Carlton and Thompson Jump - Men's Club Rugby

Fourth year Mende Carlton and first year Steven Thompson both jump after the ball to gain possession. Men’s Club Rugby scrimmages against their teammates to practice effective passing methods and different ways to avoid the opposing team on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.

Last season, men’s club rugby had a strong year, winning the championship against Wisconsin White Water in both 15s and 7s, or in other words, in both the fall and spring seasons. The team is currently in its 15’s schedule with a record of 2-1.

The team lost 15 seniors, a mark that could seemingly cripple a club, but under new leadership, the club has done an excellent job of bringing in new talent. The team is now led by club President Greg Amaty, a transfer from Iona in his second season of play, and senior Darren Murphy, the captain and vice president of the team.

“We are bringing in new guys and teaching them the game,” Murphy said. “Kids are seeing the game competitively for the first time, it is not publicized as much as other sports.”

Despite the number of seniors lost, including last year’s president Tom Kiernan and vice president Thomas Reynolds, the new faces on the team have shown promise, while returning players like Murphy and Amaty are helping to continue a winning culture for the club.

“Amaty is a strong leader and strong player,” Murphy said. “We feel pretty good about our ability to compete even with losing seniors. We are setting the bar high, most returning players came in as freshmen and are trying to continue the culture and standard set for themselves.”

On top of the player leadership, the club is seeing a good amount of involvement from its coaching staff, according to Murphy. Head coach Brian Ketchum is returning for his sixth year as head coach, and is joined by Jack Kiernan, the brother of last year’s captain Tom, and Bob Stockton.

As for the players making the magic happen, Murphy said South African exchange graduate student Thabani Mtsi is one to watch for. Mtsi is one of the few players on the roster who came in having played the game for a large chunk of his life, so having that extra experience will benefit the team greatly.

Murphy said on the opposite side of the spectrum, senior Mende Carlton came in as a sophomore who had never played the game before, but has evolved into one of the leaders on the team. Carlton led the team in tries last season.

“He ran after it,” Murphy said. “He’s a hard worker and a leading playmaker on the team. We depend on him.”

With so many seniors leaving though, there is bound to be a hole on the roster. That hole comes in the form of the front row, with the entirety of the front row being seniors last season. According to Murphy though, sophomore Jonny Robbins came in as a freshman and has impressed greatly so far this season. Robbins has won many scrums for the team and is able to get up and down the field with ease.

“We have realistic expectations,” Murphy said. “We know there’s a long way to go, but we have seen early season success against Salisbury and we know we have talent on the roster.”

The team has played in three matches thus far, having switched divisions this season into D1-AA. The team began the season at 0-1 after losing at Mt. Saint Mary’s in the last minute, a team that last season won its conference. After the disheartening loss, the team bounced back in a big way with a 36-21 win over Salisbury in the home opener.

The B-side team, also known as a developmental team, lost to Salisbury, but the team was impressed with what they saw from players who had never seen the rugby field before.

Most recently, the team dominated Georgetown in its second home game, 42-7. And has another home game against Maryland after fall break at a yet-to-be-determined location.

“Where the program has come since Ketchum,” Murphy said of what impressed him the most about this group of players. “The program wasn’t well run before, there weren’t a whole lot of members and not a lot of commitment from members. The class that just graduated restructured everything, built a culture. Seeing guys leave that emphasis and continuing that culture is important. Our team is diverse, with guys coming in not knowing anything about the game but they are all brought together like a family.”