Men’s club rugby falls short to visitor Clarkson, hopes to bounce back in Syracuse

Senior Anthony Cooper makes a hard tackle against Clarkson in their home playoff game. The Warthogs fell to the visiting team 47-22 on Saturday (Kara Burke/managing editor).

On Saturday Nov. 2 the Geneseo Warthogs Men’s Rugby Club fell to the Clarkson Men’s Rugby Club in the semifinals of their conference, after having a bye week in the bracket. The Warthogs have had a successful season going 5-0 in their regular season, despite having a preseason loss to Cortland, a Division I program. Despite their unfortunate loss to Clarkson, Geneseo saw a great level of success and development this year, resulting in them being the top of the East region in their conference.

The Warthogs’ conference consists of 16 teams in three regions and is called the Upstate Small College Rugby Conference. Their conference is the equivalent to Division III, as their previous Division II conference collapsed. 

This presented a hurdle for the team, as there were a lot of administrative issues when it came to switching conferences. They also had never played many teams in their new conference, according to senior captain Justin Anderson. 

Other challenges the team faced this year was their lack of a full-time coach and need for student coaches, as well as losing a large number of seniors. 

“We had a lot of rebuilding to do and with me and Justin being the only sort of coach there five days a week, we had to teach all these new kids as much knowledge [as we could] about the sport. That was the hardest obstacle, teaching everybody how to play rugby,” said junior backs captain Devin Fitzgerald.

During the game against Clarkson, the field conditions were unfavorable due to persistent rain the week before the match and temperatures below 50 degrees. 

With both teams being undefeated in the regular season going into the match this weekend, fans were anticipating an exciting game. 

Geneseo maintained an advantage in time of possession early in the first half, but Clarkson took the lead due to their kicking abilities. However, sophomore inside center Nao Yoshikawa made the first try (score) for the Warthogs in the 23rd minute. 

A conversion was then made by sophomore and player-coach Gunnar Hunt. Additional tries were then scored by Fitzgerald at the 35th minute and senior winger Jason DuMond at 39th minute. 

At halftime, the game was close with Clarkson leading 20-17. At this point, several of the Warthogs’ starters were injured and had to be taken out of the game. This caused momentum to slow for the Warthogs. 

“We, unfortunately, sustained a few injuries to key starting players and our team cohesion declined a bit. We started to drop balls a bit more than we would like to and there were some unfortunate turnovers that led to seven-point scores by Clarkson. That ultimately led to our loss of the game,” Anderson said, who then explained that the number of injuries added a challenge for their future games.

Clarkson then scored three tries on the outside in quick succession in the second half, with the Warthogs only getting in one more try in the 54th minute by Fitzgerald. The Warthog’s defense struggled to deal with the barrage of attacks from Clarkson. Clarkson won the match 47-22.

Key players in the match were freshman Griffen LaBianca, who has picked up the game quickly, according to Anderson, and Yoshikawa who contributed both defensively and offensively, according to Fitzgerald.

The Warthogs are now in the challenger’s bracket and will be facing Alfred State University in Syracuse on Monday Nov. 11. The Warthogs still have the potential to go to nationals if they have strong performances in upcoming matches and earn themselves an at-large bid.