Rugby battles back to tie Miami

By James Cantagallo

The men’s rugby team battled to a tie in its final game if the season.

After being eliminated from playoff contention last week in its 25-19 loss to Dayton, NIU (2-4-1) wanted to finish the season on a positive note. The Huskies did just that by tying Miami of Ohio, 31-31.

“We knew Miami was going to be a tough opponent,” said rugby president Pat Caulfield. “They were undefeated up until this point. They had been beating a lot of the competition by a large margin, especially the teams that had beaten us, so we knew it was going to be a fight.”

At halftime NIU was down 28-5, but the team didn’t want to finish the season with a blowout loss.

“We started off a little tired,” said team captain Osama Shayeb. “A little asleep, just thinking we weren’t going to win because of all the injuries we sustained over the season. We had a lot of people who never played certain positions playing, so we were kind of messing around and didn’t have much structure. As the game went on we really turned on the fitness and figured out what was going on and we just played rugby.”

Everything the Huskies had been working on all season came together in the second half of the regular season finale.

“Our guys made a bunch of key fixes to the problems we had seen going on,” Caulfield said. “We fought through it and we only allowed Miami three points in the second half. That shows that we weren’t ready to back down in our final half of rugby, and nobody wanted to go down the way it was looking.”

Shayeb was happy with the end result and was glad NIU ended the way it did after a difficult rebuilding season.

“We did pretty well if you ask me,” Shayeb said. “We came back from a three try down deficit, came back to draw the game in the second half. It was a great way to go out for the end of the season, and they were the only undefeated team in our division. We went out and had a good time for our last game and we ended up doing really well, it was a fun game.”

Caulfield was also happy with what he saw from the Huskies in the season finale.

“I definitely need to applaud my team,” Caulfield said. “This was the last game of the season, and this wasn’t for the playoffs, this was for pride and our team came out and played the best game we played all season.”