Men’s Rugby closes out season with big win

A difficult season for the Colby men’s rugby team came to a close on a high note under the Friday night lights, as the Mules stomped Maine Maritime Academy by a score of 66-0. The win came as a much needed confidence booster for the spring season, as the team finished with a 2-4 record, losing games to University of Maine-Orono, University of Maine-Farmington, and “CBB” rivals Bowdoin and Bates. Yet despite the challenges of the fall season, the players were not dejected.

Griffen Allen, one of the team’s seven juniors, proclaimed, “The win-loss record, I don’t think, reflects a lot of how competitive some of the games were. We could have easily been 4-2 or 3-3. Certainly UMF and Bates, those games were close.”

The team’s six seniors have seen success before and believe in its imminent return. It was, as senior Andrew Roan fondly recalled, only three years ago that the team emerged triumphant in the “Beast of the East” and Maine State tournaments. The team continued their winning ways in the ensuing season, ending the fall of 2013 as the 7th ranked team in the entire country. “This [year] was a growing season, a couple of years ago we lost like 11 of 15 starters. We’ve been rebuilding ever since,” Roan said.

With freshmen and sophomores making up nearly two-thirds of the team, the upperclassmen understand that development is critical for future success. Their plan, said junior Dan Nesvet, is simple. “Develop skills,” he exclaimed. “We have all of JanPlan, all of February, all of March, and most of April just to concentrate on developing fundamental skills for the young guys. And just making sure we gel as a team, that’s pretty much what spring’s all about.”

The players believe they are in good hands for the future with coach Leo Lafaiali’i, a former Samoan national team player whom Allen called “the most overqualified coach in New England.” Under his tutelage, the upperclassmen believe the Colby men’s rugby team has a chance to exploit weaknesses in their competition’s simplicity on the pitch.

It is a common practice of New England club rugby teams to play only in the middle of the pitch, a strategy that is mundane but effective with enough size and athleticism. The Colby team, senior Peter Cronkite said, must be more clever. “The mantra that coach has for us is ‘play smart rugby,’” he explained, “We have a small, skilled team. We can move faster than [the competition], we can run circles around them.”

Like in any sport, the switch from high school to collegiate athletics comes with a learning curve. Rugby, however, is uncommon in that the players, no matter how athletic, have—almost without exception—never played the sport competitively before. The challenge is only increased with a nuanced system like the one Lafaiali’i has implemented in his two years as head coach. With all the talent in the freshmen and sophomore classes, it appears that it is only a matter of time before the Mules return to their winning ways. “We have a very strong sophomore class now,” Allen repeated, “We’re starting to build a solid squad. I’m looking forward to the spring, and the fall of next year.”

Allen isn’t the only one with such an optimistic view. A quick and jovial back-and-forth between the seniors explained everything one needs to know about Colby men’s rugby plans to move into the spring season. “Mark my words,” Gus Gluek ’15 laughed, “Maine state champions [this year]!” While Gluek joked, fellow senior Cronkite wasn’t so quick to let him off the hook. “We’re aiming for a Maine state championship. We think that’s a very realistic goal.”

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