On Saturday, Sept. 30, UMW’s men’s rugby team put up a fight against Life University on the Battlefield, but it wasn’t enough to take home the victory. As Life University has been one of the top five Division I-ranked schools for the past 10 years, this game tested the Eagles’ skills to see where they needed to improve. With it being their third game into the season and their first loss, the Eagles still have the chance to bounce back stronger.
“I believe our team performed well under the circumstances we were given,” said Nicholas Ball, a junior with an undeclared major who is the captain of the men’s rugby team. “We had a very focused week of preparation for this game knowing we were in for a tough battle against a well drilled side. If this game was based on statistics, Life should have beaten us by a much bigger score line, but our players showed so much heart to keep fighting and keep us in the game.”
The Eagles started the game strong, and even though the first half of the game consisted of tactical strategies through which UMW’s rugby team attempted to hold their opponents, Life University was able to score within the first 15 minutes of the match.
Even when down, UMW’s offensive players remained unstoppable and drove through their aggressive opponents. Life was then cited with multiple penalties, which allowed UMW to slot a kick setting the score to 7–3. When the teams broke off the pitch for halftime, the score was 21–3, with Life in the lead.
Even though they gave it their all during the game, certain factors worked against the Eagles’ favor, such as underlying injuries.
“I’ve been struggling with an ankle injury for the past couple months, so this obviously affected my performance,” said Ball. “In the 60th minute of the game I was tackled while diving to score a try and had my ankle twisted in a tackle forcing me to come off the field.”
Mary Wash came together in an attempt to stop Life from a try in the second half, however, they were not successful in this, ultimately allowing the opposing team to score.
There are some aspects to the game that cannot be witnessed from the stands, and this game showed a great example of that, as the energy on the field felt off, even from the crowd’s perspective. “Referee management is a key part of rugby,” said Ball. “I believe our team did not do this well after a few interesting decisions from the referee. If these calls had gone our way, I truly believe this would have been a much closer game as it affected our momentum severely.”
Coach Charbel Medlej kept halftime simple with a motivational talk focusing on a strong offense and spreading out throughout the field. Toward the end of the game, some players were put on the pitch in an attempt to reinvigorate the team’s dynamic.
“I came on as a finishing player,” said sophomore and business administration major Andrew Rudisill. “My job is to come in fresh and make an impact in the game. I intercepted a pass and got the ball back in our team’s hand and that set us up to drive down the field and score. This really motivated me to fully switch on the play as hard as I could for my teammates and win them opportunities to do their job.”
“To be honest, we are our own worst enemy, it just comes down to execution,” said senior communication and digital studies major Danny Bullock. “All it comes down to is timing and execution. Once we get that down, our team will be unstoppable.”
The game’s final score was 40–21 with the victory for Life University, but this is only the start of the season. With two wins and only one loss so far, there are many more opportunities for victories to come.
The Eagles step back onto the pitch once again this Saturday, Oct. 7, when they face off against Mount St. Mary’s at 1 p.m.