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Fighting Cocks take a beating from Angry Beavers

October 19, 2006

On Oct. 14, the UW-River Falls Fighting Cocks men’s rugby team played in the Minnesota Rugby Div. III League Championship game in Eagan, Minn., and although they did not win, they put up a good fight.

River Falls took on the Bemidji State Angry Beavers in the championship game and lost by a score of 12-10. This was the first time since 2003 the Fighting Cocks played for the title. Back in 2003, a year the team went undefeated, they won the title. 

“It was a very close game and we ended up taking second place with a score of 10-12,” Tyler Stevens said. “This was frustrating because we could have won, but it just didn’t happen for us.  It was still a good game, and all of our guys played their best.”

Fifth year player, Stephan GrandPre said he thought the team played well, but the Fighting Cocks suffered the heartbreaking loss in the end.

“Bemidji started out strong and capitalized on some penalties scoring the first try and going up 0-5. The Fighting Cocks slowed down the game and played to their traditional style, dominating with strong pack play,” GrandPre said.  “The hard work, strong rucking, and dominant scrums of the forwards combined with the quick passing and illusive running of the back line to help UW-RF’s Tom Johnson score the next two tries, putting the Fighting Cocks ahead of the Angry Beavers 10-5…unfortunately the Bemidji backline scored on a long breakaway and by converting the try Bemidji went up 10-12.”

Up until that time, the men had played seven games and won all of them to secure their spot in the championship game. Three games were in the All Minnesota Tournament and the remaining four were league games. River Falls won all four of their league games.
In the league, they beat St. Mary’s 44-5, Carleton 35-5, Southwest State 14-7 and Gustavus 25-12.

“This strong season was not without its hardships including many injuries to some key players,” GrandPre said. “Our current team is led by several fifth year students but is supported by a strong base of first and second year players. The future looks very bright for these experienced underclassmen as they look to lead the Fighting Cocks to further success.”

The team was very close this season and it is possible that the way they all got along helped the team do so well this season.

“Our teammates are really great,” Travis Moe said. “We had a good group of rookies this year who played well throughout the season, and it will be really hard to replace some of our veteran players who are graduating.”

For veteran players like GrandPre, being a member of the rugby team has meant a lot to him.

“The team is a tightly knit group and strong friendships are built. My teammates become some of my best friends,” GrandPre said. “I was proud to play my 50th game for River Falls next to longtime teammates Tom Johnson, Joe Bayer and with injured Dietz Peterson coaching us from the sidelines. These are the players that I will cherish my memories of playing with and look forward to hopefully a few more games alongside them.”

If there are two things that set rugby apart from other sports, they are the camaraderie and the toughness of the game.

“Rugby is a unique sport because of the social aspect with other teams afterwards. You can be playing the game and ready to fight every one of their players, but once the match is over you go to the social and it is all forgotten on the pitch,” Stevens said. “You sing the great rugby songs, eat some food and you hang out with all the other players who are just as sore as you, no matter what team they are from.  It is also unique because it is so physical and we still don’t need to use pads to soften the blows.”

The Fighting Cocks are scheduled to have a scrimmage against UW-Eau Claire this weekend, so practice will continue for one more week and then they will have some time off.

“After that we will play again in the spring season,” Stevens said. “Practice will start in late February or early March.”

The Fighting Cocks will play another half dozen games or so in the spring.
The games could possibly include the long-standing All Saints Tournament in St. Cloud, Minn.