Rugby team closes fall season against the Ogres

On a campus dominated by ACC athletics and riddled with more extracurricular opportunities than any student can count, it can be difficult to remember the large and thriving community of students involved with club sports.
Students arrive on campus and can dive into such a wide range of sports ranging from baseball to table tennis, and one particular group of 80-some men appear to have fallen hard for the game of rugby.
“I actually had no intentions on playing rugby when I came to collect. I had never played a contact sport.” Said Karl Sofinowski, club Vice President. “At FASET, I saw the rugby table, and I had a couple of friends who played rugby in high school, and I said why not?”
For those not familiar with the sport, there are two styles of rugby. 7’s is played with seven players on the field, while 15’s is played with 15 players on the field. The 7’s style will be featured in the Olympics in 2016.
A “try” is worth five points and is scored when an attacker crosses over the goal line and touches the ball to the ground. A conversion goal is worth two points, and penalties and drop kicks are worth three each.
You must run forward, but passes can only be made backwards, and you can only score in front of you. The best way to move forward is to kick the ball. The team plans and executes plays just like a football team does.
“It is different than the other club sports, because the guys coming in have never played before. You have to learn the rules, learn the basics before you can play,” said Sofinowski.
The team recruits in the fall and begins training new players for the spring season, but the team is always open to new players. Out of all the club sports, rugby is unique because it welcomes all levels of players, and also charges the least of all the other teams to participate. 2012 has proven to be a good rebuilding year for the team, with more freshmen showing interest in the sport than ever before.
“We have more guys out there than we have ever had. We only have two or three seniors. It is a rebuilding year and a half,” said Sofinowski.
The head coach, Dan Mac Dougald, has coached the sport for around twenty years, and played rugby himself. While rugby may be viewed as a very violent and injury prone sport, the players argue that rugby is safer than football.
“Rugby statistically is safer than football in terms of injuries, even though we don’t wear pads. There are rules set up to protect the players,” said Sofinowski.
Although UGA may not be the best team the men face, it is still their biggest rival. Before they face each other, the Jackets will sing the Tech fight song to the Bulldogs, regardless of which field the game is played. The alumni from both teams will also go against each other later in the season.
The team does face good competition within Atlanta, and mentions Life University as its toughest opponent within the city limits.
“Life University is probably the best inside Atlanta, and the best team we play directly is Kennesaw State University,” said Sofinowski.
Although it is not a varsity sport, the men practice and train four days a week and play on the weekends.
“We practice Tuesday and Thursday, and we train every Monday and Wednesday. Our games fall on Saturdays or Sundays. It’s at least two hours every day. We have some great athletes, but rugby is a really foreign sport,” Dellaney said.
The most important games will be played in the spring against conference opponents like KSU and MTSU, and will determine whether the team makes it to the playoffs. The champion will go on to the regional tournament, and could advance to nationals. The reigning champions are from Maryland.
One point of pride to rugby players is the emphasis on being a gentleman within the sport. At all levels of competition, players are expected to play as hard as they can against their opponent, but be able to be friends and hang out after the match. It is common to hear of professional players heading out for drink after a game with their new friends from the opposing team.
“Everyone says soccer is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen,” said Alec Dellaney, a fourth year on the team.
The men have found more than just a way to burn off steam and get exercise in from their participation in the club.
“Playing rugby, you practice with the guys, you train with the guys, you party with the guys,” said Dellaney. “It’s my family at Tech.”
The men will face off against UGA on Friday night, Nov. 2nd in Athens at 8 pm. Their final two games of the season will be Nov. 10th against Macon at home at 1 pm, and against Duke at home on Nov. 17th at 1 pm.