Springfield College punched their ticket to Pittsburgh for the USA Rugby Division II Northeast Regional section of the National Tournament on a cold and windy night last Saturday, with a hard-fought 14-11 win against a previously undefeated Salve Regina team. Springfield will now play University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Stagg Field was jumping before the game even started. The stands were packed with fans of all ages. Some fans came prepared with signs, some with the signs of faces of Springfield College players.
Springfield had not played in three weeks prior to this game against Salve Regina, but it was apparent from the opening kick-off that Springfield had not one bit of rust.
The first try of the game came from Johnny Yee, which was assisted by Jay Bonti. The opportunity was made possible by Bonti because of his hustle down field towards the bobbled ball by Salve Regina off of a kick. Yee was able to make a man miss and rumbled into the end zone for the try. The team was able to take advantage of fundamental mistakes early on by Salve Regina to get the early upper hand.
However, as the game went along, Salve Regina found their way deep into Springfield’s side of the field. It wasn’t until after several trips deep into Springfield territory that Salve was able to find their way in for a try late in the first half.
The key to this game for Springfield was the bend-don’t-break defense when Salve came deep in to their territory. Bonti was the force in making this happen. He was able to get a hold of the ball when their backs were against the wall and had solid kicks downfield to create space.
Another player that made an impact, but in the return game, was Eli Kligerman. He was able to keep the ball out of Springfield territory with his blazing speed when Salve Regina made deep kicks.
Matt Ryan was also able to keep Springfield out of trouble when the ball came deep into their territory with great downhill carries throughout the game.
Also, whenever the team started to look a little lackadaisical, Jared Bean was able to come in with a big play. It could have been a hardnosed run, or a bone crushing tackle, but Bean kept the team energized throughout the game with his big plays down the stretch.
Springfield knew they were in for a hard-fought battle coming into last Saturday, but they knew it was important for them to do nothing special, except for them just to play how they know how.
“I don’t think we brought anything extra,” said Jared Bean. “But we definitely tried to play up. We knew they would be one of the better teams we would play all season.”
The second try of the game for Springfield came from Christian Costa in the second half.
“We saw on film that the player that’s normally there likes to cheat up,” said Costa. “So I saw a gap, saw the end zone, and got there, it felt great.”
After all of the buildup to this game and all of the hard work, this team is happy to move on.
“I am overjoyed,” said co-captain Patrick Stefanski. “It feels incredible to be the captain of such an incredible team.”
Springfield will now make the trek to Pittsburgh to play in the USA Rugby Division II National Tournament.