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Revitalized Yale Shocks Ivies

irish rugby tours

Revitalized Yale Shocks Ivies

The surprise of the DIAA playoff picture has to be Yale University, which came into the Ivy League play-ins as the lowest seed - so low, in fact, that they only made the cut because Columbia didn’t want to play in it.

And yet, Yale upset favorites Cornell 34-5 on Saturday, and then defeated Brown 18-13 to take the final Sunday.

Director of Rugby Greg McWilliams recognized that this was an upset, but he also told Goff Rugby Report that he wasn’t surprised. 

“We understood that people were saying we were probably the worst team in the playoff,” said McWilliams. “And really we got in by chance. But we have been working very hard to get better.”

The Ivy League play-in was held because league winners Dartmouth decided instead to enter the Varsity Cup, so a DIAA playoff participant from the next four interested teams had to be held. 

“The whole winter we worked really hard to improve,” said McWilliams of his Yale squad. “We wanted to be more competitive, so we worked on individual skill with the ball and decision-making, and the guys worked really hard on their conditioning.”

They went on tour, as well, but even then, a recent game against Southern Connecticut State gave McWilliams reason to worry.

“We knew this playoff would be a step up from the fall season, but we were really poor against Southern Connecticut. We knew we had work to do.”

And yet they were in better shape than Cornell, who came into the play-in 5-2 in Ivy League play, but not having been able to get outside much. Yale’s cohesiveness won out, with captain John Donovan setting the tone with his hard work and unselfish play.

“John’s epitomizes the kind of player we want,” said McWilliams. “He’s on top of his academics. He’s organized, follows a good died. He understands what it takes to play as a team.”

In Sunday’s final against a Brown team that had just edged Princeton, Yale had more work to do. Against the wind in the first half they went down 3-0, but that was it, and McWilliams said he was pleased to be so close at halftime. In the second half, Yale went up 18-8, and then promptly gave away a try to make it 18-13. It was still anyone’s game. Twice Brown broke through for what could have been the winning try, and twice fullback Joe Murdy made try-saving tackles.

That sealed it, and Yale is in the national quarterfinals.