Norwich mens rugby gains another 7s title

The Norwich Mens rugby team captured another 7s tournament title this year and is now aiming to take the Chris Munn 7s tournament this weekend. NU athletics photo

The Norwich men’s rugby team looks to keep developing and improving during the spring rugby season. After finishing the fall season with a 9-2 record, the team has been working succesfully to carry that success into the spring.

The team won its second straight Rugby Northeast Tournament 7s title and third overall in a row last Saturday afternoon April 13 at UMass Lowell. It stands at 13-4-3 this week, with a five game winning streak as it heads into a Thursday night developmental match at home against Keene State.

The spring season is not played the same as fall. In the spring, rugby is played seven on seven for seven-minute halves. This compares to the fall when it’s 15 against 15 for two 40-minute periods.

The team has accomplished what it set out to do, said Austin Manhey, a senior flanker from Ballston Lake, N.Y. “Goals that we want to accomplish are, for one, win the Rugby Northeast conference championship. Manhey said that has been possible because of the team’s practice goals, getting the team’s tackling and conditioning up and being prepared for tournaments, he explained.

Especially with being confined to the Shapiro field house, it is difficult to hold full-contact practices. “Recently we have been able to be on Sabine which helps us out a lot,” Manhey said.

A big goal for the team for the spring is to win the Chris Munn tournament on April 27. “Nothing really means more to us than showing our support towards ALS and how much Chris means to us,” Manhey said. The Cadets host the sixth annual Chris Munn 7s Tournament on Saturday at 10 a.m.

New captains aren’t selected for the spring season, partially because the captain at the time is a junior, but the way the team leads is relatively unorthodox. “We have a leadership council, composed of several leaders on the team that our coach chooses,” Manhey said.

As rugby is a two-season sport, there is no point during that time that the team isn’t training. “Since our season usually lasts till the end of November, our only time off from training is those few weeks before winter break,” Manhey explained.

“When we get back for the spring semester, we get right back into training, such as team lifts twice a week, or captain’s practice once or twice a week,” Manhey said, “Other than that, it’s up to the individual to keep up with it themselves over the off-season.”

“I wasn’t able to attend the Ottawa tournament due to having to go my sister’s wedding. But what I can say for the Bermuda and Iona tournaments is that they are both high level competition tournaments,” Manhey said.

Both of these tournaments were similar in the level of the teams the Cadets played. “If anything, there was a little better competition at the Iona tournament,” said Manhey.

The Iona tournament had many Division I teams participating, illustrating the high level of competition Norwich faced. “Whoever won the tournament went to the first round of Nationals,” Manhey explained.

Bermuda was perhaps the tournament that the Cadets were preparing and looking forward to the most. “In my opinion we were ready to play in that tournament,” stated Manhey.

“For Iona, we only had a few days’ heads up because it was a last-minute tournament, and we weren’t as prepared for that one,” he continued.
“The biggest thing we need to work on is being more aggressive on offense and staying with one another in support,” said Nathan Rolling, a junior flanker from Taylorsville, Utah. The team also needs to improve on its tackling, which Rolling says is down compared to previous seasons.
The team wants to continue focusing on their strong work ethic that they have held over the past several years. “Our goal is to win conference and return to the national championship this year again,” Rolling explained.

An important improvement that the team is working on during the spring season for next fall is their team chemistry. “There will be quite a few of starters leaving this spring, so it will be imperative that they start finding their chemistry with one another, because it’s the hardest thing in my opinion to coach. It’s mostly falls on the players,”said Manhey.

The last big tournament of the year is the all-military sevens tournament, and the competition is going to be tough, Manhey said. “I’m not exactly sure the makeup of teams that are going to be there, but all I can say is that it’s going to be one hell of a tournament. And I really hope VMI will be there, so we can face them once more,” Manhey said.

Despite the importance of the military sevens tournament, the Cadets have loftier goals. “What I want to get out of this spring season is a national championship. This is my last season ever with the boys and there is nothing I would want more than to head to Arizona and win Nationals with them,” Manhey stated.

The Bridgton Academy and Keene State development games are games for the Cadets developmental squad. As there are only seven players on the field at a time, not everyone on the team is able to play 7’s.

“For the others, they prepare for upcoming fall season of fifteens, the developmental squad focuses primarily on this. Which is where these games come in, our developmental side plays their developmental games in order to get us better prepared for upcoming season,” Manhey said.
Rolling said the team has put in a lot of work with team lifts every Monday and then two lifts individually during the week, all aiming to the May championship games.

We [wanted] to get another championship in conference but more importantly, we want another shot at taking Nationals in Arizona.” Rolling said.

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