Men’s rugby fights for playoff chance

John Becker

The NMU men’s rugby team earned a solid victory last week and will take the home pitch again this weekend with their playoff future and an unofficial trophy on the line.

The Moosemen are 3-1 on the season, having earned a 21-14 victory against Marquette University Warriors on Sept. 18 and losing to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks (4-0) on Sept. 25, 10-54.

Club president Matt Kehrer said Whitewater is a nationally-ranked team that executed perfectly and was very fast.

“They literally did the same thing every time, and it worked,” Kehrer said. “They would just run to the outside, make our backs commit, kick it over our heads and then score a try.”

Senior winger Kyle Ruff said another issue against Whitewater was the loss of depth.

“Our biggest thing is getting people to go. In our loss to Whitewater, we didn’t have a lot of the guys who normally played, so I think that was a big factor.”

On Saturday, Oct. 2, the Moosemen were able to overpower the Michigan School of Engineering (MSOE) Raiders, 54-5. Kehrer said the Raiders were fighting an uphill battle with fewer men than usual.

“They came up a man short, so due to regulations they had to play a man down. It was 15 against 14. Our pack dominated. We didn’t do anything fancy, but we didn’t mess up,” Kehrer said.

Kehrer said due to the one-sided score, the B-side got to get some game time in during the second half.

“Our A-side only had to play one half, so a lot of our newer guys got in to play,” he said. “I think with rugby, the more you play the better you get. Any time they get a chance to play they’re going to improve.”

Ruff agreed with getting the B-side some more playing time, because there will be a problem in the future with having experienced players.

“There’s a generation gap, which I feel is a bit of a problem because we only had a couple recruits last year, so there’s  a gap between the older guys who are focused on school and the younger guys who are more committed to the team,” Ruff said.

This weekend the Moosemen will host the UW-Parkside Rangers (2-2) on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 1 p.m. on the intramural fields at Wright and Lincoln.

Kehrer said the Moosemen are usually well matched up with the Rangers, as both teams use quick backs and a big pack to push the offense forward.

“We lost to them last year, but we’re hoping to get a victory. We haven’t lost a home match in many years, so we intend to win,” Kehrer said.

Ruff also mentioned that this game is an unofficial trophy game; the teams will be competing for the Golden Rancor Trophy.

“The Rancor is the big thing in the pit at Jabba’s palace, from Star Wars. It’s just a rancor, painted gold, and it’s on a piece of plywood,” Ruff said.

Ruff said the trophy is roughly 10 years old and has been going back and forth between the Moosemen and the Rangers.

“There’s a list of who’s won and what year,” Ruff said. “Last year was the first time Parkside won it in four or five years so it was very heartbreaking when we lost it.”