The Toughest Kids on the Block

By The Elm - Sep 27,2013@4:17 pm

Freshmen William Campbell resists two tackles with two more closing in. Campbell is one of several freshmen ruggers who have been asked to fill big shoes due to the departure of experienced seniors.
Photo by Amanda Boyer

By Taylor Konyk
Sports Editor

“Shoremen Pride!”—that’s what you’ll hear the Washington College Men’s Rugby club roar before each and every match. But what does it mean?

This past Saturday, the Shoremen put on a performance that exemplified the chant in their miraculous 45-40 comeback victory over the DeSales Bulldogs.

The day started out like any other for the WC Rugby club. The men quickly shunned the memories of the previous night’s homecoming festivities as they laced up their cleats and took the field.

A congregation of excited fans began to gather around the edges of the field. The stage was set for a Saturday afternoon barn burner—but the Shoremen came out flat.

The Bulldogs scored first—and fast—off a Shoremen mistake. The Shoremen were flatfooted to start the match, they left holes in their defense, and they missed key tackles. It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to punch through the defenses yard-by-yard until they finally reached the try zone to take the early lead. The combination of their try and conversion put the Bulldogs up by seven points.

Senior back Marcus Enge quickly jumped into action after the Shoremen forced a Bulldog turnover, receiving a golden pass from senior rugby captain Donald Moran.

“After I broke three tackles I was going as hard as I possibly could, because I knew they were going to be on my tail the whole time. There’s no slowing up. There was no way anyone was [going to] stop me—I was getting this try, this was going to be my try,” said Enge after the match.

Unfortunately, the Shoremen failed their conversion and remained two points behind the Bulldogs.

Rugby is a game of momentum. When a team scores a try their opponent kicks the ball back to them. Receiving a kick is a double-edged sword, because the kicking team has the ability to force a turnover, resulting in great field position. However, if the receiving team protects the ball without committing penalties or losing rucks they control the game.

The Bulldogs controlled the second phase of the first half as they relentlessly marched down the field three times in a span of 10 minutes.

Experienced freshman forward Beau Lail gave a post-game analysis. “There were just too many guys in the ruck defensively, and that’s very dangerous in a rugby game, because a majority of the points were scored off guys going outside and [the defense] not being there in time.”

Moran could see his team’s spirit waning—hope of a homecoming victory was quickly dissipating.

“It was tough, because you get really frustrated,” said Moran. “You’ve got to keep composure. After the third try they scored, I just told the team that we have a decision. We can let the rest of the game go like this, or we make a stand right now—we make a statement and we carry that through. Right after that… we stole [the ball]… off our kickoff… and drove down and Rob [Robinson] scored.”

And just like that the game changed.

“Initially we were getting stomped on. We were down 28 to five, at that point,” said senior forward Robinson. “I think the guys were starting to get a little discouraged, [thinking] we wouldn’t be able to score against this team—then I scored. I think that was enough… to show everyone that we can score on this team, we can stop this team, and we can fight back and win.”

The half ended soon after junior Jospeh Alfera successfully kicked a two-point conversion, bringing the half-time total to 28-12.

They were down but they weren’t out.

Though the general consensus among teammates was the comeback began after Robinson’s try, Robinson found motivation from another source.

“At halftime Donald said, ‘There are people here to watch us play—to watch us win—we need to put on a show.’ I think that might have been more of a turning point than my try.”

Whether it was the intensity of Robinson’s try, Moran’s striking leadership, or the contagious energy of the WC rugby fan base, the Shoremen woke up. Charging out of the gate, the Shoremen played possessed, preventing the Bulldogs from breaking their defenses.

Just when things began to turn around for the Shoremen, Moran took a blow to the head and began bleeding—he was momentarily out of commission. While Moran tended to his forehead the Bulldogs took advantage of the Shoremen’s loss and scored.

“I kind of used [the injury] as extra motivation,” Moran said after the game. “I didn’t even realize it happened. I got up from a tackle and the other team said you’re bleeding, and it was coming out pretty fast. I jogged off the field… the opposing team looked at me as if I was really badly hurt and I just told them I’ll be back.”

“It’s motivating, because if you appear hurt and you can rise above that, it not only inspires yourself, but the people around you,” he said.

Moran, having already scored one try before his injury, re-entered the game scoring three more tries for 20 points on the game.

After the game, Engh spoke highly of his captain. “A lot of times, [Moran] puts the team on his back. He picks up the ball and goes, and we all follow. He’s going to succeed no matter what—he’s going to do whatever he has to do. His leadership is crazy—really crazy—I don’t understand it. He just doesn’t quit no matter what. He’s hurting, his whole body’s hurting, [but] he gets back up and starts running again,” he said.

The comeback, however, was not a one-man show. The fierce intensity of Beau Lail not only provided the Shoremen with toughness, but also a mental edge. During the second half, Lail made a questionable tackle that earned some words from the official. Though he took a penalty, the Bulldogs were obviously taken out of their element.

Lail’s tackle “really messed with [the Bulldogs’] flow of the game,” Enge said. “It stopped them from moving forward, so I think Beau doing his thing really helped us out in the long run. They were getting really frustrated with us committing all these penalties.”

Trailing the entire game, the Shoremen fought on, winning in the final moments. Naturally, Moran made his second-half comeback complete by completing the Shoremen comeback with his final try.

“I knew time was winding down, and I was curious if we were going to have to maintain possession for one last time to run the clock out, but when the ref blew that whistle I just collapsed,” Moran said. “That was the happiest I’ve been in I don’t know how long…. All the work put in—some people see, some people don’t—in front of a crowd like that. To have everything fit together was perfect,” he said after the epic victory.

The Shoremen moved on to win the day with a combination of Robinson’s five points, Enge’s 10 points, and Moran’s 20 points. Alfera would also lend much needed support with five successful conversions for ten points total.

Despite the appearance of the game’s stand-out stars, every man on the team stood together to shore-up the win.

Never once did the small 17-man team give up on their teammates. Never once did an injury prevent a rugger from battling on the field.

WC put on a show—displaying the very essence of Shoremen pride. More importantly, they sent a message to their fans and the league that WC can compete.

In an epic 80 minute story that gave fans blood, bruises, and broken bones, the day belonged to the Shoremen, because of their “Shoremen Pride.”

The Elm

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