BY MARY RINGWALD, SPORTS EDITOR
There are 22 NCAA Division II teams, six club teams and many more intramural teams on Bellarmine’s campus. From baseball to lacrosse to mud volleyball, this campus has it all, but no team is as unique as the Bellarmine rugby team.
As an up-and-coming sport in the United States, there are not too many people who know about this particular sport. With origins in early English history, rugby has grown from the courtyard of Rugby School in England to a sport that has thousands of followers throughout the world.
The Bellarmine rugby team was officially declared a Bellarmine RSO on October 17, 2014, at a Student Government Association meeting.
Since then, the team has practiced and played many games, including its recent game against Centre College on Bellarmine Club Sports Day Oct. 22. The Knights dominated, winning 57-19.
Bellarmine junior and rugby team founder Anthony Duong said the lack of knowledge of the sport has made it difficult to gather a large following for the team.
“What most people don’t know is that rugby is not just a game where a bunch of guys just go out and hit each other,” Duong said. “It’s run, tackle, ruck and repeat. That is the common way to think about how the game is played.”
A rugby game begins with a kick-off from the center of the pitch, or field, to the opposite team. The opposing team’s player will run forward with the ball, pass the ball backward to teammates or punt the ball forward.
The team defending has one main job, and that is to tackle the player with the ball. When the player loses the ball, the teams fight for the ball by creating a ruck.
A ruck may look like a simple huddle, but a battle is brewing underneath the shuffles of feet and pushing of opposing team members in order to get the ball.
“A lot of bloody noses will occur from bad tackling form, or just in the ruck itself because there are a lot of things that can happen,” Duong said. “They are contesting each other, and it is really a free for all. People get kicked, bowed or receive a shoulder to the face, it just happens.”
While the game may seem rough and tough, rugby players receive significantly fewer injuries and concussions because they focus a great deal on tackling form.
Football players tend to run into players’ bodies because they have the feeling of invincibility with their padding. Rugby players, on the other hand, pay close attention to how they tackle to avoid major injuries.
Bellarmine rugby players were drawn to the sport for not just its aggressive nature, but also for its strong sense of brotherhood.
Captain Andrew Miles said he got involved with rugby to fill the gap of graduating from high school football, and the brotherhood of the game reminded him of football.
“I genuinely love the sport and everything about it,” Miles said. “As a captain, watching a group of young guys come out and grow not only as a team, but also as brothers, is very special and there is nothing better.”
Freshman teammate Jacob Cetrulo said rugby shows a level of sportsmanship that is not seen in other sports.
“In football or soccer, I always feel like there is a sense of a little hatred towards another team,” Cetrulo said. “In rugby, you don’t really get that. The camaraderie in the sport is just something you don’t see all the time and the support you have from your team is just awesome.”
Even previous Bellarmine University President Dr. Joseph J. McGowan recognized the strong bonds of the rugby team while sitting with Duong in the University Dining Hall last year.
“He told me rugby players were some of the craziest people he had ever met in his life and their bonds of brotherhood were some of the closest and strongest bonds he had ever seen among any sport,” Duong said.
With so many teams on campus, it is easy for some to fall off the radar, but despite its low interest at the start, the rugby team is growing. With a team of roughly 20 players and three volunteer coaches, awareness is spreading and Bellarmine rugby is here to stay.