The Rugby Ball Celebrates 50 Years of Rugby in the City

Join the Cleveland Rugby Club as we celebrate 50 years of rugby in our fair city. On Saturday, November 22, the Cleveland rugby community will gather at the Inter Continental Hotel to celebrate our sport’s history in the city and look towards its future. The Rugby Ball is a black tie optional occasion and set to be the social event of the year for the rugby community.

Here’s a list of all the amazing speakers that have been assembled to spend the evening with the city’s rugby community. Here are their bios, in brief:

Tom Selfridge: Cleveland native and USA Rugby Hall of Fame Inductee, USA Eagle Player and Manager, USA Rugby Executive Board

Nigel Melville: Current CEO of USA Rugby and former scrum half and captain of the English national XV.

Dr. John Bergfeld: The founder of rugby in Cleveland, John is also a highly acclaimed orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and former team doctor for the Cleveland Browns.

Dan Arbeznick: Northeast Ohio youth and high school rugby developer, St. Ignatius High School Coach and Manager, and Ohio referee.

This line-up of speakers covers rugby from the past, present and into the future. Hear what all the voices from every era of Cleveland rugby have to say about their experiences and the state of the sport in the Cleveland area.


A Free Pass After A Hard Match

For the second weekend this Fall, the Indianapolis Impalas forfeited a would-be road match. This time they were supposed to take on the Cleveland Rugby Club, who were coming off of a hard-fough nail-biter against Pittsburgh the weekend prior. While this weekend will see the Club’s Developmental side taking the field, last weekend’s match had the A sidegrinding out a last minute 26-22 win.

Whether it seems like it on the surface or not, this weekend could be a majot deciding factor in how the remainder of the Fall season goes for the Club. Coming off of the victory they had in Pittsburgh, it would be easy to write-off any competition that might come their way this coming Saturday. That would be a huge mistake on the part of the Club’s players because that is not only how you get embarrassed but that is how you also get hurt; and the Cleveland Rugby Club’s ruggeres cannot spare anyone getting mentally of physically damaged. They will need to be sharp in every aspect of their game if they want to finish strong and remain relevant in the standings. Also, this might be a great opportunity for the developing talent of the Club to gain some much-needed playing time. With injuries piling up and players in the midst of recovering, these developing talents will likely see a great deal of playing time and gaining experience before the final matches of the season would be greatly beneficial. If all goes according to plan this weekend, the roster for the Club should be more experienced and one weekend healthier – not a bad way to go into a slate of matches that are against teams that are very beatable.

For those who are unaware, the Club went to Pittsburgh last weekend and wrestled a much-needed win away from the home team. The match was far from perfect on either side. The referee was very liberal with the penalties, dishing out ten meters for even the slightest amounts of back-talk. With the penalties flying fast and furiously, possession and momentum was on a constant shift. On top of all that there were the usual handling errors and penalties of impatience that find their ways into an 80-minute match.

When the Club’s players scored during the match it was by force of will. The Cleveland club’s opening try was off of a line-out, typically a portion of the match that is a toss-up for the Club’s forwards. On this occasion against Pittsburgh’s forwards, they asserted their will with a driving maul that all but strolled across the try line and allowed fill-in front rower, Joe Brown, to get the try. Preston Lowden hooked up with the backs at the end of a long run to cross over for another one his team’s tries to help put a cushion on their lead. Nick Viviani put over a pair of penalty kicks during the match as well; but the bulk of the team’s scoring came from Tren Szente, who had a pair of tries on the day – one of which came during the final minutes of the match after a series of pick-and-go movements deep in Pittsburgh territory.

Even though the Club secured the lead with minutes left in the match, they were far from free and clear. They had one kick off to handle and time to kill, a combination that could easily spell the demise for a club with a slim lead. The Club slowed down the match by putting the ball in the capable hands of the forwards and had them inch their way down the field as time ticked off the clock. Unfortunately, the methodical move was thwarted by a late penalty that put the lead in jeopardy and nerves on edge. Fortunately, Shawn Riley sealed up the match as Pittsburgh tried to swing the ball out wide after sucking in the Cleveland defenses. Riley, normally known for his offensive prowess, snuffed out the attack with a game-saving tackle and poach attempt. The Club was awarded a final penalty, and when they kicked the ball clear the whistle blew and the victory was secured.

The final three matches for the season see the Club come up against the West siders, Dayton and Detroit RFC – three teams they have a good history with First up, they host the West side. They kick off next week at the Metro Parks Pitch at 1:00pm.


Taking A Turn, But Not Permanently, for the Worse

So the past two weeks have shown two potential futures for the Cleveland Rugby Club as it stands now. Two weeks ago, the Club took a strong core of players to Indianapolis and played to a hard-fought tie with a tough Impalas side. More recently, the Club hosted the most dominant team in the region in the Detroit Tradesmen and got embarrassed – not only by the score but by the actions of club members on and off the field as a whole.

The match against the Impalas put on display the traits that make this club a great organization to be a part of – the dedicated core that is willing to fight against great odds until the final moment, the group that is willing to play until their last drop of sweat and bit of breath for the people around them, the group that will pick up their tired teammates and will them to one more tackle, one more scrum, one more lineout at the far side of the field.

The debacle against the Tradesmen showcased some of the unfortunate chinks in our armor that affect our style and quality of play. As developments go from bad to worse on the field, everyone’s composure diminishes; and as composure slips, mistakes are mad, consequences are levied and the cycle continues. And as the process goes on the pitch so it goes off the pitch as well. Unfortunately, on Saturday an element of this sideline contingency took matters into their own hands, which resulted in something taking place that, at the very least, was unnecessary.

The up side is that both of these matches have provided a great glimpse of what this club is made of, for better or for worse. Now it is up to the captains, Heads of State, seasoned players, rookies and Old Boys to decide which club they are going to be. Will they be the team that will grind it out with a tough team, stick to their disciplined style of play and put together a tough 80 minutes every weekend? Or, will they be the type of team that implodes when push comes to shove and the tables begin to turn?

The remainder of the season will be the first steps towards the Club’s future. Hopefully, everyone involved will do their best to make all the right steps in all the right places.


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