More than 50 collegiate rugby teams gathered Saturday and Sunday in Portsmouth, Rhode Island for the Beast of the East Tournament, the largest collegiate rugby tournament in the New England area. Among teams from the New England region, the Scranton Norsemen Rugby Football Club journeyed six hours to compete in Beast. The club looked to make an impact on the tournament, as the team had not competed in Beast before.
“In all honesty, we didn’t know what to expect,” Ciarán Lynch, a sophomore on the team said. “All that we wanted to do this weekend was to put Scranton rugby on the map after this massive tournament.”
The club did just that. Under the leadership of an experienced senior class, the Norsemen had a great weekend against very competitive teams. The club played in Division II, which is home to schools such as Springfield College, Boston College, Bryant University and SUNY Buffalo. The many talented rugby programs were split into three-team pools, and Scranton faced the University of Rhode Island’s B team and Massachusetts Maritime Academy on the first day of Beast. The Norsemen shut out both teams with a combination of physical play and quick pace, earning the team a spot in the championship bracket for the Division II Cup.
The sun blazed as the Norsemen took the field for their cup quarterfinal match against Sacred Heart University. Although the Sacred Heart side played a physical game, the skilled ball-running abilities of seniors Manny Lara and Connor Lisante, as well as junior Kevin Whelan, gave Scranton a 29-12 victory.
“I’m so proud and not that surprised that we were able to play against the competition we faced,” senior officer Sean Durkin said after the win. “We’ve been outsized in every game, but we were more physical, and that’s what made us a team to be reckoned with.”
The cup semifinals took place shortly afterwards, pitting the Norsemen against the Bryant University Bulldogs. The Bulldogs, who play in the Division I Northeast Conference, came into the game thinking that the Scranton side would simply roll over. However, this was not the case. The sides were fairly equal; both teams were very physical as well as quick with their ball movement. Despite the hard-fought battle between the teams, the Norsemen missed going to the Division II Cup match by a single score, with the result being 19-12 in favor of Bryant.
Ending the weekend with a record of 3-1 out of a possible five games, the Norsemen made their mark on Beast.
“We have looked to change the idea that rugby is nothing more than a social sport,” Dan Crawford, a senior officer of the club said. “We run our program as if it were a varsity sport. Our participation and success at both the Philadelphia Collegiate Cup (a tournament which the Norsemen have played in) and the Beast of the East is indicative of that work ethic. Rugby is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and we strive to facilitate its growth through our positive actions both on campus and on the field.”
Men’s rugby at The University takes place in both the Fall and Spring semesters. The fall is league play, in which the Norsemen play from August until November in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference. The spring is usually reserved for tournaments, such as Beast or, in the past, the Philadelphia Collegiate Cup.
“Since my freshman year, the team has changed a lot,” Durkin said. “The addition of our new coaching staff has transformed the team into a more versatile unit.”
The team welcomes anyone who is willing to learn the game to come to a practice and join the Norsemen Rugby Football Club in the fall.