By Spec. Jennie Burrett
2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist
In the eight consecutive years that Fort Drum has hosted the Blue Balls Rugby tournament, the Fort Drum Barracks Rangers captured their first tournament win against SUNY Cortland 22-21 April 5 with Randy Bielski’s final, last-second kick.
“This was a terrific win for the players and the team,” said Bob Connell, the coach of the Barracks Rangers. “It has been almost 10 years since we have won our tournament, and there are over 100 alumni that will be happy to hear that.”
The SUNY Cortland rugby club was on a mission to repeat last year’s performance of beating the Barrack Rangers 21-7. Cortland was up 21-5 at the half and seemed to be well on their way to a back-to-back tournament championship.
Bielski scored on a sixty-yard breakaway minutes after the second-half restart, his second of the day, to bring the Rangers within 11 points. It was not long after that long score that the Rangers got the ball back around mid-field and they used their freshly-subbed players to maintain possession of the ball for the next few minutes, driving to within five yards out.
With six minutes left in the game, Cortland held a dominating 21-10 lead. After six unsuccessful runs from just outside the end zone, the Rangers finally broke into the goal with Justin Veverka, who played the position of hooker; the name is derived from the fact that they use their feet to hook the ball in the scrum, bringing the score to 21-15.
The ensuing kickoff went to Cortland and they tried to maintain possession of the ball and kill the clock. A lucky break gave the ball back to the Rangers and they had to work with no time left on the clock. If the ball would have gone out of bounds, or a penalty taken place, Cortland team would have won the championship game.
The Rangers were able to drive their way to within five yards out again and continued to pound the ball toward the goal line. Cortland’s defense was not bending, as they continued to keep the Rangers out of the end zone. The last try came when Ranger scrumhalf Simona Totive, with a bit of trickery and no time left on the clock, faked a pass to one of the bigger Ranger players and caught the defenders off guard, driving his way in from three yards out. The Rangers were still down two points, until the conversion kick by Bielski, which won the game.
“This win is a nice way to welcome the spring,” said Bielski, who played flyhalf, making key tactical decisions during a game. “It’s nice for the Rangers to finally win the tournament they hosted. Hopefully this is the first of many wins.”
This year marked the tournament’s 14th consecutive year, held initially at Sackets Harbor from 1994 to 1999, and on Fort Drum since 2000. During the tournament, 40 teams competed in 48 games from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with almost 350 rugby players, male and female.
“This was one of the most successfully-run tournaments over the years thanks to the support of Morale, Welfare and Recreation and everyone involved,” said Connell. “The level of rugby played by the mix of newer and experienced players meshed very well throughout the day. I have been here for 10 of the 14 years of the team’s existence, so it was a great day for me and the other four players that started the team back then and are still playing here today.”
In the women’s bracket of the tournament, Cornell University defeated Ithaca College 19-0. Cornell is ranked 11th in the nation for Division I colleges. Unfortunately, Fort Drum does not yet have a women’s team.
“We are looking to start a women’s team, if anyone is interested in playing,” said Coach Connell.
Any men or women interested in learning the game, or becoming a part of the Fort Drum Barracks Rangers, firstname.lastname@example.org. Information also is available by visiting http://www.rangersrugby.org/. The next scheduled rugby game is April 19 at Syracuse. See sidebar for full schedule details.
Here is the schedule:
April 19 @Syracuse
April 26 @ Oswego State Greased Weasel tourney
May 3 @ St. Lawrence University Mud and Blood tourney
June 07 Quantico @ Drum (tentative)
June 11 Trip to Kingston to watch USA v. Ireland
June 14 @ Rochester Dead Ants tourney
July 12 @ Ottawa Indians Summer tourney
Aug 02 @ Lake Placid Can/Am (over 100 teams)
Sept 17 @ Ft. Bragg (tentative)
Sept 20 @ Quantico (tentative)
Nov 08 @ Cortland Deer and Beer tourney
July, Aug, Sept League games vs. Utica, Cortland, Saratoga, Binghamton, Saranac Lake, Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
By Spec. Jennie Burrett