Rivalry trophy reclaimed by NMU

John Becker

The Moosemen solidified their right to the Golden Rancor trophy last weekend after a victory against UW-Parkside as the team looks forward. Their regular season is in its twilight, but the team will begin anew in the playoff battles ahead.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, the Moosemen faced off against the UW-Parkside Ranger Bears in the team’s annual Golden Rancor game. It was the first time since 2006 that the Moosemen were fighting to earn the trophy instead of defending their right to hold it and the Ranger Bears weren’t going to let up easy. The teams kept on par with each other in the first half, with the Moosemen slipping by 15-12.

Team president Matt Kehrer said the Moosemen weren’t playing their best during the first half.

“We were rucking sloppily. We weren’t holding onto the ball enough, and if you work on that, the game takes care of itself,” he said.

The Moosemen did take care of their issues and outscored the opposition in the second half by 21 points, taking the victory 48-24.

Senior flyhalf Gardner Thompson scored two tries in the second half and earned eight points for the team from his points-after-try (PATs are worth two points each in rugby). Thompson said he was just in the right place at the right time.

“This was the first time I’d ever played flyhalf, and I found myself in a spot where I could utilize all the players on the field,” Thompson said.

Thompson was humble about his scores, as he said he let the forwards do most of the work.

“On my two tries, Kyle Aho ran the ball for about 50 yards, and on the other, Dane (Kilpatrick) ran for about 40, and I just happened to pick the ball up at the end and score it,” Thompson said. “I let those guys do all the work, I just took all the glory.”

Senior prop Jimmy Kibby said he felt this was the best game that exemplified how the team was able to come together as one unit.

“Normally we’re considered a forwards team where we just pound the ball through. This time, we filtered the ball out through the back line, and we utilized that to move forward. When it came to pounding it into the try zone, we used the forward line.

Kibby said he wants to get off of the injured list, as his regular season was ended by a PCL tear, a somewhat rare injury.

“It controls the forward and backwards movement of the lower leg. I can extend forward, but I can’t extend backwards as well,” he said.

Kibby also said he would really like to get some playing time in for the playoffs, as he is a senior and this could potentially be his final year at college.

The Moosemen will travel to Madison, Wisc. for the first round of the Wisconsin state playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 16. Their opponents will be the UW-Milwaukee Panthers, who are at the top of the Wisconsin Rugby Football Union West Division.

If the Moosemen win, they will be playing the following weekend (Sunday, Oct. 24) for the state championship before entering the national playoffs, but if they lose, then they will play for third place instead. To continue on to the national tournament, the Moosemen need only win one of the next two games.

The NMU Moosemen pose for a picture with the UW-Parkside Ranger Bears, the team they compete with annually for the Golden Rancor // John Becker/NW