I love sports. All sports. Seriously, I will watch anything with a ball, stick, or fast engine. (Trust me, I have a fish named Peyton Manning). However, I go a little stir crazy January-August when I can’t get my weekly dose of college football. Fortunately, the summer weather brings outdoor sporting events like the Bingham Cup.
The match I attended was between the Ottawa Wolves and the Madison Minotaurs. Having no allegiance to either team, I used a very scientific approach when choosing who to cheer for: I picked the team from my favorite city. Sorry Madison, but Ottawa is like Canadian Disney World to me.
This was the first time I ever attended a rugby match, and while I picked up some of the rules as I watched, I am still pretty confused by the sport. There are quite a few differences from American football (though honestly, I would not object to incorporating some rugby rules).
First, when a ball has gone into touch (out of bounds), the play is often restarted by a “line-out” (see above). The ball is thrown is thrown back in to members of both teams. The player receiving the ball is hoisted into the air by two of his teammates. The lifted player in the line-out will attempt either to catch the ball or to knock it back to another player on the team. It looks pretty impressive.
The only thing about rugby I was familiar with was the scrum. Mainly because I watch too much Friends. A scrum is a method of restarting play that involves players packing closely together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball. It looks like a lot of chaos and I was really unable to determine how it worked because I could not see the ball through the mass of men.
Otherwise, there are a lot of similarities between the sports. The ball is advanced through forward movement and plays are ended when a ball goes out of bounds/into touch or if a player is tackled and forward movement is halted. However, in rugby, it is common for the player in possession to “off-load” the ball, passing out of the tackle (before forward progress is halted) in order to keep the play alive.
In rugby, a “try” is the equivalent to a touchdown. Despite the names, a try requires the ball to be “touched down” to the ground in the goal area, where, ironically, a touchdown does not. An American football touchdown scores 6 points and a rugby league try is worth 4 points. Both sports also have after-goal kicks for extra points. In rugby, it is known as a conversion and worth 2 points.
As is no surprise, rugby is a tough sport. I was really surprised to see that the players did not wear any pads. As a result, I was unsurprised to see several players get injured. For example, one player had a laceration to his forehead and he was simply bandaged up and sent back in.
At another point late in the game the referee noticed that one player had blood on his leg. The ref ask “is that open, or someone else’s blood”? The player determined that it was his own, to which the ref responded, “then rub some dirt in it, there’s no blood on my pitch.” The player then picked up some dirt, rubbed it in his wound, and resumed play. If that isn’t badass, I truly don’t know what is.
Rugby season and finals last through August 6, so if you are in search of a football summer supplement, look no further. In case you were wondering, the Wolves beat Madison in sudden death overtime 17 to 12. Go Wolves!
Now, for your enjoyment, the episode of Friends in which Ross attempts to play rugby and fails miserably. It seems like an accurate portrayal.