Men's rugby finishes fall season strong
November 6, 2008
The UW-River Falls rugby team capped off a successful fall season with a fourth-place finish at the All-Minnesota Tournament on Oct. 24 at the Polo Grounds in Minneapolis.
Team members said winning the All Minnesota Tourney was a realistic goal that was not quite obtained. However, they said there were many promising moments from the fall season. This year’s team captain Crague Cook was optimistic about the team’s performance.
“The fall season went great. We had a lot of new faces that filled in for us, but I think this is the best we have been in years,” he said.
Team member Paul Oligney said the experience gained through the fall season bodes well for the team’s future.
“We won quite a few games and I think we definitely had the talent to win the Minnesota Border Battle and even the Final Four. We didn’t make it as far as we had planned, but we had a lot of fun and picked up some good prospects for the future,” he said.
Rugby is a club sport on most college campuses since it is not sanctioned by the NCAA. Past rugby teams at UWRF have competed against other teams from Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Canada. This year’s squad will also play a spring schedule, although it has yet to be finalized.
To the untrained rugby observer, words like tackle, ruck, scrum and maul may sound like the vocabulary from a chess match gone bad or a type of grisly horror movie. However, these are a few of the terms and actions that dictate the play of the game.
Cook said people familiar with the sport know just how fun it can be to play and watch. He also said rugby is growing in popularity nationwide.
“When we introduce people to the game we try to make as many comparisons to football, since that’s what they are most familiar with,” he said. “It might seem dangerous because of the nature of play and not wearing any pads, but the rules of the game really do protect the players.”
A rugby team has 15 players on the field of play, while American football and soccer have 11 players on each team. In rugby, each team is numbered the exact same way for each team. The number of each player signifies that player’s position. Players numbered one through eight are forwards, who are typically the larger, stronger players of the team. The main job of the forward is to win possession of the ball. These players are similar in size and abilities as American football linebackers and lineman. Players numbered nine through 15 are backs, who tend to be the smaller, faster and more agile players. Their main role is to exploit possession of the ball that is won by the forwards, similar to the roles of American football’s running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks.
According to team members past and present, playing rugby offers not only a physical challenge, but also a mental and social challenge as well.
Dereck Richter plays for this year’s team and said that it takes more than just size and speed to be successful.
“Rugby is a sport that allows players to use their mind more than just raw talent. This is a mental game, and smarts will win over skill,” he said.
UWRF alumnus Jamie Wenzel played rugby on campus nearly 15 years ago. He said the players seemed to form a special bond that has lasted to this day.
“I think we [rugby teammates] formed a type of brotherhood in a way. We always had each other’s back on and off the field. Whenever we see each other now, we always bring up our playing days,” he said.
Cook agreed that rugby offers a unique form of competition and offers a close knit bond for competitors and teammates alike.
“It’s a sport like no other. No matter how heated the battle is on the field and how angry you can be at your opponent, after the game everyone has respect for each other,” Cook said. “It has been a tradition that both sides usually meet at a designated place and socialize.”
On-the-field achievement and off-the-field camaraderie are not the only goals of this year’s team. In cooperation with Habitat for Humanity, this year’s squad will be spending a weekend helping build houses for those in need.
“It’s a good way to give back something to the community and also to get some good publicity while helping others,” Cook said. “It’s a great situation for everyone involved.”