I am a big fan of football and basketball. And although I don’t follow them as closely as basketball and football, I also watch baseball, soccer, and ice hockey every once in a while and understand each sport pretty well. However, before this past weekend, I had never watched nor played rugby, and I had no idea how the game worked.
On the night before my first Rugby Wolves game, I searched rugby rules on the internet and found out that tries (similar to touchdowns in football, except that you have to touch the ball to the ground) are worth five points; conversion kicks (similar to extra points in football, except that they are taken in a straight line from where the try was scored) are worth two points; and penalty goals (which occur when a team elects to take the kick after a penalty and may be kicked from a tee or drop kicked) and drop goals (which occur when a player stops during play and drop kicks the ball through the goal posts) are both worth three points.
I also learned that the only ways to advance the ball forward were by carrying it and punting it—forward passes are not allowed—and that when the ball carrier is tackled, the ball is not dead, but rather a ‘ruck’ ensues, in which both teams must push the pile and try to ‘ruck’ the ball behind them with their feet. Additionally, I learned that after a penalty, the other team gets to choose whether they want to take a kick or a scrum, in which the players lock arms with their teammates and try to push the other team back, as a player rolls the ball into the middle.
I had also looked at a few highlights of professional rugby, so I knew what the game looked like when played by men who had practiced it for years. But when I arrived at the St. Paul’s game, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, rugby has only been at SPS for less than a year, and the majority of the players had never played before.
One of the things that I noticed at the game was that both teams appeared to still be learning the rules of rugby; the game seemed to be stopped fairly frequently because of penalties, and these stoppages occasionally lasted a long time while the referee explained to the players why the penalty was called. This did seem to break the flow of the game a bit and made it seem more similar to football, rather than basketball, soccer, or hockey.
Nonetheless, the game was very entertaining and interesting. Although the Wolves fell to Shaw 22-12, the players on both teams were clearly playing hard, and I don’t recall seeing anyone give up on a play.
Additionally, there were some very exciting sequences during the game, including the Wolves’ final try of the game, scored by sophomore Christian Jarrett.
My personal favorite, however, were the in-bounds plays, in which players were lifted up to receive passes.
Lastly, although not being able to pass the ball forward seemed unnatural and restrictive at first, I got used to it and began to enjoy the excitement of both teams having to kick the ball frequently.
All-in-all, the rugby match was very fun to watch, and I would recommend that anyone who enjoys football, basketball, and/or soccer to give it a chance.
Click here to see the Rugby Wolves schedule/scoreboard.
Click here for more information about the Rugby Wolves.
(photos by Jacob Broussard)