Rugby team loses old rivalry to Rice
Jan. 24, 2006
by REBECCA LILLEY, reporter
The two oldest rugby clubs in the state of Texas faced off Saturday to settle an old rivalry in the Stewart Morris Challenge Match.
Baylor’s green and gold circled up opposite Rice’s blue and gray. After the Bears knelt to pray and the owls performed their ritual pre-game chant, the teams lined up, the whistle blew and Baylor kicked to Rice. What followed was a series of passes and tackles with the final score 24-11, Rice.
For those unfamiliar with rugby, the sport can be surprisingly intense. The players wear little or no padding and tackle each other full force onto the ground.
In rugby, a ruck occurs when the ball is on the ground and members of each team are in physical contact and kicking the ball. A maul is like a ruck except the player with the ball is on his or her feet.
Several times during the game, the players lined up opposite each other in clusters, bent down and shoved against each other. The referee threw the ball in and the teams tried to kick it backwards to their side. This is called a scrum and is usually called after a penalty.
Blake Rodgers, a Dallas sophomore and captain of the Baylor rugby team, said the roughness is what appeals to players.
“I play because of the contact. I like the camaraderie of the team. We kill each other on the field, but we go out and have fun afterwards,” Rodgers said.
Jennifer Purnell, a Dallas junior, has attended every men’s rugby game for the past three years, home and away.
“The first game made me nervous, but I got used to it,” Purnell said. “The guys are all good sports. They look rough, but they’re not out to hit each other, they’re just playing the game. They all go out to dinner afterward.”
Baylor lost the trophy to Rice this weekend, but Zachary Oliphant, the men’s rugby coach, said the players are not discouraged.
“We played a tough game against a D-1 school,” Fairfax, Va, junior Jeff Kriesel said. “We still need to get the kinks worked out. We have a lot of new players this year. We could still win the season.”
Oliphant is confident in his team’s ability to win.
“I think the game this past weekend showed me some real promise in our squad,” Oliphant said. “Our team has improved our cohesiveness and fitness two-fold since early in the year. It was an unfortunate loss this past weekend to Rice, but I am confident we will continue to improve and have a successful season.”
Baylor is hosting the Texas Rugby Union tournament this March. The four best rugby teams in Texas will play in Waco for the championship.
Rugby is not a sport for the faint of heart, Kriesel said. It’s full of sweat, blood and hard work, but the game is fascinating and fun to play.