Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Club’s 30th Anniversary

901825_10152004142890826_3679627231760874053_o It was a warm and sunny spring morning, May the 3rd, 2014.  Awaking from their slumber after a night of debauchery at the annual Hall of Fame Night, the Alumni of UMBC Rugby made their annual pilgrimage to the rugby mecca that is Walker Field.  For the first time in what must have felt like a lifetime, they dusted off their boots and donned their alumni jerseys for the 18th Annual UMBC Rugby Alumni Game.  Expectations were high, with plenty of smack-talking, promises off ass-kicking, and guarantees of points scored by both sides before the game.  The game was shaping up not only to be an epic battle for pride, but also a great game of rugby, with some of the best athletes that have ever taken the pitch for UMBC coming out to play for the alumni against a current team that has consistently played dominant, hard-hitting games in the spring semester.

After watching a great game where the UMBC Old Girls took on the current Women's Rugby Club, the field soon became filled with that familiar pregame chant that is such an integral part of  UMBC Rugby.  Both sides told epic tales of when their players have woken up in the land of the No-Necks, and followed it up with the chant that prepares their minds and spirits for their competition.  As both sides jumped up and down, jersey pulled up on top of their head, screaming at the top of their lungs, the stage was set, and the game did not disappoint.

Directly from the kickoff there were huge hits and strong rucking and running, in true UMBC style.  The powerhouse and bruising forwards of the alumni clearly did not forget how to lay the wood, as the current team took forward punches into a stout defense.  But the athletic and versatile forwards of the current team took advantage of speed and conditioning, flooding every ruck and consistently getting out in support of their backline.

The even matchup in the forwards meant that the scoring would have to come from the backs, which also had some great matchups.  The respective scrum halves exemplified their team's style of rugby.  For the alumni, "Uncle Larry" Grassi was not shy with his boot getting the ball out of rucks, and played very physically, often making hits that you would see a flanker make.  And for the current team, Matt "Ziggy" Zvitkovitz kept play quick and decisive to keep the defense on their back feet, and kept the wings and fullback honest with his kicks.  And, of course, the game had the epic rematch between in-centers Cordell "Turtle" Drummond and Matt "Fat Parks", a Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker style matchup between jedi master and padawan.

First blood was drawn by the current team, when a short chip kick from a ruck at the alumni's 22 by Scrum Half Ziggy bounced to a gap on the sideline at the 5-meter line, where wing Matt "Tinkerbell" Phillips snagged the ball on the bounce and dotted it down for the opening try.  The alumni, down on the scoreboard early, responded with a try from forwards Man-of-the-Match Usman "Big Uzi" Timi as he carried 3 players into the try zone for a score.

In the second period, the alumni subbed in almost an entire fresh side.  With the momentum after kickoff, the alumni retained the ball on offense nearly the whole 20 minutes, and put in two tries, leaving the score at 17-5 Alumni.

By the third period, the current team's fitness and physicality pulled them back into the game against an alumni team that was running out of subs.  After using the forwards to suck in the defense, the ball was swung to the wing John "Generic" McLeod, who shook the alumni's wing and fullback and outran pursuing backs for a 60 meter try.  The alumni, now only ahead 17-10, capitalized on a penalty near the current team's goal line for a dangerous tackle by Jackson "Sparrow" Drury. Lock Tracy Williams punched the ball in for an alumni try.  Down 22-10, the current team burst back and responded with a long try from scrumhalf Ziggy, who centered the ball to allow the conversion to bring the game within a try, 22-17.

As the whistle blew to end the 3rd period, the current team prepared for a comeback in the fourth period, knowing that their fitness would keep their momentum going against a wavering alumni defense.  But, the alumni decided to call the game after 3 20-minute periods, much to the current team's disappointment.   Words were exchanged briefly at midfield as  challenges were made to play a full 80 minutes, but the alumni backed down and took their win 22-17, and declared that a B-side match that had no effect on the outcome of the game could be played.  Though unsatisfied with the result, the current team was still proud of how they played against one of the largest and most skilled alumni sides to take the field in recent history.

Of course, afterwards, there were were festivities.  Great food and drink provided by the alumni was a great way to end a solid day of rugby.  In alumni game tradition, there was the annual "Best Damn Awards Show in All of Rugby," for the respective team's men-of-the-match.  The alumni named Usman "Big Uzi" Timi the Forward MotM and LJ Pijnenburg the Back MotM.  The current team named Chris Ogolla their Forward MotM and Matt "Fat" Parks Back MotM.  The alumni took time to recognize the current team members who passed on to the dark side and will be playing for them next year.  They also named the recipient of the Haud Collumi Scholarship, current team President Tyler Tippett, who received the honor for 3 years committed to the team and a 3.73 cumulative GPA.

After the official honors, awards, and acknowledgements, the current team and alumni ate, drank, and celebrated the third decade of the club's existence.  A great time was had by all, as the current team met and learned from the men who have come before them, and the alumni got to know the club's current members who are building toward a better future for the club.  As the festivities eventually died down and people began to head home to ice their numerous aches and pains, it was a common feeling felt by all that UMBC Rugby is at a great spot as an organization, and will only be growing larger and stronger for years to come.  No matter the smack-talk and rivalries that surround the alumni game, it is an annual reminder that when all who have been united by the patch, Alumni and Current team, come together, great things can happen.  Here's to another 30 great years.