Rugby secures spot in national championship
Matt Gad – Sports Writer
Southern’s men’s rugby club team, which trains and competes in Rugby Northeast during the fall and spring seasons, qualified for May’s Rugby Sevens National Championship.
“The spring season has been interesting so far. Our Sevens’ team has just clinched a spot to go to compete for a national championship at the beautiful Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.,” Dylan Carroll said.
In the fall, Southern’s Black Attack compete with 15 men on the field at once, per side, but in the spring they run with seven each. Last fall, the men reached the national semifinals, but were stopped short of winning it all.
“It’s a different style of play,” John Mizzone said, on the different ways rugby is organized. “Personally, I enjoy it more because it allows one to exploit the surplus of space on the field rather than 15s.”
Sevens is also a shorter game, playing a total of 14 minutes. It is the form of rugby that was adopted for the Olympics and that does so well in terms of popularity in the United States. That energy, and the smaller squads, make the on-field relationships between teammates that much more important.
“Team chemistry is the most important thing in rugby,” Carroll said. “You will notice that the best teams are also the best of friends. [Rugby] is a game of trust – trust in yourself, and in the man next to you.”
Carroll said the team has excelled in that aspect since he joined Southern rugby in the fall of 2014, his first semester on campus. Rugby 15s runs close to the Division II affiliated sports that happen at school at the start of the school year, and this current season is in line with ultimate frisbee, another non-NCAA club on campus, and baseball, softball, women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field.
“The feeling is definitely different going into nationals this season because, for one, the tournament is much further away. The game style is different and, quite frankly, one I think [Southern] dominates more,” Mizzone said. “It’s our second time going to nationals, therefore we are a little calmer and will have more exposure going into [the competition].”
He said the team is like “a brotherhood who trust each other to the fullest,” and that it has felt like that right from the start of his rugby career.
For this spring, Rugby Northeast adopted new rules related to timing, scoring, lineouts, scrums and free kicks, to name a few. A full list of changes is available on RugbyNortheast.org, and is aimed at making the game similar to what it is like outside of Southern. All these changes just reflect Rugby Sevens, in conjunction with World Rugby Global Law.
“Rugby is the fastest growing sport in the United States, as of 2016,” Carroll said. “Being from Ireland exposed me to rugby at an early age. I urge everyone to give it a try.”
The Rugby Northeast Conference was created for mainly Northeast-10 schools in 2011. They support both men’s and women’s programs and hosted their first ever Sevens competition in the spring of 2012.
Photo Courtesy: Dorothy Seaton