Dartmouth leads the Ivy League with a 2-0 record after sweeping their games this past weekend.
Sure the Big Green is tied with Princeton (also 2-0), but points difference skews heavily to the team from New Hampshire, and looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
This all despite some rebuilding the team has had to do after winning the Ivy League last year, and also winning the USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championships.
“We graduated a big class, which was not only a lot of starters but the guys who took the majority of reps in practice,” said No. 8 and captain Paul Jarvis. “But a lot of the young guys have stepped up.”
Scrumhalf Quinn Connell has stepped in impressively for Derek Fish, while newcomer and High School All American Madison Hughes, who learned his rugby while attending school in the UK, has been “electric” at fullback.
“Madison is fitting in really well,” said Jarvis. “He has a really good work ethic and with his athleticism and sense of the game, it’s really helped fill the hole left by the Downer brothers.”
That would be Chris and Nick Downer, who were RUGBYMag.com’s co-MVPs of the CRC.
“If anything he has more of a sense of the game than the Downers, who picked the game up in college,” said Jarvis. “When the chips were down the Downers would back themselves with their raw athleticism, but Madison has a great understanding of the game and kicks really well and that’s been a benefit.”
With those additions and a front row by committee that’s competing well and replacing the outstanding Charlie Grant, Dartmouth may be rebuilding, but they can also still play.
It doesn’t hurt, of course, to have Jarvis back, and All American Nate Brakeley.
Now back fully in DI (or should we say, DI-AA, as the College Premier Division is expected to be renamed DI-A), Dartmouth is looking to win the Ivy League and move on to Spring’s playoffs.
“As an Ivy League team, when we get into DI play we won’t be the biggest or the strongest team,” said Jarvis. “But we work on the things Coach [Alex] Magleby preaches - repositioning and the speed of the attack and the speed of the recycle. We returned a lot of guys who were on the CRC-winning team and we came back better ball carriers, better open-field runners, and better one-on-one tacklers.”
And they came back understanding what fitness standards they need. Sevens requires a high standard of fitness and the players now know the level of work they have to put in. It doesn’t hurt that they have the assistance of one of Dartmouth’s varsity strength and conditioning coaches.
“We have unbelievable intensity in our team workouts,” said Jarvis. “We know there is always room for improvement. As a team we’ve built a strong culture where we avoid setting arbitrary goals like winning the Ivy League. We know it’s a process where we want to be the best team we possibly can be. That way you’re never content to win some trophy, because you’re measuring yourself a different way.”
That doesn’t stop Dartmouth from circling a few dates on the calendar. One is this weekend against Yale.
“Last year we scored two tries early and it was a dogfight the rest of the game, and we don’t want to get dragged into that,” said Jarvis. “And we know Princeton is having a great season.”
But Dartmouth is reloading and looking strong. It hasn’t hurt that they won a 7s championships on national TV.
“The tangible effect from the sevens is that we have a much bigger freshman class than before,” said Jarvis. “And we expect to see more football guys come over in the spring.”
And what with they find?
“Dartmouth rugby has a culture that’s unrivaled on campus,” enthused the captain. “It brings together guys from all different backgrounds for a common purpose. The more you pay in the more you get out and really it’s the most rewarding thing I do on campus.”
Ivy League matches this weekend:
Cornell (0-2) @ Princeton (2-0)
Yale (0-2) @ Dartmouth (2-0)
Brown (1-1) @ Harvard (1-1)
Penn (1-1) @ Columbia (1-1)