The Crimson White

After strong start, men’s rugby heads for comeback

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After strong start, men’s rugby heads for comeback

Photo courtesy of Jared Helton

Photo courtesy of Jared Helton

Photo courtesy of Jared Helton

Photo courtesy of Jared Helton

Jack Kennedy, Contributing Writer

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As the horn sounded, The University of Alabama Rugby Football Club President Andrew Kallas could only think of two words to describe the scene that had unfolded before him:

“Joy and excitement,” said the senior mechanical engineering major.

It was Sept. 29, and Alabama had just defeated South Carolina, a team they had not beaten in nine years, by a score of 15-7. The Crimson Tide found themselves up only 3-0 at the half mark, but extended their lead to 15-0 late in the second half. Despite the large deficit, South Carolina kept up the pressure and scored a try, but Alabama did not allow the Gamecocks to score again in the final minutes and secured a program-defining win.

“The excitement from the older guys is really infectious on the young guys,” said Ignacio Guisasola, senior flyhalf and center majoring in construction engineering. “This is a very exciting time for the team.”

The Crimson Tide is no stranger to success. In 2016, the rugby team won the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference (SCRC) 15s Championship for the first time in program history. Alabama advanced to the SCRC Championship again last year, but fell in the semifinals.

“Last year we struggled a lot because the team lost some key players,” Kallas said. “We had trouble playing as a team. The game against South Carolina was one of the first games in a while that we played as a team with no arguing.”

In order to overcome the difficulties of last year, the team spends much more time together than in previous seasons.

“One night after practice, half of the team went to someone’s house, and we watched a rugby game together,” Kallas said. “We dissected the game and learned a lot of aspects of the game that we could use on the field.”

Along with hanging out off the field, members of the team workout together and participate in team runs together on Sundays after a Saturday match.

Another challenge that the team faces every year is replacing players who graduated with new ones. With rugby not being a very popular sport in the U.S., especially with the presence of football in the South, many of the newcomers do not know any rules or techniques.

“They need the time to build the skills and the time to be with the team,” Dawley said. “It can be challenging because you can be playing for years and then there’s a guy next to you who doesn’t know which end of the ball to hold. You have to teach them everything, but once they start understanding and applying the skills, some of our best players have come from not having any experience at all prior to college.”

Guisasola had never played rugby before college, but he has turned into one of the team’s most important players.

“It is a long game with 80 minutes of pure physicality, but I have grown to the point where I love every second of it,” Guisasola said.

On Oct. 6, the Crimson Tide improved its record to 2-0 with a convincing win against Kennesaw State, defeating them 52-12. Then on Oct. 12, Alabama picked up a 73-12 win over Auburn.

However, Alabama’s goal wasn’t accomplished simply by beating its in-state rival. Kallas said their season will be a success if they accomplish one thing:

“We are going for the conference title,” Kallas said.

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After strong start, men’s rugby heads for comeback