Article by Angus Bishop | Originally published at usa.rugby
HANNOVER, N.H- Dartmouth was crowned the 2018 National Intercollegiate Rugby Association’s (NIRA) national champions this weekend, after beating Ivy-League rivals, Harvard, in the Championship match, 19-14. This marks the first NIRA Championship in Program History.
Dartmouth advanced to the championship match on Sunday, after staving off a tough Army side on Friday in snowy and wintery conditions. Dartmouth found themselves down at the half, 7-5, but came out firing in the second half. In the second 40 The Big Green were able to outscore Army 19-0 to advance through to the final via a, 26-7, scoreline.
Their opponents would be determined by the winner of the second semifinal between three time defending champions, and Harvard who came into the weekend on the back of a 7-1 regular season. It was one way traffic from start to finish. After opening up an early 18-0 lead, Harvard went into the break with a commanding 29-8 lead. They didn’t take their foot off the gas in the second half, and went on to score 26 unanswered points in the second half, winning the game, 47-8.
After taking the day off on Saturday, the teams entered Sunday rested and ready for the big game. It was tough sledding at first for both teams, but it looked as though Harvard was poised in the early stages to nab the lead. However, it was Dartmouth who took the initial lead after Freshman Ariana Ramsey dotted down for five points. Both teams swapped missed penalty attempts, and they each had a try disallowed for a forward pass. When the teams came off the pitch for halftime, it was Dartmouth holding on to a slender 5-0 lead.
In the second half, it was a different story. Captain, senior and eventual MVP, Camille Johnson crossed over just three minutes into the half to extend their lead to 12-0. Emily Henrich, fresh off her stint with the National team on their November tests, got in on the action crossing over for Big Green’s third try of the day. Harvard then launched a comeback via an Arianna Romano try and late penalty try to draw the game within 5 with five minutes left. However, neither team could add to their initial tally and the game ended, 19-14 in favor of Dartmouth.
After the match, Dartmouth head coach Katie Dowty noted, “This was an incredible final from both teams and a great example of NCAA women’s rugby at its best.” Dowty also had praise for her seniors and the journey they’ve undertaken in the last four years, “I’m extremely proud and grateful and so happy, especially for our seniors. They were the first class when we went varsity, and for them to see us get to number one following four years of really hard work is huge.”