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Harvard Takes Sparkling NIRA DI Final Over Dartmouth

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Harvard Takes Sparkling NIRA DI Final Over Dartmouth

Trophy time. Alex Goff photo.

In a game that lived up to the hype, Harvard defeated Dartmouth to win the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association DI varsity championship.

Paced by two tries from wing Lennox London and one from flyhalf and game MVP Brogan Mior, the Crimson won thanks to an adventurous attacking style and a determined goalline defense that made Dartmouth work enormously hard for their points.

The kicking game was hugely important but for the most part both sides were up to the challenge. 

Where the battle was certain enjoined was the contact area. Both sides found it difficult to work through multiple phases because the collisions and the speed of defenders over the ball forced several turnovers.

For the most part Harvard was more likely to play with width, and Dartmouth was a little more methodical with their attack. Harvard had the majority of ball early on while Dartmouth kept them bottled up in their half. Playing against the wind Harvard was able to go by ground to get to midfield, and there Dartmouth's Hehea Pulotu was penalized and yellow-carded by referee KAt Roche for an intentional knock-on. 

A little extra space was all Harvard needed. A little break from Mior and then from flanker Jara Emtage-Cave got the Crimson closer and then the ball was snapped out wide to London who burst here way to the corner—5-0 Harvard.

Much of the rest of the half saw Dartmouth work their way toward scoring chances. Harvard found themselves defending their tryline and did superbly, forcing a couple of knock-ons and making crucial tackles.

Eventually, as halftime approached, Dartmouth finally work the ball over. No. 8 Cindy Taulava, who has emerged as a key carrier for the Big Green, scored the try, and Abbey Savin converted to give Harvard a 7-5 lead.

But how a team responds in times like this is a measure of a good team. As halftime approached, Mior sliced through a gap and fended off a couple of defenders to cruise in just before the break. That made it 10-7.

The second half was as intense, if not more so, as the first. Each possession carried so much meaning. Harvard extended their lead relatively early in the second half when Mior saw some space deep and lofted a kick that London chased down and took in for her second try. Chloe Headland’s conversion made it 17-7. London then backed that up with a key defensive stop and a big run to get Harvard out of their 22. She came close to scoring a third but the key accomplishment there for the entire Crimson outfit was to forced Dartmouth to play a long field.

Harvard had a couple more chances to score but the Dartmouth defense did superbly to hold them out and keep it a 10-point game. London, Tiahna Padilla, and No. 8 Charlotte Gilmour all had their chances, and it seemed like many of those chances were orchestrated by Mior and center PK Vincze.

But Dartmouth held on. They came close, too, but not close enough. With time winding down Headland slotted a penalty goal that made it a 13-point game, and ensured that Dartmouth would need two converted tries to win it. They didn’t have time for that. As time expired Anajali Pant capped off a surging team movement to make it 20-12, but the missed conversion after that would be the final play of the game.

Harvard caps off a 9-0 season sparked by a truly talented backline and a hardworking forward unit that knew that solid possession would produce points. It was a fitting end to the season, which saw 11 teams in the NIRA DI and the unveiling of a power ratings system to make up for the fact that there are too many teams for everyone to play everyone else. 

This season saw the emergence of several programs to a higher ranking, with Sacred Heart making the semifinals and more parity throughout the league.

Still, Harvard and Dartmouth were the two strongest, and for 2023, Harvard lifts the trophy.

Harvard 20
Tries: London 2, Mior
Convs: Headland
Pens: Headland

Dartmouth 12
Tries: Taulava, Pant
Convs: Savin