It was a tale of two halves on Saturday as the Fairfield Red Ruggers fell to Rowan University 43-38. Fairfield started off strong in this game, leading 38-12 at the end of the first half. However, Rowan scored 31 points in the second half of the game, while Fairfield could not get a point on the board.
This close loss brings Fairfield’s season to an end, though it was overall incredibly successful. The Red Ruggers were previously 10-0 on their way to the Tri-State Conference Championship, and outscored their opponents 465-69 in the regular season. Though they lost in the Wildcard Round of the USA Rugby Men’s Division II Championship against Rowan, Head Coach Marc Downes sees no reason for his team not to hold their heads high.
“You can’t take this away from the guys. It’s a fantastic achievement,” said Downes. “From what I can gather, it’s the best they’ve done in a number of years, and this team is just developing now.”
The Red Ruggers got off to a strong start in Saturday’s contest, scoring the first 31 points of the game. Though the first few minutes of the half were stagnant, the Fairfield offensive came alive in a quick way that saw them score 31 unanswered points.
Then, Rowan was able to put another 12 points on the board with a few tries that saw them trim into the lead. Fairfield scored once more before the half ended, making the score 38-12 Fairfield at the half.
However, just as the half ended, an injury occurred on the field, sending Justin Paton ‘17 off in an ambulance on a stretcher.
This may have been an indication for how the second half would go for Fairfield, meaning it did not go well. Though the first few minutes of play in the second half was back and forth, Rowan eventually put the first points on the board on a try to make the score 38-19 Fairfield. Rowan started piling it on, scoring three more times to tie the game 38-38 in the closing minutes of the game.
With just a few minutes left, Rowan converted on a try, putting the score in their favor at 43-38. Then, the Red Ruggers got on their best drive of the half, though they turned the ball over when they were close to scoring. Just a few minutes later, the clock ran out and Rowan was named champion of this contest.
“We just got pushed around in the scrum,” said Downes. “They were bigger and stronger than us up in front and they dominate in that area. On the first three tries they scored, they were all pushover tries by [Rowan].”
Regardless of whether the team won or lost, this would have been the last home game for the Red Ruggers and their 12 seniors. Now, after the loss, these seniors have seen their last playing time with the rugby team and will not have the opportunity to make it to a national tournament setting.
“I’m disappointed for them because I’d have loved for them to have that memory in life, but there will be plenty more,” said Downes. “[Ben Kelley] and I are in this for the next five years, so this is just a developing team.”