In the words of Winston Churchill, “rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”
The UR Men’s Club Rugby team, known as the Uglies, who’ve won the state title two out of the past three years, is no exception to this claim.
“For 80 minutes, you go toe-to-toe with the opposition, clawing for every inch, and when the final whistle blows, you dust yourself off, shake hands, and have a good laugh about the game,” senior and team member Ruairi Conway said.
The game is known for intense physicality and barbaric nature. A typical rugby match lasts about 80 minutes.
“Every player is hurt and tired after the first ten minutes,” junior player Rumi Easter said. “The key is to get up and keep on making tackles and plays.”
Senior player Patrick Fink agreed.
“You play for the rugger on your left and right, and you play to improve and spread the sport of rugby,” Fink said. “Our success certainly derives most from our strong team relationships, allowing us to understand our individual and team strengths and weaknesses.”
For the team, chemistry on and off the pitch is crucial to success, and is as high on the list of priorities as refining skill and tactics.
“The nature of rugby as a sport requires you to have a high level of trust in your team, ” Easter said. “Much of our success on the field comes from how close we are as a team both on and off the field.”
Another important factor for the Uglies is the strategic aspect of rugby, a sport that requires its players to study its complex tactics.
“While fitness and athleticism are huge parts of the game, usually the smarter and more skilled team wins,” Easter said. “While we constantly push ourselves physically, we encourage our players to do so mentally as well, by studying film matches.”
The team accepts all new members, regardless of experience level. Rookies on the team are taken under the wing of veterans, who teach them the rules of the game and make them feel welcome.
“We throw rookies right into the mix and try to guide them through the intricacies of the sport as we go through the drills or intrasquad scrimmages,” Fink said. “As a vet, I have gained a large respect for those mentors who guided us when we first got here. We took them for granted, but now understand how much they did for us.”
Joining the Club Rugby Team at UR was freshman Dylan Collin’s introduction to the sport.
“I decided to check out the rugby team because I have played sports my whole life and loved playing football in high school,” Collin said. “I wanted to maintain being apart of a close team, and that’s exactly what I got when I started playing for the Uglies.”
Fink began playing rugby in high school. . Senior Ruairi Conway played rugby for ten years before coming to UR. He took up the sport in Ireland, his home coutry, because of the its popularity among his classmates.
“Fortunately I learned to love the sport itself and will definitely continue to play after I graduate,” Conway said.
During the primary club rugby season, the Uglies compete in the Nescro Small College League and play against both in-state teams and those in the broader northeast. In the fall of 2015, the team was ranked 13th in the nation in its division. This season, despite being a building year, it has a high level of talent on their roster.
In the spring, the team begins its Sevens season, where each team plays with seven men on the pitch, rather than playing with 15 like they do in the fall.
The Uglies will compete in several tournaments this spring, but their number one priority is competing in national qualifiers in Plattsburgh, N.Y., in April.