Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

CLUB RUGBY | New Look Squad, Same Old Winning Ways

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As the fall season comes to a close, the Georgetown University Rugby Football Club has again shown itself to be one of the most successful club sports on campus, winning its fifth straight conference title at the Division II level. 

The team has repeatedly proven successful over the past few years, reaching the National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) semifinals in sevens format last spring and the round of 16 last fall. 

However, given the loss of a senior class that included seven starters, it was unclear how the Hoyas would shape up this season and what their ceiling would look like.

Julian Graham (CAS ’18), the director of rugby and backs coach, said that there is always uncertainty when losing so many players, but the change also comes with a certain excitement of working with new personnel.

“There’s a little bit of trepidation about losing key seniors, but you also know the nature of college sports so there’s going to be the next man up,” Graham told The Hoya. “So there’s excitement too in terms of ‘how do we adjust based on what personnel we have for this coming season.’” 

The repeated and past team successes raised expectations heading into the season, and the new-look squad had to contend with this precedent.

“I think everybody on the team feels the pressure. We have a target on our backs in the MARC as we are the top dogs as we have consistently proven ourselves to be, but I think our preparation allowed us to not really falter under that pressure,” team captain Kurt Jensen (CAS ’24) said to The Hoya.

To begin the season, Georgetown cruised through its first two matches with 51-0 and 47-0 wins over the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Towson University, respectively. However, there still remained a sense that the team was finding its rhythm. The Hoyas added eight new members to their starting 15, three of whom were making their first appearance in matchday squads.

Drexel University and Shippensburg University forfeited the next two conference matchups, giving the Hoyas fewer opportunities to get valuable playing time. 

This placed an unusual importance on their final regular season match against the traditionally weak Mount St. Mary’s University C-team. The emergence of first-year flanker George Egan (CAS ’27) was a highlight of the 78-10 win. He scored 2 tries in his first organized rugby match after transitioning from high school football and went on to score five tries over his next three matches.

The Hoyas finished the regular season 5-0 and qualified for the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference (MARC) semifinals against the University of Scranton, extending the Hoyas’ unbeaten record in 15s conference play which dates back to Oct. 16, 2021. Over the two-plus years, Georgetown has accumulated a 13-0 record with an aggregate score of 665-66. 

The semifinal was viewed by the team as their first real test for the unproven squad, and despite an early show of nerves, they earned an eventual 50-22 win. 

Courtesy of Jack Lonergan | Continuing a stretch of success, Georgetown club rugby capped their fall campaign, integrating new players and making a deep run in the National Collegiate Rugby tournament.

On Nov. 4, the Hoyas traveled to Wilmington, Del. to face off against a Villanova Wildcat team they beat 65-19 at the same conference final stage last year. 

However, the first half of this year’s edition proved the matchup would not be as straightforward. Villanova, the eighth-ranked team in the nation, raced out to a halftime 29-19 lead courtesy of a flustered Georgetown side, who gave away possessions cheaply. 

Nonetheless, there was plenty of belief heading out of the break, and the Hoyas returned in the second half reinvigorated. They went on a 28-9 run behind an array of penetrating line breaks and consistently strong forward play, which allowed the backs plenty of space to exploit Villanova’s defensive gaps. The Hoyas quelled a late Wildcat resistance to win 47-38 and advance to the national round of 16. 

The team then traveled down to Knoxville, Tenn., galvanized by their strong comeback against a good side. The win against Villanova instilled confidence in a squad that admittedly benefitted from a stronger test before national competition. 

This newfound confidence was evident in the round of 16, with Georgetown, the fourth-ranked team nationally, facing a largely unknown threat in Grand Valley State University on Nov. 17. Georgetown put together its most complete performance of the season in a resounding 66-20 victory, earning a spot in the quarterfinals against Memphis just two days later.

This game had history. 

In spring 2023, Georgetown faced Memphis in the quarterfinals of the sevens national championship. With less than a minute remaining, a long delay due to a severe injury suffered by forward Jimmy Fitzpatrick (CAS ’23) forced a 30-minute stoppage in play. After the restart, the Hoyas scored a drop goal in the dying embers of the game to turn the match on its head, flipping  from a score of 14-15 to a 17-15 win in dramatic fashion. 

Fueled by last year’s story, this fall rematch was an equally tight contest. The most physical match of the season saw both teams perform fiercely in every ruck and tackle, keeping the score tight and nerves high as Memphis went into halftime up 7-3.

Georgetown fought back to lead 15-10 and maintained possession for long spells of the second half. However, the team was often plagued by playing in their own half for too long. As the game drew to a close, the Hoyas were desperately defending their goal line, but their defense was breached with less than three minutes to play. Memphis converted the try to go up 17-15, and Georgetown simply ran out of time.

This was a heartbreaking end to a season in which many felt Georgetown could reach the final four, something that has not been accomplished since 2004. 

Despite this, there is plenty of room for optimism. 

“There were minor details that we got wrong that every losing team can always look back to and say, ‘Oh I wish we had done this better or that better’ but overall, really proud of the boys for coming out and showing immense amounts of heart,” Jensen told The Hoya.

Georgetown will look to go all the way next semester during the sevens season, which begins in February.

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    Phil CooneyDec 5, 2023 at 11:52 am

    Congrats on the great season.

    One quick correction: the last time the team went to the national semifinal was in 2009 and before that in 2005, not 2004 as stated.

    https://www.goffrugbyreport.com/news/mens-college-champions-historical-list

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