UR’s Men’s Club Rugby team, the Uglies, made the playoffs this year for the first time in a while, coming off of a 2022 season where they did not play at all. Despite a season full of ups and downs, the team made it farther than anyone thought they would.
Rugby may not be the most popular sport in the country, but its structure encompasses parts of many beloved ones. It can be described as a fusion between lacrosse and American football, just with no forward passing allowed. Rugby has a reputation of being one of the most violent sports played professionally, so who wants the win the most does count.
“It’s quite an aggressive sport with few stoppages over the 120 minutes, so it’s important to go into the game knowing that you’re willing to sacrifice to win, believing that you can win and start the game with the aggression high,” said senior exchange student Thomas Gaha. Gaha has played rugby all his life; he is from Australia, where rugby is one of the dominant sports.
“Over the years I’ve grown to love it more and more. It really is the greatest sport,” Gaha said. “I’ve played pretty much everything, but nothing compares to the feeling of winning a hard fought rugby match.” The intensity of rugby often means that the team with more determination triumphs over the one with perhaps more skill, and that is what powered the Uglies into their playoff berth.
“Favorite moment of the season would be our comeback win against Niagara,” Gaha shared. “We were a couple tries down and we managed to dig in and get back ahead.” Injuries and yellow cards led to the Uglies playing on the back foot — for example, in a Sept. 16 game against Niagara University where they ended up with three fewer players than their opponents, yet they still managed to claim a victory.
But it wasn’t just the determination of the players; the team’s successes are in large part due to the commitment of coach Shahzoda Nasimjonova.
“Last year we didn’t have a rugby team,” Gaha said. “The team only exists this semester because she stepped up to organize and coach it all. She has really helped develop everyone in the team and been a great friend, coach, mentor, and source of inspiration.”
Unfortunately, the Uglies were knocked out of the playoffs after a hard fought match against Ithaca, but the team held their own all season against teams with deeper reserves and more funding.
Looking forward to next year, the current makeup of the team gives them plenty of time to build on their successes. “As the team is so freshman heavy, we are in a great position to build the program over spring and come back even stronger next year in the fall,” Gaha said. “I can’t imagine how good some of our players will be by the time they are seniors.”
The Uglies are going to keep up the determination that led to their wins this season. That combined with more experience will make them a formidable opponent to face next year.
For more information on the team and updates on their season, you can find them on Instagram @uofrmensrugby.