To celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Williams Rugby Football Club (WRFC), this year’s spring break tour was a pilgrimage to Manchester, England. The first stop on the tour was Huddersfield Rugby Union F.C. where the seed that flowered into Williams Rugby was said to originate. No game was played on this hallowed site, but the team whet its appetite for their ensuing matches.
It was five p.m. on Tuesday when Tour Liaison Michael Biblowit ’08 navigated the White Dawgs to the Rochdale Rugby Club for their first contest. Despite not having been on a field since their victory over Amherst last fall, playing rugby was just like riding a bike for the WRFC. More accurately, it was like a bike that had been left outside all winter in a puddle of beer. Still, Williams managed to finish the first half only down 21-12.
Rochdale showed strength in the open field, but Williams’ pack matched their tea sipping opponents. The first try was scored by Matt Beatus ’09 in a maul off of a five-meter lineout, giving a preview of the forwards’ strength for this coming year. Brandon Lucien ’08 tacked on another try and his powerful runs impressed the Rochdale ruggers almost as much as his squishy scalp. The WRFC failed to score in the second half despite the last minute heroics of Alex Horne ’08 who repeatedly crashed into the opposition’s pack bringing the ball just inches from the try line, earning not points but a gash in the head and an up-close look at England’s healthcare system.
The next game was against the Eccles RFC. Eccles controlled the ball in a stately manner for much of the first half, but the Williams defense held them to only one try for quite some time. Another try eventually followed the first and the White Dawgs went down 14.
Not losing heart, Williams took advantage a penalty and in a carbon copy of his previous try, Beatus touched the ball down for their only try of the game. Later in the half Taylor Nelp ’09 added three points to the WRFC’s tally, giving them their final score of 10. Eccles scored three more tries in the second half and the game ended in a 30-10 defeat.
“The forwards put up a good fight against tough opposition,” Nick Greer ’08 said. “And who knew Beatus could score?”
The final notable rugby exploit was a practice session with Burnage R.F.C. The practice took place on a mud flat in horizontal driving rain and nearly freezing temperatures. The weather was so physically painful that this reporter is unable to further comment on the practice as he has mentally blocked out that hour of his life. However, both Burnage and Williams did learn something: Williams learned some new drills and skill they’ll use next week to crush their opponents, the UVM Turtles and the St. Mikes Hens, while Burnage learned that Revolutionary war jokes are an ineffective way to break the ice when talking to Americans.
What the White Dawgs lacked in points that week, they made up for in pints. Williams definitely won post game verses all of their hosts. At Rochdale the two teams faced-off in drinking games that resulted in chugging beer after beer like Zulu Warriors and some preseason training for Bryant Renaud ’11 who ran around the pitch as proudly as a naked man could in the frigid Yorkshire weather. Williams then sealed its post game victory by winning a boat race by almost half a pint.
Eccles had a slightly different post game strategy. In celebration of Mike Moss’s ’11 recent birthday, the Eccles boys put on a show for Williams starring the freshman in the role of Drunken Mounted Policeman. Moss later dazzled Eccles and Williams alike as emerged spoons champion, emerging with a large spoon as his trophy and lump on his head.
The WRFC has since returned Stateside, but remains inebriated with rugby fervor. In the spirit of their English hosts, they plan to welcome hundreds of alumni to the purple valley this weekend by playing games, singing and serving them glass after glass of rugby culture.