From the beginning of the game it was apparent that this was the opening matchup for the New England Rugby Football Union playoffs. There was a different energy on the Spartan sideline, now playing in a do-or-die situation. Castleton rugby has played flawlessly thus far, having very little pressure put against it, never once playing from behind. Saturday held different adversities for the Spartans to overcome, challenges that would determine another week of existence in the single elimination tournament. Castleton fell behind Johnson State College in the beginning of the game, going down by three points. The Spartans regained the lead and never let it go. Castleton ran on to a 39-13 win, and another week with home field advantage. All season long the team has pounded down the opposing team, making it look effortless. At Gawet Memorial Field, the victory was anything but emotionless. Each player gladly gave his blood, sweat, and anything else he could to contribute to the victory.
“I think we’ve been working harder today than usual,” said Ed MacEnulty during the second half’s final minutes. “We were disappointed with last year. We’re trying a lot harder to not fall victim to making it this far and not finishing it out.”
The hard work did not go unnoticed by the fans or by coach Patrick “Slim” Ainsworth. He paced up and down the sidelines in a cowboy hat, praising his players for their play and adjusting their positioning on the field. The players call Ainsworth “Slim.” The chemistry the players have with him is just as strong as the one they have with each other.
“It’s a result of hard work,” Ainsworth said. He added, “I’ve coached several players for the last four years; it’s starting to really come together this year.”
Ainsworth also attributed the off-field chemistry as a big factor in the team’s success.
By game’s end against Johnson, the muddy and worn down Spartans gathered in a large circle. They cheered for the official, the opposition, and then themselves. The two a days are nothing but a fuzzy preseason memory now, as Castleton advances to another semifinal matchup.
“We come out and play our game. A lot of our guys are athletic,” said Brendan Lacaillade. “We have a lot of camaraderie: we’re brothers.”
Castleton will play host to the NERFU semifinal matchup next Saturday. The Spartan rugby team will try to remain unbeaten and continue its perfect execution on the field. The NERFU title is one week closer to a talented group of brothers fighting to remain the league’s best.