Jul 09, 2020

Rugby team takes its lumps

Brianna Campbell / The Collegian

Inexperience played a big factor when the Fresno State Rugby Club team faced the San Jose State Spartans last Saturday at the Fresno Regional Sports Park.

“For a bunch of players that’ve never played rugby before, these guys did a pretty good job,” coach Mike Marquez said. “It’s still Rugby 101 for them until we start moving forward.”

The Spartans held an advantage over the rookie Fresno State players winning both games of the match, 49-5 in game A and 22-12 in game B.

For most of the Fresno State players, that was the first time they played in an actual rugby match.

“We knew we were coming in as the new guy,” coach Barry Foley said. “Seventy-five percent of our guys have never played a game [of rugby] and San Jose is a strong team.”

Five of the players have already played rugby for other teams. But last weekend was their first game for the Fresno State team. One of those players with some experience is the president of the club, Jordan Brenner, who played rugby for the city of Fresno last season.

Brenner said for its first game, the team’s chemistry is good, but the players still have a lot to improve on.

“Obviously, we have guys who have never played rugby before, which was frustrating at times, but they did their best and I’m proud of each and every one of them,” Brenner said.

Marquez agreed and said the team’s positive attitude kept the game exciting despite the Spartans’ huge lead.

“You can’t coach enthusiasm and attitude. They have a great attitude and their enthusiasm is unbelievable,” Marquez said. “They’re hungry. They played so hard and so aggressive and even though we lost, they never quit.”

The fast-paced transitions of the plays provided the biggest challenge for the players.

Although it is similar to football, rugby does not have any stops, like a first down, Foley said. It’s a continuous game filled with lateral passes and hard tackles.

Sophomore Jerry Kelly has played football since he was a young kid, but recently he joined the team to stay active. As a scrum-half, he described his position as the quarterback of rugby since his position plays a key role in gaining possession of the ball after a scrum.

Although he does enjoy the sport, Kelly said he still hasn’t completely adjusted to the fast-paced tempo.

“Its something like football, but it’s different because we don’t get that many breaks,” Kelly said. “We’re constantly running and it gets tiring but hey, we got to get in condition.”

The rugby club team is now looking forward to the upcoming tournament that will take place at University of California, Santa Cruz on Oct. 24, where they’re hoping to gain more experience before their league play starts in January.

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