|The Santa Barbara Grunions|
Whatever the reason, SB Rugby Day was my first time out on the pitch for a full-contact match. This was an achievement that followed a relatively short run of preparatory touch games and technique-oriented practices.
SB Rugby Day is, you might say, a quantity-over-quantity affair. Games are short, but there are many teams, many games and many chances for vets and rookies alike to get some pre-season playing time.
Several colleges attended and played a mini sevens tournament. There were a few women's sevens sides too, and a handful of masters teams. For our part, the Grunions were picking on guys our own size - full-grown (very full-grown) adults from Ventura and the Inland Empire.
Our first opponent was IE (as a web-developer, I came into the game pre-equipped with a motivational hatred based on that abbreviation alone). They were a smaller side numerically, but a larger side individually. In particular, their forward pack was significantly larger than ours at pretty much every position. Even so, our side was more fit up and down the pitch and had more subs, even after we leant them a few players so that they could contest the match.
The first half was scoreless, but IE had the advantage in territory as well as time of possession. We were holding our own at the scrum, but giving up yardage to pick-and-go runs by their forwards. Line-outs are a strength for the Grunions though and our ability to win line-outs on our opponent's throw probably kept us in the game.
The second half was much more open. IE scored a try first, barreling in after a few phases of play. I entered the game as a substitute in the second half and had a front-row seat for the try that we immediately scored in response. After going left, we passed the ball out to the backs headed right and had significant numbers on the right hand side. The ball made it out to our inside center who streaked by the sole defender in our area to score between the posts.
Following some back-and-forth kicking, the Grunions ended up with a line-out 5 meters outside of the IE goal. We took the line-out and scored the try off of a rolling maul from there. The game had required a lot of effort from our forward pack, so this was a particularly satisfying way for them to win - especially against the heavyweight opposition.
After the IE game, the Grunions had quite a bit of time off, but I decided to spend some of it playing with IE against Ventura. As in our game, the IE team needed players and I knew I wouldn't get much playing time as the day went on, so I was eager to get more "real" game experience. I started at right wing and saw a bit more of the ball than I had in the Grunions game. I successfully contested a grub kick, recovered a loose ball and assisted a bit in containing the opposition a few times. A VERY modest contribution to be sure, but one must start somewhere.
The final Grunion game of the day came against rival Ventura. Instead of two 20-minute halves like the IE game, we played only one 20-minute period (for reference, a normal rugby match is two 40-minute halves. I did not start or play, but I did take some pictures!
Following the match, there were sausages to eat and beers to drink and a field to tear down. Some folks went downtown for Halloween, but I had a flight the following morning and opted to return home for a shower and an early bedtime.
A humble but entertaining start to my late-in-life rugby "career." If you're interested, photos are here.