Tuesday October 30, 2012

For the second consecutive season, the Berkshire United Rugby men's club is a regional runner-up.

Berkshire United finished second in Saturday's New England Rugby Football Union Division IV tournament, held at Camp Good News in Sandwich on Cape Cod. Taking the same path it did to last season's D-IV championship match, Berkshire (6-3) beat Boston Ironsides and Bennington Battle RFC to advance to the final, where it fell to champion Boston Maccabi.

"It's by far the best result Berkshire rugby has had in years, if not ever," Berkshire United player/coach David Colli said Monday. "We certainly would much rather have a championship in our pocket, but it doesn't change how excellent of a season we had."

Berkshire -- the No. 2 seed entering the tournament -- shut out eventual third-place finisher Ironsides 39-0 in its opener, getting two tries each from outside center Quintin Sumpter and 8-man Ken Card. Colli, Steve Fleischmann and Jon LaCasse added tries, with Colli kicking two conversions.

The stakes were a bit higher for Berkshire in the semifinals. Not only was another championship-match berth at stake, but Bennington had also beaten Berkshire 31-24 in the teams' Sept. 8 opener at Bennington.

The issue wasn't in doubt for long in the rematch, as Berkshire took control early in a 29-7 victory.

"I think we all felt like we didn't play a very good game and made a lot of mistakes at Bennington," Colli said.


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"That being said, there's obviously not a lot of love lost. They view us as their No. 1 rival. To beat them two years in a row when it counts ... there was no doubt we controlled and dominated the entire game."

Wing Andrew Lawrence scored two tries in the win, with fellow wing Matt Guilfoy scoring two more tries. Card added a try, while Colli kicked two conversions.

"I think it was the trademark win of the season," Fleischmann said in an email. "... We played one of the most complete team games of rugby I've seen in my year plus with Berkshire United. We all played well, and played together -- 15 as 1, as Dave so often says."

Berkshire's run was stopped by Maccabi, the top seed who finished the Division IV season unbeaten with a 28-3 championship-match win. Maccabi -- a first-year club who will be promoted to NERFU Division III -- had soundly defeated Berkshire three weeks earlier.

Maccabi took an early 21-0 lead and held off Berkshire, which could only manage a Colli penalty kick the rest of the way.

"We played them tough," Colli said. "They got up to a 21-0 lead [in the first 15 minutes of the game], and then ... we shut them down for basically 30 minutes of the game.

"They're the best team that's been in Division IV since there's been a Division IV in New England."

Despite another runner-up finish, Colli called the season the best Berkshire County rugby has had "in decades.

"We just got better and better every game," he said. "From [the Bennington loss], we knew what we had to get better at."