New Blue Rugby got the wake-up call it needed before the playoffs in a big way.
New Blue was shut out by Eastern Connecticut State, 26-0, in its first loss of the season Saturday at Boulevard Field in West Haven.
“We didn’t play well,” New Blue senior captain Jimmy Whelan said. “We played a great team. They were really good, but we didn’t come to play and that’s what it came down to.”
New Blue (3-1-1) was first in the conference with 11 points before Saturday’s matchup, but now Eastern Connecticut State (4-1) has 13 points, compared to New Blue’s 12.
“Right now they’re the best team in the league,” Whelan said. “[Losing] stunk, so I think it’s a wake-up call, but it’s good. We needed it. We realized we’re not as good as we need to be and it’ll push us to work that much harder so we do make the playoffs.”
New Blue struggled early, allowing two Warrior trys and conversion kicks within the game’s first 22 minutes, falling behind 14-0.
“They came out pretty fast in the first half and they got the two quick scores,” Whelan said.
After holding Eastern Connecticut State scoreless for about 30 minutes, one player broke free of several New Blue defenders and ran more than 60 yards across the field for a try to make the score 21-0 with 28 minutes to go.
“We were fighting for 60-something minutes at that point and they just got a lucky break, pretty much,” Whelan said.
New Blue had its chances in the Warrior zone, but weren’t able to penetrate through Eastern’s back line because of penalties and turnovers.
“We got back in the second and we were making stupid penalties, which were just killing us,” Whelan said. “We were in the scoring zone and stupid penalties pushed us back.”
New Blue had another wake-up call Oct. 15 when it tied conference rival Central Connecticut State, 12-12.
“We realized that we really had to work hard [after playing Central] and we clearly didn’t work hard enough this week,” Whelan said.
Whelan and the rest of the team are optimistic that they can accomplish the best seed in New Blue Rugby history by winning their last two games of the season. They not only want to prove to themselves that they can, but also to Quinnipiac University.
“If we win out we can get the highest seed New Blue Rugby has ever had and I think that’ll really show the school something, even for the future in maybe picking up rugby,” Whelan said.
New Blue has two more games left, hosting Western New England College (0-3) Saturday and traveling to face third-place Springfield College (3-1) Nov. 4.
“Hopefully we’ll finish up strong and get two wins to end the season and have a great record,” Whelan said.