In rugby, a score across the opponent’s goal line is called a “try.” When my husband and I first began watching our son play this curious sport, we were bemused by that term. (My husband still occasionally calls it a touchdown.) After all, it’s much more than a try; it’s an accomplishment.
Terminology notwithstanding, we have found much to enjoy in this “hooligan’s sport played by gentlemen.” For one, it’s a much faster paced sport than football. There’s no grim march down the field to advance yardage. In rugby, it’s more of an up and down run as players get tackled and then instantly pass the ball (backwards!) to a teammate, continuing the advance until they score, lose the ball, or garner a penalty.
Rugby seems like a big guy’s game. Indeed, his size and strength seem to be our son’s secret weapons in the scrum. Overall, though, speed and agility are immensely important for all the players on the field. So smaller players can be very effective at getting the ball down the field, weaving in and out between opponents, and other maneuvers. This athleticism is just a lot of fun to watch.
Last weekend, our son’s college team, the Claremont Lions, once again took the national title in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) championship cup. Try and try again they did, as they racked up a score of 57-17 against the Christendom Crusaders.
My husband and I were, of course, thrilled with the club’s victory and series of accomplishments since our son started with the team three years ago. But we were even more impressed with the relationships these young men have developed off the field as a result of their participation in college rugby. In a ceremony the night before the title match, the boys each shared what it meant to them to be playing for the national championship – and, more importantly, what it meant to them to be part of this team. It was a beautiful display of friendship and belonging that transcends any victories or losses on the field.
I’m not sure how well I’ll ever understand the rough and tumble sport of rugby. It has taken me a lifetime to get the rules of American football and basketball. (And I still have questions!) What is clear to me is how much joy my son gets out of playing rugby with a great group of guys. Too soon, his college and rugby careers will be a thing of the past. But no one will ever take away the memories he has made and continues to make as a Claremont Colleges Lion. I’d like to see them try.