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Rugby season ends with a loss

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photos by Gracey Evans
The rugby team is ready for the scrum during its match against Carnegie Mellon
University on Wednesday Oct. 21 at CMU.

 

The Point Park Rugby Club is more than just a team. They’re a brotherhood.

That brotherhood entered last Wednesday’s regular season finale with a chance to clinch a playoff berth and a winning season for the first time in its young history.

The match was against its most hated rival in Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The two have gone rounds with each other since Point Park founded its club in 2010. Last September, Point Park picked up its first ever win against the cross-town rival in a 5-0 victory.

CMU was winless on the year with a 0-5-1 record and had nothing to lose against Point Park, which was fighting for a playoff berth with a 3-3 record.

“CMU had no wins and everybody looked at them like a team like that except for those of us who have played them before,” said junior club president Jerimiah Elsass. “This is a completely new atmosphere. It’s the biggest rivalry. Everyone’s looking to hit somebody, everybody’s looking to step up and be that hero. We came in here underestimating what they were going to do.”

What CMU did this match was something it failed to do last year against Point Park: score.

At the midpoint of the first half, CMU was already up 12-0. Point Park had multiple turnovers that CMU capitalized on – something CMU coach Oscar Radoli said factored into the end result.

“It’s very hard when you don’t have possession of the ball,” Radoli said. “Each time they had possession, they didn’t keep possession long enough. That made it very complicated to put attack phases together. I think that’s what killed it for them.”

CMU hit the gas pedal in the second half and scored two tries in the first ten minutes.

Trailing 26-0 midway through the half, sophomore Steven Reed ran out of a scrum into open field and touched down in the try zone 65 yards later to put Point Park on the board.

Point Park wouldn’t score again until the final play of the match when senior Alden Roth picked the ball up out of a scrum and dashed 70 yards down the field for what was the final regular season try of his rugby career, the final regular season try of the team’s season and the final play of the team’s season.

Point Park lost 48-12.

Down 48-7 with three minutes left, Roth said he told the team something they’ve been telling each other all year.

“I got the guys together and I said, ‘No matter what, we have each other. This is a brotherhood. We’re stronger together. We need to take our combined strength and just give it our all these last three minutes.’ I wasn’t planning on making any plays…[The ball] popped out and that was it,” Roth said.

Roth made a play just like he has his whole rugby career. This one just happened to be the final one of the season.

“It wasn’t how it was supposed to end,” said senior captain Colby Barrett. “They showed up, we didn’t. End of story. I think a lot of guys came into the game and looked at their record and overlooked them. It wasn’t what they should have done. It was a trap game.”

In the days leading up to the club’s most important match in its history, alumni members returned to their weekly meeting with shirts for the players.

The front read, “Fortes Sumus Pariter” with the club’s logo below. The back translated the Latin phrase to English. “We are strong together,” it said. It is a concept the team preaches from day one of practice. They are more than just teammates. They are brothers.

After the emotional loss, players embraced each other on the sideline, realizing it was some of their last regular season rugby match. Although they will not play another regular season match together, they all recognized the positive impact the club had on their lives.

They won’t play another regular season match together, but they will still have each other.

“I’m a completely different person after playing this sport,” said senior Richie Carver. “I’ve lost 100 pounds, I have a lot more self confidence and honestly, I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today without this club. I have a lifelong group of brothers that I can support myself on. We may have lost, we may have not made history, but you know, all I need is my friends.”

Barrett transferred to Point Park last year as a junior and made an immediate impact on the team. He was named “Man of the Match” in his first match last year and developed into one of the club’s top tacklers.

“It’s been a hell of a two years,” Barrett said. “I couldn’t thank any of these guys more for what I’ve had over the last two years. I’ve gained brothers and friends that I’m going to have at my wedding. Everything. For the rest of my life. It just sucks that it had to come to a close early.”

Senior Dan Helbling said he gave up on the concept of a team in high school after a few “terrible experiences.” Rugby changed that.

“[Rugby] revitalized the meaning of team for me,” Helbling said. “For a while, I wanted to do just one-person sports. I couldn’t find anything. They just changed my whole viewpoint on teams.”

Senior Justin “Red” Watson said the club turned his life around.

“Whenever I came to Point Park, I was kind of a lost soul,” Watson said. “I had a few mental health issues and I joined this team and it kind of saved my life. I owe everything to this team. I’ll defend any of these guys down the barrel of any gun on any given day. I owe this team my life.”

Point Park still has the spring semester of rugby ahead when they play friendlies with local teams.

Elsass said he hopes the team can play their annual spring friendly match against CMU under the lights at Highmark Stadium.

Radoli looks forward to the future of the Point Park rivalry with his team. He is excited about the growth of rugby in Western Pennsylvania and said the real winner of the match was the sport.

“At the end of the day, [Point Park] should not feel like they lost the game. Rugby won,” Radoli said. “They came out, played a good game and had a good evening. We’re trying to grow the game. It helps when you see a fair competition. It’s always good to play our neighbors.”

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