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Penn State

Dartmouth Upends Penn State in Varsity Cup Opener

Dartmouth Upends Penn State in Varsity Cup Opener

by Brett Anker
Photo Credit: Aaron Deykin

Dartmouth shocked Penn State with a 30-25 victory in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Led by flyhalf Dawit Workie, the Big Green played an extremely clinical game to come away with the victory.

Penn State opened the scoring with a penalty but prop Will McNamara earned the games first try for Dartmouth. Center Will Konstant intercepted a pass and a few phases later the prop found his way over. With the conversion, Dartmouth led 7-3.

Both Will’s are new to rugby from the Dartmouth football program. Although they both only have a handful of rugby games under their belts, both had solid performances and contributed to the win.

“We have a fantastic relationship with our football club here. We are pretty close with both teams and I think we are going to align the two programs together. We love getting these football players, starting with a blank canvas and trying to coach some rugby into them. They are great athletes, they buy in, they learn very quickly. That relationship is so important to us,” said Dartmouth Coach Gavin Hickie.

Dartmouth added to its lead with a penalty a few minutes later. Disciplinary issues plagued Penn State all day and in this instance saw a player sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. Despite being down a player, however, the Nittany Lions evened the score with a try from Chris Burian.

The hosts retook the lead thanks to a well-executed kick from Workie. The flyhalf sent a kick up in the air and back rower Hayden Aldridge ran underneath it. Arthur Sants was the beneficiary a few phases later for a 15-10 halftime lead.

Jimmy Ronan added his second penalty for PSU to cut the lead to 15-13. However, the Nittany Lions yielded a try to winger Andrew Zhu in the corner to make the difference a converted try. Things went from bad to worse for PSU, as it had a player sent off for a deliberately late hit on Workie.

Workie bounced back from the hit to set up teammate Struan Coleman. The flyhalf was coming off a hip injury and was just getting back into form for this match.

“Dawit is a class act. Every player that has had the opportunity to play with him here at Utah knows that. I’ve known that for a long time,” Hickie said of Workie. “He needs to be consistent in his high standard. What is really pleasing from our point of view is he is really starting to deliver on that.”

At 25-13 Penn State refused to quit, however, and despite being down a player, scored a well-worked team try. Discipline, however, cost the visitors once again. A high tackle resulted in a second yellow card forcing the Nittany Lions to play with 13 players for 10 minutes.

Dartmouth added another try to extend the lead to 30-20. Malcolm May dotted down for PSU late but the Big Green held on to win the match.

“We are very happy. I don’t think anybody really gave us a chance in this game. That is fine, we used that a little bit as fuel for ourselves,” said Hickie. “We were very confident going into this game, just very quietly being able to fly under the radar. We were confident that we could if we could execute what we were trying to do, we would come out on the good side of the score.”

The Big Green got inspiring performances from a couple of unexpected players. Along with the football players, Chris Banks played a tremendous game at hooker. Coming off a pair of ACL tears on the same leg, the former Junior All American played his first game in a couple years.

Dartmouth will take on BYU next weekend.

2016 Opening Round Match Schedule | April 9th

2016 Opening Round Match Schedule | April 9th

VARSITY CUP OPENING ROUND MATCH SCHEDULE | APRIL 9TH:

Army vs. Oklahoma

Location: Anderson Rugby Complex, River Rd., West Point, NY 10996
Time: 3:00 PM EDT
Webcast: Army “Knight Vision” (http://goarmywestpoint.com/watch)

Arizona State vs. BYU

Location: ASU Poly Campus, 7001 E. Williams Field Rd., Mesa, AZ 85212
Time: 7:00 PM MST

Arkansas State vs. Clemson

Location: ASU Rugby Pitch, 501 Red Wolf Trail Rd., Jonesboro, AR 72401
Time: 1:30 PM CDT

Cal vs. Texas

Location: Witter Rugby Field, 210 Stadium Rim Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
Time: 12:00 PM PDT

CWU vs. UCLA

Location: CWU Wildcat Rugby Field, Ellensburg, WA 98926
Time: 1:00 PM PDT
Webcast: Wildcat “Event Zone” (www.wildcatsports.com)

Dartmouth vs. Penn State

Location: Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse, 9 Reservoir Rd., Hanover, NH 03755
Time: 12:00 PM EDT
Webcast: Live on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EIwkyCQ3AI)

Navy vs. Notre Dame

Location: Naval Academy Brigade Sports Complex, 64 Greenbury Point Rd., Annapolis, MD 21402
Time: 12:00 PM EDT
Webcast: TBD

Utah vs. Air Force

Location: McCarthy Field, 76 S. Wasatch Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Time: 12:00 PM MDT
Webcast: KUTE Radio (http://www.kaltura.com/tiny/h06yz)

Dartmouth vs. Penn State | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Dartmouth vs. Penn State | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Dartmouth will welcome Penn State to Hanover for the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The Nittany Lions are making their first foray in the Varsity Cup and are hoping to come away a victory on the road.

The hosts, however, have played a tough schedule this year and are ready for the challenge. After undergoing a rough start to the fall, that included big losses to Lindenwood, AIC and Boston College, the Big Green went on to win its 9th consecutive Ivy League Title. With tough matches against fellow Varsity Cup participants Army and Navy this spring, Dartmouth is ready to take on the Rugby East heavy weight.

“We designed our fall schedule to really test ourselves against some of the best teams in the country to gear ourselves up for the Ivy,” said Dartmouth head coach Gavin Hickie. “We want to get tested out of our conference as often as we can and we welcome that challenge. The score lines didn’t go our way but it was a great learning curve.”

A traditionally smaller team, the Big Green always punches above its weight. Dartmouth narrowly lost to Navy in last year’s Varsity Cup and will be competitive playing at home. Led by three year starting fly half Dawit Workie and senior Captain Jack Braun, the Big Green has been gearing up for a physical contest. With the largest roster in recent years, competition is fierce and depth is a plenty.

“The boys have been working very very hard over the winter, particularly in the gym, indoors, on technique on subtle areas of the game,” added Hickie. “We are happy with where we are and we hope we are flying under the radar a little bit. We know Penn State are the heavy favorites and that is ok with us.”

The Nittany Lions have earned the reputation of being a very physical side, thanks in large part to the play of a pair of flankers and a prop. Malcolm May had a tremendous campaign during Rugby East play and earned conference player of the year accolades while leading the Pennsylvania school to a second place finish. Complementing the junior flanker is the equally athletic and dynamic Sean Mahon and loose head prop Brian McKellar.

“Sean is a terrific player and someone that I think projects to move forward if he wants to and works at it,” Penn State coach Blake Burdette said of his senior flanker. “McKellar is one guy who has really worked his butt off to get to where he is at.”

Penn State has been gearing up for the Varsity Cup by taking on two other VC squads and the formidable Indiana Hoosiers. The Nittany Lions lost a tight one to Navy, held off a Clemson surge and handily defeated an undefeated Hoosiers team. Playing some teams that have also played Dartmouth, Burdette has been able to gauge his own squad.

“A couple of those teams are Varsity Cup and they have also played Dartmouth. We just wanted to challenge ourselves,” Burdette said.

Although Penn State may be favored on paper and in the eyes of Coach Hickie, coming into Dartmouth and walking away with a victory is no easy task.

“We need to play to our strengths. We have to worry about us. We can’t worry about them. We know Dartmouth is going to be well coached, well drilled and they are going to come after us, especially playing on their home field,” Burdette concluded.

The game kicks off at noon ET on Saturday.