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Men's rugby team good last year, maybe better now

Oct. 5, 2000

By MINDY POEHL

Reporter

If you want to see a winning team that tackles, passes and kicks, the Men's Rugby Club fits the bill.

'We're playing awesome,' David Harris, a sophomore wing said. 'We're better than I've ever seen.'

Last year the team placed 9th in the nation and was the Division II State Champions and Western Rugby Union runner-ups.

This year the team has a 2-0 record and has extended its home winning streak to 15 matches over the past two-and-a-half years. With the scoring the same as it is in football, the team beat Louisiana Tech University 88-0 last weekend.

'This is the best team I've ever played on,' Billy Effinger, a junior fullback, said. 'We have a good chance at winning the national championship.'

The team consists of 35 to 40 players, and half of the team is returning from last year.

'Most of the players knew nothing about the game before they joined the team,' Effinger said. 'We teach everyone how to play from the ground up.'

Coached by Dr. John Blakeman, the team practices many long hours. Practices are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. until nightfall, and they take practice very seriously.

'We bench guys if they don't come to practice,' said senior and team president, Zach Oliphant.

The rugby field is about the same length as a football field, only wider. Rugby is often compared to football, but there are differences.

No forward passes are allowed, the players do not wear pads, and the competitors play both ways, on offense and defense.

'If anything, it's a hybrid of soccer and football,' Oliphant said. 'It has the running and speed of soccer, but the hitting and contact of football.'

Fifteen players are allowed to start. The team is broken up into A and B teams, which are like varsity and junior varsity teams. The A team is made up of more experienced players, while the B team is for newcomers.

However, players can qualify for the A team if they improve enough.

'If you beat someone out, we move that player up,' Oliphant said.

Effinger believes the team needs to continually practice to be perfect.

'We're physically fit,' he said. 'but we need more strategy work.'

The B team plays Concordia University this weekend, while the next home game for the A team is Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. against Southern Methodist University.

'They are our archrival,' junior 8-man Matt Lewis said. 'It's probably our biggest game of the season.'

Last weekend the team had more than 300 fans in attendance, but the players still believe they need sponsors and more support.

'We need more people to come out and support us,' Oliphant said. 'We're just as competitive as the NCAA teams. Everything we do, we do it because we love the game.'