Rugby club gaining attention at UC Riverside

Gordon Huang/HIGHLANDER

A sport known for its physical intensity, rugby is quietly becoming a well-known activity at UC Riverside. With about 70 members on both the men’s and women’s teams, the UCR Rugby Club is slowly turning heads as more and more people are becoming aware of the sport that’s been mostly popular overseas.

It’s been described as a sport with all the intensity of football and all the speed of soccer. Like the football sport most Americans are aware of, rugby has a variety of scoring combinations. In rugby, players drive to one end of the field to the other, hoping to get the ball to the other side to score. After the ball is driven to the other side, there is a conversion kick to give the team more points. Like soccer, the match is continuous and doesn’t feature breaks even after tackles.

It’s a relatively unknown sport at UC Riverside. The program has been on and off since 1958 and this current club was restarted in 2006. The men’s team was started first and the women’s side quickly followed thereafter. As Sandra Lopez, the captain of the women’s team explained it, recruiting has been relatively difficult, but there has been an increase in player availability and fan attendance despite the fact that the club is new.

“We haven’t even been around a year,” said Sandra Lopez of the women’s team.“We just started recruiting members this summer. So we played a summer tournament where only seven people played. In our first game we had one sub. Now we have a pretty good turnout; we got like 20 players.”

When asked about the time it took to bring players together, Lopez replied, “It took a long time. Just trying to talk to people in my classes and trying to get the word out. Slowly, we started coercing people.  We didn’t have a coaching staff until November. Now that we have a coaching staff, we have a winning record.”

Playing in only their second game of the winter season, the women’s rugby team had a great outing against Long Beach State’s rugby club this past Saturday afternoon. It was a physical and passionate match for both teams. UCR’s club was a bit more physical and moved the ball more effectively. In the end, the UCR women’s rugby team prevailed over Long Beach by a score of 10-7.

The men’s team, on the other hand, had a tough match against North County College. Falling behind early in the game, the men’s team had trouble converting on offense. It was a hard-fought game on both ends, but the running game of North County College was too much for UCR to contain. North County College ultimately prevailed in the game by a score of 28-15.

“I think our effort against North County College left a lot to be desired,” said the men’s head coach Boris Musakwa after Saturday’s match. “We were dominant in the set pieces, but we weren’t aggressive in general play.”

Both teams are scheduled to compete throughout the remainder of the winter season. Fans of the sport can sometimes catch the teams in action on the weekends at the UCR Sporting Complex. As the coach of the women’s team, Roger Light put it, rugby is an exciting sport and he encourages students to attend.

“There’s non-stop action,” Coach Light explained. “If you like contact sports, this is definitely a great game to watch and this is a great team to watch.  It’s good to get out and see them.”

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