Friday, September 02, 2011

I Are a Rugger

I are a Rugger. I played last Saturday, so for at least a week I feel I can consider myself a Rugger.

Do you still play Rugby?"

"I played last Saturday."

No one else can say they played more recently. I've got the scabs and bruises still to prove it.

LTC John, Old Boy 1, Jac and I went down to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and played in the annual alumni, Old Boy game. We've been doing this for over ten years.

John is anticipating taking his very last APFT, so he didn't want to go all out. Jac had sat out last year and the previous year had broken his rib so he was a bit subdued. OB1 sat out entirely since he thinks he has a cracked sternum.

I've been, as you know, riding to work on a regular basis for many weeks. I've lost over 20 pounds and I've been on and off doing Body for Life. I was the most fit, but I was concerned because last Tuesday I had taken my "tackling dummies" out and worked out with them.

My tackling dummies are dufflebags I've stuffed with bags of sand and carpet underlayment so they weigh about 70 pounds. I stand them on 5 gallon cans so they're tall enough and then I set them about 5-10 meters apart. When they're stood up I tackle on, roll over and tackle the other. I stand them back up and do it again.

I interspersed that with lifting and pushing a picnic table around, and passing the ball around.

When I was done with all that I went home and since them my right shoulder has been hurting. I dislocated my collarbone about two years ago and I think I did it to my other shoulder this time. It didn't hurt the first time, much.

Anyway, I was very concerned that I wouldn't get in a scrum and have my shoulder collapse. It seemed like it could be something that could get lots of folks hurt.

Let me reassure you, that didn't happen.

I felt great in fact. I was able to get to everywhere I wanted to and never felt winded.

We played in the second game.

In case you didn't know. Rugby doesn't normally allow free substitutions so there are usually several games in a row when two teams play. The first string (called the A Side or the First XV) from one team plays the First XV from the opposition, then when they are done the B Sides play each other. We usually play the B Side since the guys who are active, regular, younger players usually play A Side.

The Old A Side did not do too well this year. That's bad for us, but good for the team. The school boys were smallish, but they were very quick. They made up for their poor teamwork by being able to make repeated breakaways for Trys (a "touchdown" literally where a player grounds the ball in the Try Zone and scores 5 points).

I think the Old A Side may have actually lost their game.

Then there was us, the B Side. LTC John actually found a bottle of wine with a B Side label and we drank that after we played.

I started playing Tight Head Prop (#3 although I wore #1) on the right side of the scrum and lifting front on the first jumper.

I couldn't seem to get comfortable in the scrums and my timing was off. I couldn't get really square with my shoulders and hips so I was going in on too big an angle. I think the Hooker out-weighed me and had been drinking so I couldn't get down as low as I usually do. I'm thinking that's why I couldn't really get my footing in place so that I could bring my legs in play.

When I get my footing right I can't remember a single time that I've been pushed back, never. This time I was like I was just bending forward at the waist and my knees were straight beneath me. You can imagine that I could not push from this position. The best I could do was try to transfer whatever push I was getting from the second row, through my back and into the opposing pack. I was getting my back folded.

Our Hooker was managing to either spoil the other Hooker or get the ball each time so it wasn't as critical, but I hate not scrumming well.

In the line outs I've never been about to lift with just my back and arms. What I do is squat so I can get a giant push from my legs and then lock my elbows. When I can do it right I can hold the jumper up indefinitely.

This jumper wanted me to lift him from one thigh. Usually I lift from both legs of the shorts. We did it my way a few times in the game, but his shorts were not the usual lifting ones and they were crushing his 'nads, and giving him a royal wedgie.

He begged us to lift from his legs. Eventually I had to give up the spot to someone who could do it the way he wanted.

So there were the two set pieces, the places I usually excel even when I can't get around well. On the other hand, I was getting around well and positioning myself well, I thought.

I got the ball several times and once I even got it out in fairly open space, about 15 meters from the Try Line. I had high hopes that time, but as I ran forward three guys came around me. One guy dove and his legs whipped up and hit me across the chest. I don't know how or why he did that but it stopped me.

As my usual I managed to turn and got clean ball out to my team, even though I was tackled.

I know of at least one other time when I was being tackled and I kept it a Maul for a while until being tripped up. I still got the ball out.

Another time I was tackled and ended up on my back. I was on top of at least one other guy and I managed to pop it up to someone coming up. That guy took it in for a score. He very specifically thanked me for providing good ball to him.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that whenever I got the ball I broke the Gain Line and provided clean ball for the next phase.

Oh, one time that didn't happen. I did break the Gain Line, but then I was tackled out of bounds. I landed flat and my head hit the ground hard. The ground felt like a sewer cap. I wasn't really hurt, but I layed there for about two minutes. I figured that they couldn't have the line out with me laying there and I'd give everybody a breather. A couple of people came over and asked if I were okay.

I said, "Shh, I'm fine, don't tell anyone yet." I eventually hopped up and play continued. It's an old boy trick.

Afterward I reflected that I hadn't made too many tackles. I realized in the car later that day that it was probably because out Backs were so good that they were not dropping or losing the ball much at all. We Forwards were not having to double back or clean up their mess almost at all. That's very unusual in a pick-up game like this and very welcome.

I do remember three particular tackles. One time one other their guys came running back with a kick and he was darting past several people. I kept on him and managed to get a hand on him, wrapping my arm up. I didn't take him down, but I slowed him enough that two more of our guys got his other side and we took him down together.

I think it was right after that that I rolled out of that pile quickly and saw that they had gotten the ball out of the Ruck and were running away with it. I nearly managed to get a hand on that guy too.

I love when that happens. When I tackle one guy and then I bounce up and tackle the guy he passed to.

The very last tackle I made was pretty cool. One of their guys was racing up the sideline. I knew that if he got away from me he only had to beat the Fullback for a score. I was not going to let that happen.

He was fast, but he had bounced around off several other guys so he was slowed. I managed to get one hand on his shoulder and I wasn't letting go. I shoved him and shook him. I managed to get him to step out of bounds with one foot. Then about 10 meters later I shoved all of him out.

The Touch Judge didn't put his flag up until I had gotten him all the way out. I yelled at him. The poor kid was probably a rookie and he accepted what I said and moved the lineout back to where I told him.

At that point my right hamstring was tightening up. LTC John and Jac had left at half time (or earlier, I really didn't see) and this was the end of the 3rd quarter. We usually don't do quarters, but it was in the upper 80s or lower 90s and it was Old Boys.

I decided the better part of valor was to go over to the side and drink some of our B Side wine.

I had a glass and some Gatorade. Then I noticed that the Old Boys were short. They were only playing with 14 that I could count.

I called to the Fullback and asked him if they were short and if they wanted another player. He said yes and that I could play either Wing or Fullback. I told him certainly not Fullback (with the real heavy responsibility of kicking and being the last line of defense). So, still wearing my #1 I went in at #15 and played another 10 minutes (of the 15 minute quarter).

I figured that in a game like this the Wing rarely, if ever sees the ball. This was before I had made my realization that our Backs were actually pretty good.

I got at least thee balls, which is like crazy busy for any Wing. The first one I got tackled, but I got the pass away and they took it in for a score. The second one I got tackled and I managed to roll over and get right back up. I continued running until I got tackled again.

The third and final time I got the ball I was pretty close to the Try Line again. I made a couple of moves and managed to break through a couple of tackles, but I was ultimately tackled out of bounds. I was so angry because it was my last chance at a score. We lost the following Line Out and the game ended.

I think we won like 50 something to nothing.

In total it was a pretty good day. With the "wind" I can work around the other things, and if I do play any more this year maybe I could have a good case to move back to Loose Forward again.

Now I just have to find if there still is a Lake County Gladiators team. Anybody know?

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