Bard Closes String of Vassar Visits By Defeating Hosts In Last Play Thriller

Poughkeepsie, NY (04/14/2019) — For the third consecutive weekend, the Bard Men’s Rugby team loaded into a van on Sunday morning and made the trek down 9G to Vassar College. The Vassar Farm has become a home away from home for Bard this semester, although their hosts have not played nicely, defeating the Reds both previous visits. On the final play of their last game this Sunday, however, Bard punched in a try and a successful conversion gave them a much-deserved 21-19 victory over Vassar.

Game 1: Bard College Men 5 vs. 37 Drew University Men

Tries: Mitchell Watson (1)

Cons: —

Bard played decently in the first half vs. Drew before the game slipped away in the second. Drew opened the scoring when Bard’s winger pressed in to help defend an attack, exposing the exterior for a try out wide. The Reds answered and passed the ball down the hands from one side of the field to the other for a great try that was eventually from JM Knoetgen to Mitchell Watson. Bard should’ve kept trying to feed the ball wide quickly to winger Tahm Siddiquie, who has shown the ability to deke defenders one-on-one and the willingness to take the ball into contact. Drew added two more tries before half, but the game seemed closer than 17-5. Bard had several chances they just couldn’t punch in because the ball was too slow getting to the outside.

The second half was another story as Knoetgen, the team’s captain, came out of the game and Bard’s team lost much of its form. Rookie Nataniel Jener Pagán did get his first whiff of game action which paid off later in the day. This bumped Siddiquie to center and Watson to flyhalf, an all-freshmen, all-rookie backline that will surely become a feared unit in time! Despite the uneven scoreline and an aching rib, Sam Wilkins was out there making big tackles per usual and trying to keep the team in it. Drew, which was the Tri State 7s runner-up this year and this tournament’s eventual champion, proved too much and won this game going away.

Game 2: Bard College Men 14 vs. 22 SUNY Oneonta Men

Tries: Mitchell Watson (2)

Cons: JM Knoetgen (1), Mitchell Watson (1)

In its next game, Bard was within striking distance of Oneonta before an injury ended the game early. Bard once again conceded the first try before smartly recovering a kickoff and maintaining possession for five or six phases. Oneonta’s defense bent and finally broke when Watson shimmied through the line and ran in a long try with Siddiquie supporting. Oneonta struck right back when Bard’s box defender got sucked into the mayhem of a ruck, leaving the weak side edge exposed. Bard had the chance to gain its first lead before the half but didn’t get the ball wide quickly enough, an issue that cost them a few tries on the afternoon.

Down by 3 points at the half, Bard, overcommitting to defensive rucks and thus debilitating its defensive line, gave up two more tries to begin the second half and all of a sudden 7-10 was 7-22. Watson kept the Raptors in the game with his second long try and then Knoetgen had a perfect kickoff which was recovered by Wilkins. Wilkins passed to Watson who offloaded to Tuscany Foussard. Bard was on the doorstep of scoring again when Foussard passed to Barkin Cihanli who took a brutal hit to the knee. With less than a minute to go, the injury led to the game being called 22-14 to Oneonta. It’s a shame because Bard had the momentum and was gaining confidence, but that confidence carried on to the final game.

Game 3: Bard College Men 21 vs. 19 Vassar College Men

Tries: Mitchell Watson (2), Nataniel Jener Pagán (1)

Cons: JM Knoetgen (3)

Bard received the initial kickoff in its final game and Wilkins jumped, caught the ball adroitly, came down, and offloaded to Watson who raced in for a sixty meter try- something that has become a fairly regular sight the past few weekends! Vassar, however, responded on a nice play out of a scrum and was only down 7-5. Bard was not ready for the following kickoff and, while the Reds did get the ball, they were pinned deep without support. A knock-on gave the ball to Vassar five meters out and led to a score and 12-7 lead for Vassar at halftime. Overall, Bard did much better in taking kickoffs this Sunday although there is still room for growth.

Bard went down 19-7 early in the second half and things looked grim for the Reds. Bard buckled down on defense, however, and did not quit. Foussard played like a man possessed, throwing his body into huge tackles, making an impressive poach at one point, and haranguing the opposing scrumhalf in each scrum. Cihanli is wiley when it comes to quick tap penalties, one of which led to Bard getting the ball deep in Vassar’s territory. In open play, Jener Pagán wound up with the ball and showed some impressive moves, scampering in to touch the ball between the goalposts, setting up an easy conversion for Knoetgen which made it 19-14 to Vassar with only a couple minutes remaining. Knoetgen threw Vassar off by sending the following kickoff deep. Hounding defense led by Foussard caused a turnover and, on the final play of the game, Watson punched in another try, though the conversion would be a difficult one. With ice in his veins, Bard’s captain drilled it through the uprights, and Knoetgen clinched a 21-19 victory to the Reds as the final whistle blew.

Bard has next weekend off for the holidays and is looking for game action to pick up for the weekend of April 27-28. The team has shown progression each week in their trips to Vassar and, now that everyone has a decent grasp of the game, it can focus on becoming more technically and strategically sound. Recruiting more players will be a focus going into next year as, when Bard has a desirable lineup on the field and gas in the tank, it can go toe-to-toe with any Tri State 7s foe.

All Games: 1 Sam Wilkins 2 Barkin Cihanli 3 Chris Tatavitto* 4 Tuscany Foussard 5 John Michael Knoetgen (C) 6 Mitchell Watson 7 Tahmid Siddiquie Sub: Nataniel Jener Pagán