NYU fans hopped off the A train at the northern tip of Manhattan to watch their beloved Violets take on archrival Columbia Business School in a rugby match for the Stern Rugby Club on Saturday.
The battle of the business schools started off fast for Columbia with the Lions scoring a try and successful conversion only a minute after the opening kickoff. The first minute of play set the tone for the first half as the Lions maintained their momentum and capitalized on their ensuing possessions with two more tries and one successful conversion to end the half 19-0 in their favor.
What hurt the Violets in the first half was their lacking transition game and open field defense. Due to a handful of offensive turnovers and missed tackles by the Violets around the midline and on the Lions’ half of the field, the Lions were able to take advantage of fast break opportunities that allowed them to significantly advance the ball downfield and set up in close scoring range.
Regardless of the performance that led to the less than ideal field positioning, a positive takeaway for the Violets was their strong defense when backed up to their defending goal line. With numerous goal line stops, the Violets were able to wane the Lions’ offensive attack and limit their offensive efficiency. The stops galvanized the team and foreshadowed a turnaround in the 40 minute to come.
In the second half, the Violets took to the pitch energized by the animated NYU fans in attendance. Matching the intensity of the Lions’ opening possession, the Violets came off the whistle strong and dominated possession for the majority of the half. After a long offensive possession, the Violets were able to puncture the Lions’ goal line defense off of a line out for a try and successful conversion.
Having finally gotten onto the scoreboard, the Violets demonstrated a more disciplined style of play than their first half performance. With corrections made in the transition game, the Violets fought the Lions on both sides of the ball for a back and forth battle for possession at the midline. The Lions eventually broke the stalemate with a fast break that covered nearly the length of the pitch. However, the Violets were able to stay on course and tackle the ball carrier short of the goal line in a highlight reel play that commanded mass praise from the stands.
Although the Violets ushered a turnaround in the second half, their efforts fell short as the Lions went on a run in the final minutes of play, scoring three tries and one successful conversion to win the match 36-7.
After the match, Steinhardt junior and Stern Rugby Club Executive Vice President William Herrin highlighted the team’s adjustments in the second half.
“We were an entirely different team the second half after we came out pretty slow missed some tackles, made some mistakes, but we put that in the past for the second half and came out strong,” Herrin said.
Stern first-year MBA candidate and Stern Rugby Club President William Pitt echoed Herrin’s statement and spoke to the impact of fielding a young team.
“We were missing quite a few key players today, so it was a fairly new team who hadn’t played many games together and I think it showed throughout the game, particularly in the first half,” Pitt said. “The team that went on the second half I think did a fantastic job. We dominated possession at least the first 20 minutes of that second half and that’s the performance we’ll remember and take forward into the next game.”
Pitt added that he believes the loss speaks to what the team needs to improve upon in order to further build the program.
“We started what we think is going to be a four or five year journey this semester in terms of taking this team from what is a really amateur team to something that can compete across the Northeast,” Pitt said. “Today was probably a step backwards compared to our last game, but it showed what we’re committed to do the rest of the semester and next couple of years.”
The Violets will look to rebound off the loss next week when the team competes against Gotham Rugby.
A version of this article was published in the Monday, April 23 print edition. Contact Warner Radliff at [email protected]