Men’s rugby team caps perfect regular season, heads to Div. II championships

The Norwich men’s rugby team poses after taking the Div. II regional playoffs.  The team now heads to the                                                                               championships for Div. II.    John Lincourt Photo

The Norwich University Men’s Rugby team has had a perfect regular season, going 8-0, earning them first seed in the Rugby Northeast conference playoffs. Now it’s also perfect in the conference playoffs: The team beat Umass Lowell 36-24 on Saturday Nov. 4, and then took the championship with a thriller over Southern Connecticut State, 35-33, on Sunday.

“I believe that our brotherhood plays a huge role on this team,” said Korbin Wayton, a 22-year old junior accounting and business management major from Southlake, Texas. Wayton’s position is wing and centre. A wing tends to attack and defend up and down the edges of the field. The centre generally possesses a good kicking game and is good at reading the play and directing the attack.

Norwich’s men’s rugby team has had a very dominant season, thanks to the hard work of the athletes. Here’s a quick primer on the sport. A rugby game is a contest between two teams of 15 players, with 30 on the field at the same time, each with their own specific job to do. The game is split into halves of 40 minutes each.

Rugby is very fast-paced, only stopping for substitutions, injuries and when the referees gives out a yellow or red card or stops a fight. Rugby has two cards which indicate penalties to the players, similar to soccer. A yellow card means a player has been warned and may continue playing in the game, however if a player received another warning it will be a red card. A red card is used to indicate that a player has been sent off the field and can take no further part in the game.

When a penalty is called, the referee will raise his or her arm toward the team that get the ball. The offending team then must retreat 10 meters before they can rejoin play and attacking team has the option to tap the ball with their foot and run.

During a game, kicking it out of bounds for field position advantage or attempt a drop goal, or forcing a scrum is commonplace. A scrum is a method of restarting a play in rugby that involves the players on both teams coming together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball.

In rugby, any player may carry the ball, but none of your teammates can obstruct the opposition players, including when they are attempting to tackle your ball carrier. When you’ve gotten the ball, you are supposed run straight towards the opponents in-goal. Any player can pass the ball, but the only restriction is that the ball must go across field or backwards. Forward passes are not permitted, so whenever the ball comes forward on offense for something other than a kick, a scrum will be formed.

The scoring system is something similar to American football. Five points are given for a try, which is the rugby equivalent to a touchdown. Two points are for a conversion and three points for both penalties and drop goals, which is similar to field goals in American football.

According to the Goff Rugby Report, Norwich University is currently ranked number two in the nation within Division II. Being number two is a great achievement for the NU men’s rugby program, but rather than it being a cause for celebration, “it doesn’t feel good to be number two, [they would] rather be number one,” said Yao Dyson, a 20- year old junior political science major from Bristow, Va.

The NU men’s rugby team began the season way back on Sept. 9 with their first game and win of the season playing against Brown University, taking a 46-27 victory over the Bears.

In every matchup so far this season, the team has asserted its dominance, being able to make each match a high scoring affair, at least for the side of the Cadets, with a phenomenal point differential of +373, according to the official Rugby Northeast conference site. During the regular season, the Cadets piled on the points, dominating Southern Connecticut University (40-5), Roger Williams University (72-7), Saint Michael’s College (70-8), University of Massachusetts Lowell (54-7), Bentley University (56-5), and Providence College (88-8).

On Oct 28, the rugby team had its final game of the regular season, which turned out to be the most difficult matchup of the year for the Cadets. The team went against Middlebury College which was ranked nationally 5th in the nation. However, in a close-fought battle, the men were able to pull out a win against the Middlebury College Panthers with a final score of 22-10.

Liam Brown, a 19-year old sophomore computer security major from Fountain, Colo., explained how the matchup with the Panthers “was a hard game [since] Middlebury talked a lot during the game and some of our people on [the] team got a little emotional.” Brown thought it was going to be a fight but the players kept their cool and avoided penalites by staying calm in both the A side and B side.

Brown attributes this ability to be calm and collected in the face of a challenge to the fact that “we have a lot of leadership on this team, especially with Tom St. Pierre. He is a big leader for the backs and [they] have great leadership.”

“He’s our forward and a back, he basically runs to us to start the play and dishes the ball out to the backs to keep it going, so having that dynamic leader who’s right in between both spots really help us bond and bring back the force together,” Wayton said of St. Pierre.

“I choose to play rugby because when I came here, I met a guy named Anthony Candrilli, who just jumped out to me as a great guy and I really like him, we have a lot of fun we all like playing together, just a good group of guys that just like to get better and have friends for life. Also, the nature of the game and how aggressive it is, you go 80 minutes straight of just dog fights pounding it in the trenches back and forth, you and the guy that is in front of you,” said Wayton.

The NU men’s rugby team didn’t know how it would fare in the playoffs. Now it is waiting to see who it faces next in the US Rugby Division II championships.

“I definitely know that we are going to be playing against University of Wisconsin Whitewater. They were the team that knocked us out last year in the playoffs. I think fundamentally, we are doing a lot better this year so it will be a good chance to get back in the grind and to have a second shot at taking them down and going all the way,” said Wayton.

“It’s a chance just to prove ourselves to everyone, back up from last season to show that we are legit, especially [since the team has never] gone this far in history of the program. We need to back up what we did last year and show everybody that we can come out and do it again [to prove that] we are not just a [one-hit wonder] or a one-shot team. We are here to stay and we are going to keep fighting,” said Wayton.

The Div. II championships will kick off Nov. 18th when the Cadets take on North Carolina State in Kutztown, Pa. 

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