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Rugby Club Back on the Big Stage

By Aaron Unterreiner   News-Leader  Saturday May 10 2003

USA Rugby Championships

·       Who: Springfield Rugby Club

·       Where: Newport, R.I.

·       When: SRC vs. Los Angeles, 2:30 p.m. today; SRC vs. Doyletown or Chicago Westside Condors, noon or 2:30 p.m. Sunday

The Springfield Rugby Club celebrated its 20th birthday with an accolade altogether new to the relatively young franchise.

With its 35-21 win over the Denver Harlequins last Saturday, the SRC claimed its first-ever Western Territorial Championship. The victory means a return trip to the USA Rugby Championships among the top 16 teams in the nation, where it hopes to reach another first – the final four.

“We’ve got a pretty good chance,” SRC captain Chad Lugar said. “It’s a key group of boys that play right now, we’ve all been together, at least about 15 of us, for about five years or more and I’d say that’s the main thing.”

“We all know what each other is going to do before one person will even do it. We’ve all played together for so long that it’s all coming together, or at least it has for the past few years.”

The SRC has five consecutive Heart of America Division II championships, has reached the national tournament four of the past five years and has advanced to the elite eight two years in a row. They will try to make it three today in Rhode Island with a first round match against Los Angeles at 2:30pm and a Sunday meeting with either Doyletown or the Chicago Westside Condors.

Cam Collins, an ex-player now serving as the team’s treasurer on the board of directors, thinks this is the best team Springfield has ever fielded.

“I think so, it’s definitely the deepest,” Collins said. “We’ve got a full group of athletes this time so we’ve got some depth and that really is important.”

“You’re covering a lot of ground out there, so it would be like playing two football games in two days, with only six or seven substitutions, depending on how many you’ve got in the match. It can be rather demanding on the body.”

The postseason roster will expand from 22 players to 26, with 15 starters and 11 substitutions to compete in two 40-minute halves. But you can count on more than 26 people to show up in Rhode Island, with 30 full-time players and around 180 alumni, the SRC tends to travel in bunches.

“Most of the alumni do stay involved and quite a few guys will always travel with the team,” Collins said. “It can be a strange traveling party including friends, wives, children, dogs and whoever else shows up.”

But not every member can put life on hold for a road trip, as 55-year-old player and 10-year veteran John Schraft (*) will have to miss this tournament for a business trip down south.

“I don’t travel quite as much because of family and work,” Schraft said. “And as they’ve been doing better the last few years they’ve been getting higher level of competition, which requires more traveling and with family and work it’s just hard to do, so I leave that up to the younger, single guys”.

Due to the club’s most recent success, beginning next year in its 21st season, the SRC will play at the Division I level, one notch below the Super League.

“To get to the competition we need to play … we need to play the Division I and Super League clubs just to maintain the competitiveness at that point,” SRC President Mark Owens (**) said. “Because the clubs outside our area are so much more competitive that they get a lot higher level of competition on a more regular basis than we do”.

Rhode Island is sure to provide its toughest competition yet, but regardless of this weekend’s outcome, the SRC has a few things to be proud of outside of a national championship.

“Twenty years is pretty good for most club teams, especially in the Midwest,” Collins said. “We own our own land and I think there’s only about a dozen teams in the whole U.S. that can boast that and we hope that helps us with the development of our club.”

“If we get ‘em out, they stay out and pretty much stay with us for life. It’s a fast-paced game that generally has a lot of scoring, a lot of good hits and tackling – it stays pretty exciting”.


(*) John Strahl

(**) Mark Owing



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