The Bates men’s rugby team solidly defeated Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) 52-19 last Saturday, Sept. 16, at Garcelon Field. While this was the first game of the season and the first rugby game played by some on the team, the Bobcats’ fitness, teamwork, and skill carried them to a strong victory over MMA, who they lost against last year.
Bates quickly took the lead and continued to leave MMA behind in scoring through much of the first half. By the time MMA landed their first try at approximately 35 minutes into the first half, Bates had already earned 26 points, giving them a strong lead.
However, while the Bobcats continued to play well in the second half, their efforts were hindered by two yellow cards against Bates, leaving the men’s rugby team down one man for half of the second half as penalty. MMA was able to score twice more in the second half, yet Bates was able to maintain its lead, winning their first game of the season.
The men’s rugby team got off to a strong start with a try only two minutes into the game by Benjamin Hinton ‘21. After this, Bates was also able to kick the conversion, earning a total of seven points only a couple of minutes after the start of the game. This momentum was continued by Ezra Clarke ‘21, Owen Ahlborn ‘19 and Will Bessey ‘20, who each scored a try in the first 30 minutes of the game. Bates was able to land the conversion for all but the last try in this series of points earned by the Bobcats.
This streak was interrupted by MMA who earned their first try, but missed the conversion, at approximately 35 minutes into the game. At this point, nearing the end of the first half, Bates held a strong lead against MMA, 26-5. Reed Feldman ‘19 scored one last try in the first half for Bates at 38 minutes in, and Bates once more gained the conversion points, leaving the score at 33-5 by the end of the first half.
“It was off of a broken play,” Feldman said. “A gap opened up, I saw it and went for it.”
Seven minutes into the second half, Bates was yellow-carded as a result of multiple team penalties. Because of this, the Bobcats were only allowed to have fourteen of the usual fifteen men on the field, putting them at a disadvantage. During this time, MMA was able to score seven more points, bringing the overall score to 33-12.
“It just made us have to work a little harder, work for each other and put in a little more effort until our sub came back on,” Feldman said. “It’s part of the game; you do what you can.”
Bates once more came back strong with successive tries earned by Joshua Allbrooks ‘19 and Andrew Botelho ‘22. With a kick, the ball was sent down the field toward Bates’ scoring zone. While a player from MMA was closest to the ball, Botelho was able to race him down, pass him, give the ball a second kick and earn a try for Bates.
However, shortly afterward, Bates was once more yellow-carded, this time due to a high tackle.
In the final 15 minutes of the game, Owen Ahlborn ‘19 scored a final try for the Bobcats and MMA earned two tries, bringing the final score to 52-26.
“This year and in the last couple years the league has gotten really strict about the laws around the tackle,” said Head Coach Mike Milliken. “It’s a safety concern, so what we are trying to enforce is that the tackle is below the shoulders, which is sometimes very difficult to do, but it’s important that we respect that rule because it keeps people safe. We want to make sure that we’re not tackling too high, and we were just a little too high on multiple occasions today.”
Overall, however, Coach Milliken was satisfied with the first game of the season.
“I thought we performed well,” said Head Coach Mike Milliken. “Everyone seemed to be pretty enthusiastic, so from a mental standpoint the guys were in the right place. The first game of the season is kind of a cluster because you get new guys in new positions and a lot of them are still learning the sport, so it’s really hard to know how we’re going to look as a team until we come out and play. I had suspicions that we were going to be a solid team [this year], and today showed that.”
The Bates rugby team will be back on Garcelon field this Friday, Sept. 21, against Bowdoin rugby. Come out and support the team in their second game of the season!