Rugby, 2nd practice
The second rugby practice I attended was a bit more up-tempo than the previous. Field conditions were better, in that the grass wasn’t a bog after a rainstorm (the team doesn’t practice on the rugby pitch because they don’t want to tear the field up), the sun was out and the air was warmer, and the players seemed to be more active than before.
The coaches, too, were more active. Eric Wright, one of the two coaches and in charge of the backs, was very vocal, forcing me to draw comparisons to my days of high school football in Texas, all those years ago. Practice followed the same scheme as before, though there was more contact.
At one point Dan Kloeckener connected with Cameron Wies during a drill practicing rucking, resulting in Wies being violently knocked off his feet onto his back.
“Cameron should be awake, now,” joked Phil Hojnowski, a senior on the team who has been sidelined because of a knee injury.
In total, the practice was faster paced, and the drills had more repetitions. There was even time for a new drill, that focused on agility for the entire team. Devised by one of the players, Wright liked what he heard and decided to implement it in practice. It consisted of two players running parallel down a line of cones and passing the ball between each other between stationary defenders on each cone.
After a while, Wright spoke up. “Defenders, if they aren’t going to get rid of the ball, (knock them down).”
That was the kind of practice they had. Which was a good sign, as I found out that the remaining tests in the season aren’t necessarily important. They didn’t make the regional finals, Westerns, but were instead invited to Ruggerfest, a rugby tournament in St. Louis which will be held April 10th and 11th. And then there is the final home game against Truman State on April 17th.
While ultimately these are only exhibition matches, it gives the youth on the team more opportunity to gain experience for next year. The team will suffer some turnover, including losing Wright and club president Ryan Beck to graduation, but the team will mostly remain intact.
Hojnowski says some of the players aren’t very adept at motivating themselves, but many more are buying into the program. Nothing made this more evident than the conditioning at the end of practice. With practice supposed to be ending at 6 pm, Wright called out that if anyone needed to go, they could, but that if they wanted to stick around, they would be doing “team stuff”. Only three players left out of a group of more than 25.