by Brett Anker
In a rematch from two years ago, Dartmouth will play Clemson in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. This year, however, the Big Green will head to South Carolina for the date with the Tigers.
Two years ago the Dartmouth backs had a field day against Clemson. Led by a several try performance from Madison Hughes, the Big Green comfortably dispatched Clemson. This year may prove to be a tougher task, however.
“We beat them pretty comprehensively that day but a lot has changed in the last two years,” said Dartmouth coach Gavin Hickie.
Dartmouth will be playing against a Clemson side that is trending in the right direction and one that is expecting a solid crowd. Clemson is making a festival out of the weekend, holding a clinic for local youth on Sunday and a banquet to celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary, where Sir Graham Henry is expected to be in attendance. The match on Saturday will follow the spring football game on campus and is expected to have a large crowd.
“It is great for the program. It is a nice transition from the last 50 years into what is happening in the next 50 years,” said Clemson coach Steve Lynch. “We are getting the resources of athletics, we are playing on campus. All of those things are coming together this year and we get to host a great team like Dartmouth.”
In addition to the hostile conditions, Dartmouth will be facing a side that has made the jump to the DIA Mid-South. The conference is one of the strongest in the country and Clemson have already claimed a scalp with a win over Davenport this spring. The Tigers sit at 2-4 and have taken their lumps against more seasoned teams like Life and Arkansas State but also played Navy to a tough game.
“What puts us in a slightly different position than them is the level of competition we have played week in and week out. I don’t think there is much better than to be able to challenge yourself against the pace and skill level of those teams,” Lynch said of their opponents in the DIA Mid-South.
Nevertheless, Dartmouth is known for its ability to come on strong at the end of the season. Last year the Big Green shocked Penn State in the first round. Dartmouth has never lost a first round game in the Varsity Cup and will be a tough out.
“Our goal is to meet their high standards in execution and set piece. I would say they are one of the best drilled teams in the country,” Lynch said of Dartmouth.
The Big Green sits at 9-2 this season and claimed its tenth consecutive Ivy League Title. After a tough loss to Navy, Dartmouth spent its spring break out west fine tuning its game. The Big Green came away with a victory over UCLA and has dedicated the last two weeks to the game against Clemson.
“Rugby is rugby and we need to go down there and do a job. We have the utmost confidence in our ability and approach that we are going to come out of their with a victory,” concluded Hickie.