Men's Rugby in National Spotlight
The UB men's rugby team, the Mad Turtles, saw their season of hard work pay off when they earned the right to compete in the Northeast Final Four, next week at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
UB's Mad Turtles achieved this honor by compiling a 7-2 record overall. Their only losses came from Syracuse University and Canisius College in highly contested games.
Last week's game proved to be the pivotal match of the season as the Mad Turtles squeaked out a 20-13 decision against Dartmouth College, considered to be one of the top 10 rugby teams in the nation. That game marked the first round of the Northeast playoffs, which UB entered as the number two seed.
"That was the best game we played all season. All 15 guys left everything on the field," said Michael Goggin, team president and starting second row.
The Mad Turtles struggled early to keep Dartmouth out of their own end in the opening minutes. Penalties taken by Buffalo allowed Dartmouth to keep sustaining pressure. Buffalo was well prepared, however, for Dartmouth's overload style of attack and matched them man-for-man, which prevented the ball from reaching the outside.
At about the 20-minute mark in the first half, Tommy Herbert converted a penalty kick from about 30 meters out, giving the Mad Turtles a 3-0 lead. Neither side could mount any kind of momentous attack after that, keeping the score 3-0 at the half.
The second half got underway as both teams came out conservatively, with the two defenses playing stingy and preventing any scoring opportunities. Dartmouth tried to move the plane of action inside, but was met by a wall of Mad Turtles. Then they tried spreading the field, but were again denied from getting any up-field breaks.
Nineteen minutes into the second half, with Dartmouth holding possession, they continued to spread the field. Buffalo's wings were coming up to stop the wide movements and Dartmouth finally took advantage by kicking it deep to the Turtle's corner and converting a try, giving Dartmouth a 7-3 lead.
Tom Herbert converted the points after, which put the Turtles back in the lead, a lead Dartmouth would never recover from. Three minutes later the Turtles added another try, as Herbert once again converted it, to put Buffalo up for good, 17-7.
This year's final four teams will consist of UB, Harvard, Connecticut and Army. If Buffalo defeats Army, they will move on with the winner of the UConn-Harvard game to the national Sweet 16, a feat roughly comparable to the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament.