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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Men’s rugby handles Elon in “Mud Match

Mud splattered as the ball shot out of an Elon’s player’s grasping hands and onto the snowy, muddy ground. There was a thump as players’ bodies smacked into one another, and a roaring cheer from the crowd when a penalty was called against Elon. Junior flyhalf Sean McNally took off for the last score of the game, securing Guilford’s 22-10 victory.The Guilford versus Elon club rugby game on Feb. 13 was the men’s first official game of the season. Weather conditions cancelled seven straight games and that made playing and travelling impossible. The last time the Quakers played was on Halloween Day, nearly three and half months ago.

“We feel pretty frustrated, we’ve had a bad stroke of luck with the weather,” said sophomore wing Walt Barber before the game. “We all have a lot of energy, everyone’s really excited. We may be rusty, but we are ready to play.”

The team’s goals for the season are improved consistency and defense. Under new rules, in order to get to the playoffs, the team needs to win all five regular season games.

“My favorite part about rugby is my teammates. And the hitting. Definitely the hitting,” said junior prop David Watters. There was certainly a lot of hitting at Saturday’s game, but there was a lot of slipping too.

The sun surprisingly surfaced for the game, causing the leftover snow to glitter and melt. The wind ripped around the pitch, making squinty eyes tear and by halftime, the players were indistinguishable due to the mud plastered on their bodies and clothing.

Elon did give the Quakers a run for their money. The Phoenix made it within five yards of a try multiple times, only to be tackled by Quaker defensive players like junior eight-man and team captain Andrew Slater. The defense of the Phoenix were also on their toes. During the second half, senior flanker Aaron Woerner took possession of the ball and gained only five yards before being grabbed around the waist and hurled to the ground.

Possession was a key factor in the game, as the ball switched between teams constantly, allowing minimal down-time for players, and endless running. In the second half, an Elon player snagged the ball and ran for 20 yards, coming close to scoring before junior wing Luke Walsh-Mellett made a cross-field try-saving tackle.

Barber and junior inside-center Randall Aldana scored in the first half giving the Quakers a 12-5 lead at the break. In the second half after Guilford’s forwards dominated a midfield scrum, senior fullback Max George caught a long pass from McNally and broke the Elon line to run 60 meters for a try. The Phoenix responded with a hard-charging score after Slater was yellow-carded in front of the posts. But Guilford had the last word on McNally’s decisive run to paydirt in the final minutes, earning a crucial bonus-point in the standings, given when a team scores four tries.

“It’s all about possession. You keep possession by running straight, but Elon keeps doing tricky things, and losing the ball,” said Lydia Rain, a Guilford women’s rugby player.

Rugby is a very team oriented sport, and the Quakers never stopped cheering each other on from the sidelines and the pitch.

“Guilford’s back, baby! Good run, guys!” yelled senior center Bryce Bjornson after the Quakers scored.

The fans were equally supportive. Despite the cold, the crowd was large and loud. Parents brought lawn chairs and students came cheering.

“Smack them in the face! Metaphorically speaking,” yelled senior Martin “Country” Brown, who was shirtless, with his upper body painted red and sported a big “G” on his back.

Once the game was over, the team celebrated and congratulated each other.

“Our pack dominated their pack,” said wing Tom Clement, a first-year team member. Junior flanker Kevin Cumberland was given the Man-of-the-Match award for his spirited play in the rucks and breakdowns. By game’s end the number six on Cumberland’s back was indiscernible, his maroon jersey turned completely brown. The team’s blog is already calling Saturday’s game the “Mud Match.”

The rest of the season should be one to look forward to. “This was a great first game. It was hard to judge how well we played, because the conditions were not great, but winning is always a good thing,” said Dan Hayden ’06, the volunteer head coach and former Guilford scrumhalf. “The team is so excited and was able to get all their jitters out. There are some things we need to work on, but this was a good start.”

Guilford, now 1-0, will host UNC-Charlotte at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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