Rugby ‘falls’ in Canada

Katelyn Arnold

Team competes in international tournament and bonds along the way

 

Many people dread driving during holiday breaks. But Lafayette’s women’s rugby team probably traveled more than most.

Twenty-six members of the team filled two vans the Friday before Thanksgiving and drove to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for a rugby 7s tournament. It was the final matches of their fall season.

Although the team lost all of those matches, many members look back fondly on the experience.

Travel is not new to the rugby team— three years ago they traveled to Ireland for a tournament. This year’s team had the same desire to travel internationally and was invited to the international 7’s tournament in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

All team members were invited and encouraged to attend. Team members were required to pay for the cost of food and any extra expenses, but student government money allocated to club rugby covered the major fees, such as the cost of entering the tournament.

On Saturday, at the tournament, head coach Rachel Grispon split the group into two teams evenly based on their position, and the teams played six games total against Canadian women’s club teams.

In Canada, rugby is far more popular than in the United States, and as a result the women on the opposing teams were very skilled compared to Lafayette.

“We weren’t playing any college teams,” senior Aubrey Jones said. “It was all older women in their late 20s or maybe even 30s, and they had been playing their whole lives. It was all club teams.”

For many players on the Lafayette side, this year was their first playing the sport. The Leopards lost each of the six matches on Saturday, with Jones scoring the only try of the day.

Besides Jones, there were other standout performances. A teammate noted that sophomore Allyssa Conner, junior Taylor White and sophomore Makena Murugu each showed the Canadian opposition some of their best play.

As for Canadian rugby in general, Jones explained that the referees in Canada were far more lenient than those they were used to playing with at home. They made fewer calls and as a result the game was a bit more physical than those played back in the states. The games were played at a soccer complex with turf fields lined for rugby. Falling and diving on turf was more painful than doing the same on the grass rugby field they were used to at Metzgar, according to Jones.

Even with the losing weekend, the rugby was what stuck out the most to Jones from the trip.

“[My favorite part was] spending the day at the field and being able to watch rugby and play rugby with my team, regardless of how it turned out,” Jones said.

Although they had little free time because they spent most of the time at the field either playing or watching rugby games, they found ways to make the weekend memorable. It was full of team bonding with a stop at a team member’s house in Syracuse for a home cooked meal and a team breakfast at Denny’s Sunday morning to finish the trip before heading back to Easton.

But they couldn’t leave Canada without stopping at the Niagara Falls, making the trip an experience that they would not soon forget.

“Our fondest memory, I personally can say, is our sunset Niagara Falls tour. With 24 kids wearing white and black jackets running around looking like penguins being in a different country, for some for the first time, it was humbling to see rugby bring a group of kids from different parts of the world together as a family,” Grispon said. “Canada will always have a place in our hearts.”