SEBASTIAN MAYR STAFF WRITER
Nerves and adrenaline were prevalent throughout the 10,000-seat stadium as the ASL rugby teams eagerly awaited the challenge of facing their long-standing rival team, ACS Cobham.
On November 23, the varsity and junior varsity (JV) rugby teams played at Allianz Park, home of the Saracens Rugby Club. ASL’s games against ACS Cobham preceded the U.S.A. vs. Russia match, which ended in a 21-point defeat of the Russians.
JV rugby player Andrew Noorani (’16) recalled his experience. “What really struck me was the feeling I had before the match,” he said. “Cobham and ASL has always been a fixture that creates butterflies. However, before the match I was bouncing off the walls with excitement.” Noorani, a second-year Pirate, commented on the teams’ abundance of spirit, declaring it as the greatest of all the sports teams at ASL.
Despite the JV team suffering a humbling 30-0 defeat, Head Varsity Rugby Coach Mathew Jones reflected on their immense progress so far this season. “The JV team gets better every game, and just needs a few more numbers in case of injuries,” he said.
The varsity team, however, overwhelmed ACS Cobham, executing a sublime attacking display that resulted in a 39-0 win over their bitter rivals. “Some of the players played really well and overall it was a really good experience,” Jones said.
Scoring an impressive four tries, varsity rugby player and inside center Tristan Burke (’15) said, “We had a lot of support and it was encouraging to see all the fans that came.” In his third year with the Pirates, Burke praised the team’s noteworthy camaraderie and team spirit. Acknowledging the sport’s important physical aspect, Burke emphasized the significance of players trusting one another. “When so much is at stake in the game, you have to trust your teammates and that trust transfers off the pitch,” he said.
Varsity rugby vice-captain and second row Paul Rozenbroek (’14) said, “We had a shaky first couple of minutes because of the nerves, but afterwards I thought we did extremely well. We ran over them. Tristan scored four tries and it was extremely one-sided after that.”
Rozenbroek expressed a similar sentiment to Burke, commending the Pirates’ team spirit. “Every day we go to Canons Park and the bus ride takes about an hour. Obviously all the freshmen sit near the front of the bus and the varsity sit nearer to the back of the bus. It’s just the general banter,” he said. “We all know and like each other, and I think that’s massive.”
Satisfied with the team’s tenacious defensive performance, Jones recalled how the varsity team neutralized ACS Cobham’s attack; the Cougars did not create a single scoring opportunity. With an almost perfect record, the only blemish so far is one hard-fought loss to St. Dunstan’s College.
Jones’ aspiration for the new season is simple and straightforward. “The goal is to get as many players playing as possible, so they go onto further rugby teams via college, club, and also to push some of the players onto higher level representatives,” he said.
The communication to arrange a game at Allianz Park began in early November. “U.S.A. was playing Russia and someone at Saracens got in contact with the school, regarding the U.S.A. vs. Russia game. They then forwarded it to myself and then I spoke to the Saracens guys, settling upon a date,” Jones said.
Jones continues to seek out new opportunities to play at Allianz Park, “U.S.A. and Russia probably won’t be playing there again. But I am working on another game this season before a premiership game. So, hopefully, yes.”
Keen on hosting more games from the rugby program, the Saracens are in the midst of reaching an agreement with the Middle School program to set up games that could potentially be held at Allianz Park throughout the year.
Brushing aside the injuries he sustained during the game, Noorani said, “If I ever got the chance to play at the stadium again I would take it in a heart beat. Although the JV suffered a loss I would do it all over again. It was a fantastic day of rugby that my friends and I experienced as a team.”
Hopeful about playing another game at the Allianz Park, Rozenbroek said, “It’s always nice to play in front of a crowd, and the stadium is the home stadium of the Saracens, which is the team I support.”
Pleased overall with the varsity and JV results, Jones said, “The Saracens actually asked about some of the players, which could be quite interesting if anything develops. Some of them played really well,” Jones said.