.
“We expected to beat them as badly as we could. They’d beaten us last spring, but we beat them pretty badly last fall,” he added.
“Our season’s been really up-and-down. We’ve known we’ve had a really good team with a lot of talent, but this is the first time all season that it’s all clicked,” White said.
“The game this weekend was fun, but next time Williams should send their men’s team,” Rakhlin said.