Dartmouth’s Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s victory wasn’t just the icing on the cake for the Big Green’s season. For several seniors, it was their last taste of rugby altogether.
Before the CRC, few knew of Nick or Chris Downer, the brothers who helped lead the Big Green to nationally televised glory. After the tournament they were featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd”. Just as soon as they became as close to household names as one can being a rugby player in America, they’ve graduated.
So have captain Tommy Brothers, All American prop Charlie Grant, football convert Tanner Scott, 7s All American Muhammed Abdool-Shakoor and most every front row player on the two-deep roster.
Altogether, the Big Green were gutted by the loss of 20 seniors.
“It’ll be mostly a brand new team,” said Dartmouth coach Alex Magleby. “Most of the guys won’t have had too much first 15 experience. It’s the grand challenge as a coach.”
The most gaping void is left in the tight five, where every starter and most of the backups are gone. Dartmouth, despite being a CPD-caliber team steeped in tradition, will fill that void no different than most colleges would, with players converted from starkly different positions.
“It’s that old saying, you may be bigger than us, but at least we’re slower than you,” joked Magleby.
“All the guys are kind of the same size for the most part, so we traditionally have played a pretty universal game with multiple players being able to play scrumhalf, flayhalf, multiple players being able to play lock and prop…There’s guys that’ll have played in the centers for two years and suddenly they end up being our starting prop or hooker. A lot of colleges end up doing that, I think.”
Some of the starters who do return are heavy contributors, like honorable mention All American Paul Jarvis. The flanker co-captained last season and made the all Rugby East team.
The sole returner in the tight five, sophomore lock Dylan Jones, is a Gonzaga product and a good player.
All American Nate Brakeley also returns, as do 7s contributors Will Lehmann, Will Mueller, Clark Judge and Kevin Clarke.
“They’ve had that 7s experience the last two years, so I think they’ll be competing really well and doing really, really good things,” said Magleby.
“Clark Judge and Will Mueller, those two will be seniors, so they’ve kind of been through the system, they’ve started CPD games, things like that. They’re leaders on the team so they’ll have a huge impact on our success this year.”
Derek Fish, one of the best scrumhalves in the country and an all Rugby East performer, is still recovering from a torn ACL and won’t likely be back until spring. But if Dartmouth makes it out of the Ivy League this fall, he’ll be a huge boost for the Big Green come playoff time.
The freshman most likely to help fill the scoring void left by the Downers, Scott and Abdool-Shakoor? High School All American wing Madison Hughes.
“He’s one of the better recruits coming into the US rugby ranks this year, I think. He’s a fun player to watch, so it’d be great to watch him grow here,” said Magleby. “Madison could play any position in the back nine well…He’s a potential guy that has a chance to play at the next level.”
Dartmouth lost a ton over the summer. But they usually keep the cupboard well stocked, and if there’s anyone who can make a masterful meal with what’s found in the average cupboard, it’s Magleby.