Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Utah Rugby

As you may have guessed, given my nickname "Brigham," I am a member of the Mormon church - more formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While I was born and raised in Southern California, I attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and graduated in 1984 with a degree in electrical engineering. I discovered rugby long after this, but in my readings on the subject on the Internet, have learned that little information about Utah rugby exists. So, in an effort to publicize the sport in that state, I present this page - to be added to in time as I have with the rest of the Rugby Reader's Review. - Wes

Interview with Dave Smyth:

Since I graduated from Brigham Young University (1984 - BSEE) and now play rugby, I am interested in the BYU Rugby club. I'm just sorry I didn't get involved in the game when I was there!

Please describe the BYU RFC rugby program.

BYU has had a rugby team for almost forty years. We play a very competitive schedule every year. I am the Head Coach and we also have three other coaches. Currently all of the coaches are from overseas and grew up playing rugby in rugby playing countries. Traditionally we do very well, in the last ten years we have lost only nine games.

What is the relationship between Brigham Young University and the BYU RFC? Does the rugby club receive any funding from BYU, or use of facilities and fields?

We have an excellent relationship between the team and the university. We are well funded, we have our own rugby field along with our own athletic trainers and training room. Our home pitch is at Haws Field on the BYU campus.

Describe your player base. Do you have many non-US players?

The majority of our players are Americans, however we usually do have a couple of foreign players on the team. They could be from anywhere, This year we have players from New Zealand, Tonga, South Africa, Canada and India. They come to BYU because of the high level of education they receive, and also for the Latter-Day Saint educational experience. Out of our current squad of forty, two players are non-LDS.

What other sides do you typically play? How are you doing?

We basically play any college side who wants to play us; we try to schedule the top competition in the western states. We play in the Inland Pacific conference; you can see who is in that from looking at our website. (The University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the University of Utah, Utah State, Weber State, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, the University of Central Washington, the University of Idaho and Idaho State, Stanford University and New Mexico.)

This season (Spring 2000) we played the University of Victoria - arguably the best collegiate rugby side in North America. BYU lost the game 36-26 despite outscoring the Vikes 19-10 in the second half. I attribute the team's late arrival to its slow start and 26-7 deficit at half time. (Due to visa problems we were delayed at the Canadian border and arrived just 15 minutes before the game was scheduled to start.) However, we did better the second day and defeated the University of British Columbia, 20-10. Playing in Canada gave us a world of experience playing collegiate rugby at the top level.

How does the connection with the LDS church affect the BYU side? (I know you don't play on Sundays, for instance. Has this been a problem in the past?)

The tournaments BYU competes in runs from Saturday to Sunday; therefore the team can never compete in the finals. BYU has tried for years to change the tournament to a Friday-Saturday format, but there has been no progress with this. So the subject of Sabbath play has been an unresolved issue with USA Rugby.

A spiritual aspect of the BYU Cougars team (prayer before games, etc.) is well documented. Is there a spiritual aspect to BYU rugby?

As you can imagine, the majority of our starting XV players are returned missionaries. Spirituality is nothing new to them. They are well-grounded young men who behave very well most of the time. Prayer is an important part of our team functions: we always pray before and after every game and also at all practice sessions. Provisionally, we have planned an overseas tour next spring to the U.K. where we will not only take our rugby skills on the road, but plan on doing a lot of missionary work through firesides in different areas.

Because we don't play on a Sunday, which means no play-offs at the moment, many people want to know the background behind that decision. This gives the boys a chance to share with other people a little about our beliefs. We all very much still believe we are missionaries.

Many people believe that we have a physical advantage over others because we field older kids (returned missionaries). I don't necessarily agree. It takes a returned missionary at least one year to get back into rugby playing condition; some never do. I do believe there is a difference from an emotional maturity perspective, and this I believe is a result of the spiritual growth they receive in the mission field.


Highland Rugby

Utah High School Rugby Powerhouse

By Wes Clark and Larry Gelwix

In the course of my reading about things rugby, my eye chanced upon game statistics on the Highland RFC in Salt Lake City, Utah. They've had a winning record of play for years (this is indicated in a table below), and seem to dominate the men's high school age rugby competitions. I wondered how this came about in what one might think to be an unlikely place (Utah), primarily known for its large population of Mormon Church (LDS) members.

I contacted the club's longtime coach Larry Gelwix by e-mail to find out. What follows is an interview about this notable force in U.S. high school rugby.

Describe yourself and your association with Highland Rugby.

I was born and raised in the Bay Area, California. I attended Brigham Young University where I received my B.A. in Communications and M.A. in Organizational Communications. During my time at BYU I became involved in rugby. After returning from my mission for the Mormon church I became friends with a guy from New Zealand who played on the BYU rugby team. I would go and watch him play and, having played football in high school, became interested in the game. I tried out for the team and played three years for BYU. My position was scrum-half.

Following my graduation from BYU, I accepted a teaching position in Salt Lake City at Highland in 1975. In addition to private religious classes, I taught one PE class and coached varsity football and wrestling. It was in the spring of my first year teaching that I decided that what every young man needed was to play rugby, so I organized a team. I made announcements and put up some posters and thought that because rugby was such a great game, everyone would want to play. We had six boys show up at our first practice! I started recruiting some of my football players and soon we had enough for a team.

I left teaching in 1979, but have continued as a rugby coach. Professionally, I serve as Chairman and CEO of Columbus Companies, Salt Lake City, Utah. I have now coached the Highland Rugby team for 25 years. I started out as a young man and now I'm an old man! Typically we have 100-120 young men come out for rugby. Our practice started March 6 and we had 115 boys show up. I have a "no cut" policy, but as we get into training there is a natural attrition. The teen years are a tough time. I have strong feelings about telling a young man who is willing to pay the price and do the work, "Sorry, but you're cut!" It sends the wrong message. I know that "cuts" are a part of real life, but as long as I'm in charge of the team cuts won't be a part of it. Kids these days are too psychologically fragile. Our program is hard and it's demanding. It requires a lot, and many players are just not up to it. But every boy who is willing to do what we ask of him and put in the time, we keep. Besides, we sometimes find a few "diamonds in the rough!"

The Highland Rugby program is not sponsored by the school. To achieve varsity status in Utah, more than half of the schools must adopt and play the sport. Until this happens, the sport is not sponsored by the Utah High School Activities Association. In addition to rugby, water polo, competition skiing, lacrosse, and ice hockey share unofficial status.

Also, with Title IX requirements pressing on most schools, the possibility of adding another boys' sport is almost nil. If it were only up to our school's officials, rugby would be a sponsored sport.

We enjoy a very close relationship with the school and its administrators, albeit an unofficial one. Under freedom of access laws, we are able to use a school football field as our practice area, use classrooms and a locker room. We pay a rental fee to the school district for these facilities.

Please describe the rugby program at Highland.

Practice begins the first Monday of March every year and runs through late May. This puts us at a disadvantage with the West Coast schools (and others around the country) who start playing in January. But since we are in snow country, we have no other choice.

We usually start the year with 100-120 boys, but due to the demanding nature of our program we usually find ourselves with about 70-80 players finishing the season.

We have an all-volunteer staff. None of our coaches receives any compensation.

We practice every day Monday-Friday and play most of our matches on Saturday.

There are many styles of play around the country and around the world. I suppose the Highland program would most closely model itself after a New Zealand style of play wherein we involve our forwards in all aspects of the game. I believe that year in and year out, our loose forwards are as good as you will see at the high school level.

I believe the Highland Rugby team is unique among high school programs. We have a very strict code of conduct and behavior, and we enforce our rules. Players are expected to refrain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, rowdy behavior, and any unseemly conduct. In fact, our broad team rule is that "you do not do anything that would embarrass yourself, your family, the team, or your faith." We talk at length about honor and integrity. I stress to the boys that if they lose their honor they have lost everything. If players violate any of our team's rules, they are suspended from the team. The player, his parents, and I meet together and discuss his possible return. There is one rule, however, that if they break they are suspended for the season: honesty. If they lie, at home, at school, at rugby, or anywhere, they're gone. It has been my unfortunate experience to suspend players for lying, including 1st XV players and team captains.

Some people may laugh and scoff, but I have found that players and parents appreciate and support the teaching of moral values. If this were only about rugby, I would have retired years ago.

As a team we do our best to stay involved in local and community affairs. We have done volunteer work with local schools, hospitals, youth organizations, yard work service projects for the elderly, widows, and needy, and civic groups. It's all part of being on the team. What we are trying to do through rugby is help these young men grow up to be responsible people.

What is the relationship between Highland High School in Salt Lake City and Highland Rugby?

The Highland Rugby team is not an officially sanctioned sport at Highland High School. It is important to note that we refer to ourselves as "Highland Rugby," not Highland High School Rugby. This is an important distinction. The reality is, however, that we are often "associated" with the school in the eyes of the community.

It is estimated that about six to eight high school age rugby teams in the U.S. are actually sponsored by a school. This is probably about 1% of the total. Liability and Title IX issues have taken their toll.

Is there a strong non-U.S. contingent on the club? (I had heard that there were many players of Tongan and New Zealand nationality.)

A more appropriate question to ask is this, "Is there a strong non-U.S. contingent at the school?" Highland High School is a designated ESL (English as a Second Language) school. Depending upon the school year, between 25% to 30% of the student body are enrolled in the ESL program. Immigrants, refugees, etc. that come to the Salt Lake area have the children enrolled at Highland because of the excellent English language program. At present, 37 languages, other than English, are spoken by students as a first language at Highland. Talk about diversity! Many students come here with little or no English speaking ability. While we get students from all over the country, presently the majority of students come from Latin America, the South Pacific, and Eastern Europe. We are seeing more African students of late. Several years ago we saw a flood of Southeast Asian immigrants.

Naturally we have some non-U.S. citizens who are students and participate in most all sports at the school, both sanctioned and unofficial sports. (You hear more Spanish being spoken on the Highland soccer team than English!) Although rugby has more students participating than football at Highland, there are more non-U.S. students playing football than are playing rugby.

We have a large number of Polynesians living in Utah. The entire population of the Kingdom of Tonga is 100,000. It is estimated that 50,000 Polynesians live in Utah, the vast majority being Tongan. It must be noted, however, that the majority of children of Tongan ancestry living in Utah were born here, consequently, they are U.S. citizens.

I have never felt that our boys have received the recognition they deserve. Eleven national championships in fifteen years! Highland is the only team in the country to have appeared in all fifteen tournaments and have reached the finals fourteen out of fifteen years. We practice every day for 2-22 hours. The boys have a year-round strength and conditioning program, which I coordinate with Highland's head football coach. We keep the boys' profiles on computer to track their progress. Our fitness and training program is demanding and tough and it's all done on their own time outside of practice.

In 1994 we had a young man, Patrick Dours, move to Salt Lake City from the Seattle area. He had played two years for Redmond (High School) Rugby and had played against us in the 1993 semi-finals at nationals. Now living and attending school here, Patrick came to play rugby with us.

Patrick started at 2nd 5 (#12) for us the next two years and was elected captain his senior year. He told an interesting story. He said that he grew up loving rugby and "hating Highland." He told us the members of his family were Redmond rugby fanatics and they also hated Highland. In fact, he said, Highland would be talked about at the dinner table and what a bunch of bums we were. The irony, of course, was that this Highland-hater now played for Highland!

We won the championship both his junior and senior year. He told us that he and his friends had made a pact when they were in 8th grade and planning to all play rugby together for Redmond that they would win a national championship. They stuck together and had every intention of fulfilling their dream. Then, Patrick moved to Salt Lake City and played for the enemy.

Here's what Patrick said, AI always thought Highland just showed up and took the trophy home and I hated you guys for this. I never had any idea how hard Highland works. I have never worked or trained so hard in my life. Now I know why Highland wins."

There's a good ending to the story: In the 1994 championship match we played Redmond. All of Patrick's old friends were across the ball from him. We beat Redmond 60-6 and dedicated the match to Patrick.

As you pointed out, Highland has an impressive record in the Men's High School U.S. National Championship. To what do you attribute this excellent record?

USA Rugby began sponsorship of a national high school tournament in 1985. Prior to this two coaches got together decided to have a tournament, decided whom to invite, and called it a national championship.

Listed below is our championship tournament finish:

Highland Rugby

Second place

First place

Second place

First place

First place

First place

First place

First place

Second place

First place

First place

First place

First place

First place

Third place

First place

First place

First place

First place

First place

Second place

First place

First place

First place (U-19)

First place (U-19)

We suffered a tough loss in the 1999 semis, losing 15-14 to Jesuit (Sacramento), a team we had beaten the month prior in Sacramento 54-17.

By the way, the Highland Rugby 1st XV (Varsity) cumulative win/loss record to the start of this season was 322-26-6. So far this season we are 6-0, including wins over BYU-JV and UVSC (Utah Valley State College). Including our six matches thus far, our cumulative record is extended to 328-26-6. (As of 2000, when I interviewed Gelwix - Wes)

In 1998 the first ever World Schools Rugby Championship was held. The sponsored tournament invited what they considered the top twelve high school teams in the world. In selecting the best teams, they wanted schools geographically dispersed throughout the world. We were honored to be the only team in the Western Hemisphere included. The two-week event was held in Harare, Zimbabwe, Africa. The level of competition was off the charts. Frankly, there was some public wondering why an American team had been included. The twelve teams were divided into four pools of three teams each.

The event was televised in Europe, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. We surprised the tournament and media when we won our pool and advanced into the semi-finals. We met the tournament favorite Kelston Boys High from Auckland, New Zealand (and the New Zealand high school champion) and got beaten. Kelston went on to win the tournament with a convincing win over Monument High School from Johannesburg, South Africa.

We met Tupou College ("College" is the term many countries use for high school - we were often referred to as "Highland College.") in the 3rd/4th place match. Tupou had completed a nine-match tour of New Zealand earlier in the year against top New Zealand schools and went undefeated. It was as tough a match as we have ever played. Tupou was the national high school champion of Tonga. The match seesawed back and forth and with no time remaining, Morgan Scalley put a try down in the corner to give us 25-24 win in what was considered the "most exciting match of the tournament." Rugby legend Gareth Edwards was at the match and personally congratulated our team one what he termed "an incredible performance." (Scalley has signed a full-ride football scholarship at the University of Utah as a running back.)

I attribute our impressive record to hard work, hard work, and more hard work. I really do. We have the best coaching staff (ten coaches) and young men who are dedicated. They understand goal setting. We talk at length about playing hard without being hard guys. If you ever saw our boys play you would see "hard" rugby, but never cheap rugby.

Tradition also plays an important role on our team. The alumni come back often and talk to the boys about what it means to wear the black jersey. I even have the sons of my early players playing for me now and I bring out photos and films of their fathers playing.

We have several team mottos that we talk about a lot and repeat before every game:

"Kia Kaha!" (Maori, "Forever Strong!")

"Til the Death!"

"It doesn't matter who scores, it only matters that we score!"

"Big team, little me."

The team is bigger than any player or any coach. We put our personal wants and wishes aside for the sake of the team. We sacrifice for the team.

We have dominated because we get the best athletes in the school, they work hard and train hard, and, I believe, are properly coached.

What attracted the non-U.S. players to Salt Lake City?

Utah has become a popular place for immigration because we have so much space here and the economy is so good. There is virtually no unemployment here. The LDS Church is also a major draw. Many people want to come to "Zion." Highland High School gets a disproportionate share of immigrants because of the English program.

Who are the outstanding players that we should keep an eye on?

We have a lot of good players and several potential "future Eagles." We do, however, face a challenge. Given that 75% of the population here in Utah is LDS, it is a safe assumption that a similar number of our team is LDS. Almost all of our LDS boys go on missions for two years. When they return some become involved in rugby, some don't. Sunday play does become an issue with most. Highland does not play on Sunday. We would walk away from the national tournament before changing this policy. I am not standing on my soap box preaching to any or telling anyone what they should or shouldn't do on Sunday; I'm dealing with minors and as such I feel a huge responsibility for their behavior and the example we set as coaches and adult leaders.

As for the future Eagles, maybe I'll just wait on that. The Sunday play takes out most of them. I say "potential" because they have the potential.

If somebody reading this is interested in the Highland RFC program, who are contacts and how would he get more information?

Contact me, Larry Gelwix. My home phone number is 801-272-1194; work: 801-295-9568, ext. 1000; FAX: 801-295-9688; e-mail is

Photographs courtesy of Highland Rugby via the 5 September 1998 (LDS) Church News.


I had known about Mark Ormsby from following the BYU rugby page (he serves as a coach) and also from some knowledge about the U.S. national side, the Eagles. But I was happily surprised to discover that he works for the BYU electrical engineering department I had graduated from in 1984. While on vacation in July 2001, I paid a visit to the Clyde Building on campus and met him. I introduced myself and my wife to him, and we had a pleasant chat. I was only somewhat non-plussed when my wife commented, "He's a hunk." (Not to worry - so am I.) Anyway, I asked if he'd do this Internet interview for me, and he agreed. Here it is. - Wes

Interview with Mark Ormsby

So... tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand in 1960. I grew up on a farm in the Bay of Plenty, and raised cattle for beef, milked a herd of 150 jersey cows, and ran a flock of 300 sheep. Because I did such physical work on my dad's farm I didn't have to do weight training like all the other kids had to while I was playing for my high school.

What were your early rugby days like in New Zealand?

I first discovered rugby by watching my older brothers playing when I was five. I played representative rugby from a very early age:

Tauranga Tai Mitchell Under 15's
Tauranga Boy's College 1st XV 1974 to 1978
Northern Districts Secondary Schools  (vs Australian Secondary Schools 1978,
won by Northern Districts)
New Zealand Secondary Schools (vs Australian Secondary Schools 1978, won by New
Track and Field Standout for Tauranga Athletic and Waikato Athletic Clubs,
along with High school representation, in both the 100m and 200m's (Best Times: 100m = 10.65 sec 200m = 21.8sec)

And later?

USA Eagle 1983
BYU Representative 1981 to 1984
Loggers Representative, 1981
I was invited to travel with the West Coast Grizzlies to New Zealand in 1984, but had to decline as I was already going down with my family.


Flying (I'm a Private Pilot)
Refereeing Rugby
Spending most of my time with my family!

Did you serve a mission for the LDS church?

No, I did not serve a mission.

What is your current occupation?

Ever since I left university in 1986 I have been placed in management positions. I currently serve as the Department Administrator for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

What's your connection with rugby at BYU? Any highlights or lowlights?

I have coached BYU Rugby (as the Head Coach) from Sept of 1989 to April 1990, then I coached BYU rugby again from 1996 to Feb 2001. I coached with David Smyth during that time.

Highlights of coaching rugby at BYU were the associations I had with players and coaches. To see those players that hadn't touched a rugby ball in their lives develop into competent rugby players by the time they finished with the program was something special.

Lowlights of coaching BYU rugby was not being able to participate in any of the Collegiate Playoff Tournaments leading to the National Championships on an annual basis. The only time BYU participated in the Sweet 16 since the National Tournament went to a Saturday-Sunday format was in April of 1999. We (BYU) beat the U of Arizona in double overtime, but could not play the following day against Army, and so had to bow out. The real low point to this situation was that because we beat Arizona and didn't forfeit to them, they (Arizona) wrote BYU a letter stating that they were no longer going to play us ever again. (Note: BYU and U of Arizona have played each other for at least 22 years.) This was a sad day in rugby, when it should have been a high day in rugby for BYU players, past and present!

Another lowlight was the way I ended my coaching with the BYU program.

What's your opinion about the BYU side?

My opinion of the BYU side past and present is that there is good rugby talent coming through the program. This talent comes in the form of both domestic players as well as international players. I only hope that BYU players that are deemed good enough to go on to representative play be highlighted to selectors in those forums.

We had the opportunity to play Berkeley this year and that had a major role in identifying three to four of our players to national selectors. I also had the opportunity to correspond with Jack Clark about one of our players before that game and I have no doubt he kept an eye on that player during the Berkeley/BYU game.

A major emphasis at BYU is fitness along with teaching good rugby basics. What has set BYU apart from a lot of teams we have played over the years is a mindset that exists. Past teams have set a level of excellence that current teams at BYU want to uphold. Period!

Tell us about your experience as an Eagle (the first LDS one, I believe).

I represented the USA in June of 1983 as a winger. I played only one game (vs. Canada, in Vancouver, British Columbia). My tenure was brief due to a decision I made not to tour with the team to Australia. The reason for this was that I saw myself as a potential target of misfortune: I did not want to get myself into situations where my values could be compromised. I had heard of an All-Black who was a Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) who had committed a moral sin while on tour,
and so I decided that I wasn't going to fall into the same trap. I had women making advances at me at the after-match function, and I decided that I wasn't going to go through with this sort of thing for the next four weeks. Representative rugby is good if people's values are respected. But when
the potential for disaster is great, then representative rugby is not worth it.

Thoughts on being the first Mormon to represent the U.S.: I hope and pray that if more LDS folk get onto the National Team that they have another Mormon with them to support them.

How did you feel lined up with the other Eagles when the National Anthem was played?

Listening to the National Anthem before the start of the two national games I have played has been something I will cherish for as long as I can remember. It is something you have to experience to believe. Talk about a tear-jerker! All I could say to myself was "this is the big one!"

Any opinions about the Eagles currently?

I don't know much about the current Eagle selection process, but what I do know is that there is a ton of talent that is not being looked at. I firmly believe that what the Eagles need to develop more than anything is a "BELIEF IN THE USA TEAM! If you were to ask me what separates the Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, French, and the English from all the other rugby playing nations, my answer would be "six inches". These teams don't do much more by way of practice or running than all other teams. What they have is a true belief that they will more often than not WIN... Period!

The US has always been sub-par with regards to their forward play. If they could fix this area of their game along with developing their BELIEF IN THE USA TEAM then they will hit their stride. My opinion is that players that are selected to the national team forget what they are really there for "TO WIN". I feel that for many players making the National Team is the "Pot at the End of the Rainbow" rather than the win against teams.

What are your future plans?

My future plan is to spend more time with my family. My wife has been a Rugby Widow for too long! I would love to continue refereeing rugby at a higher level. Hopefully, one day I could make it to the "A-Panel" of Referees.


Interview: Kimball Kjar

In my continuing effort to publicize Utah rugby, I am happy to present this interview I did with Brigham Young University scrumhalf Kimball Kjar (pronounced "Care") in July, 2001. Kimball is a real up-and-comer, having been recently named as a 2001 All-American Collegiate rugger. (Also named from BYU was wingers Ned Stearns and Taylor Nadauld.) Earlier this year he played his first cap with the U.S. Eagles against Argentina in the PARA Championship Series in Toronto. Kimball is only the second Eagle from BYU, the first being the BYU assistant coach Mark Ormsby. Kimball took time from his studies for this Internet interview, for which I am grateful. - Wes "Brigham" Clark

Tell us about yourself, where born, age, raised, interests, sports experience... that sort of thing:

I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up there my whole life, in addition to some time in Michigan and Minnesota while my father was in medical school. I'm married to a lovely girl from Sandy, Utah. We've been married for almost a year now. I'm 23 and enjoy all sorts of things: sports, outdoors, learning, and spending time with family.

You served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), right? Where?

Brisbane, Australia - Mandarin Chinese speaking, 1997-99.

What was that like?

It was hard - I won't beat around the bush. But, looking back, it was two of the most memorable years of my life. I had planned, going into my freshman year at BYU, that I would definitely go on my mission. So I did a year of school and then left for two years. This is no uncommon thing at BYU, so I thought nothing of it. I played rugby at BYU for that freshman year and then, as chance would have it, was called to Australia. We worked with Mandarin-speaking Chinese expatriates in Brisbane mainly, but also served the local Australians. Having that mix was quite an experience!

Did serving a mission make you a better rugby player in any way?

Being there for two years serving the Australians and Chinese not only helped me grow and mature as a person, but it also helped improve my rugby. We played touch rugby just about every day off we had; just being in a country where rugby is a part of the life taught me how it is a thing of culture rather than just a game.

What are you doing now as an occupation?

I'm a student going into my junior year. I'm majoring in philosophy and expecting to graduate in 2003 while working part-time to make the ends meet. I'm minoring in business and looking to go into the business world - whether with some company or doing my own thing (which is really what I'd like to do).  Why philosophy? I chose because it's what I wanted to do - it's that simple.  I like to think and like how it offers me a continual ability to learn, for that is what I'm going to have to do throughout my life no matter what my career is.

Your opinions about BYU?

Depends upon what time of year it is: finals week, the dead of winter or when school's out. I like it here, don't get me wrong. I think being here is a tremendous opportunity for anyone and I've considered it an honor to be here myself. Plus, when you have the opportunity to represent a school in sport that stands for what it does then it makes being here even more unique.

When did you first discover rugby?

In my freshman year. I was coming to wrestle and had things change in that department prior to coming here. So, in an effort to keep on doing something competitively my good friend Taylor Nadauld (also on the USA Collegiate All-American Team) suggested I go play rugby. He wasn't playing at time either, but all of his brothers were, so he offered that bit of prodding. I just showed up, made the team, then the 1st XV and it just went from there.

What has your experience been like with the BYU side, highlights and lowlights?

It's been the best thing I have ever done athletically to date! Being on the BYU Rugby team had been like joining a fraternity of rugby brothers. Once you make the team, you're brought in, accepted, supported and pushed to do well in all that you do - including rugby. You become good friends with all the guys on the team and you stay in touch with them for years. I still keep in touch with many of the guys I played with my freshman year in 1996-97. The coaches are as good a group of men on the field as they are off it. All in all, being a part of BYU Rugby is like being a part of a big family. The highlight of my career here was being voted MVP of the 1st XV for every year I've played - that means more to me than any other honor I could receive beyond BYU Rugby. As far as lowlights, three stand out to mind. As you are aware, winning is tradition here at BYU and losing is out of the question. One year, when our team was at a low point in player experience, we lost to Utah State and the University of Utah in one season. As we have never lost to USU or Utah in over twenty years, that made those two losses hard to swallow, very hard. But we put it together the next winter semester and beat the North American Collegiate champs University of British Columbia at UBC. (Which was a highlight for me.)

Every American rugby player dreams about representing America internationally. Now that you're an Eagle, describe what that's like. (Specifically, we have all seen footage at the start of games, when the National Anthem is played and the sides are lined up. What runs through your mind?)

It's an honor to represent your country, of course. But since my rugby career exists mainly with BYU it was quite different standing in the red, white and blue. I was more anxious to be able to contribute on the field than I was to sit and wait for my chance to come. To be quite honest, I'm coming to recognize the magnitude of it all, but as for right now I still have some things to learn and experience with the Eagles. I hope to be a fundamental part of the team's progress in the future and it will be my goal to be such.

What are your impressions about Eagle selection, practice, play, strengths, areas for improvement, etc?

Eagles selection is something that is hard to do; I don't envy the job of the national selectors at all. Given the sheer size of America and the relative amateurism of the sport here, it's hard to get to see everyone and be able to confidently select your best team. But I do believe the coaching staff as well as the selectors have the best jobs, given the hand dealt them, and selected the best team available to them.

The practices are rigorous and very focused. The word that comes to mind is professional. They guys that are playing professionally offer a strong core of experience to which the younger players can build and learn from. I enjoy the opportunities to be with the team, as you can learn much from the guys experience and knowledge.

The play of the Eagles is improving. I have seen things needing improvement, but will reserve spotting them out other than to say that American rugby needs to gain creativity and spontaneity. I mean that we need to be able to create opportunities through correct and timely assessment of opposition play and then, as a team, be able to attack those things that are given as weaknesses. This needs to be done in a way that is not only performed by doing the basics, but also by doing those things that are off-the-cuff but done in sound rugby judgement.

Any thoughts about being only the second Mormon (after Mark Ormsby) to represent the US?

I've never really looked at it that way. I'm more worried about BYU rugby and the state of Utah rugby than LDS rugby. But, I do recognize the fact that a player from BYU - or the state of Utah - might be LDS and as such should feel responsible to represent those values in a proper fashion.

How about your recent selection as a top college player?

I think the Collegiate All-American is a great honor as well. As the team has for years been a little-recognized USA Rugby program, this year I am excited to be a part of going to another rugby nation and representing American rugby. It's also a step forward for BYU rugby, as for years such players that easily could have (and should have) been selected for such teams never were chosen. I'm looking forward to go to Ireland with my good friend Taylor Nadauld. I think this selection puts an eye on our program and shows respect that has been absent for some time. I'm glad to be a part of it and will give my all in the same way as I plan to with the Eagles.

What are your future plans (family, occupation, rugby)?

I plan to finish here at BYU, and then it's sort of up in the air. I plan on going into business upon graduating while staying involved with rugby. My hope is to keep with BYU rugby and the Eagles until I graduate and then see what options there are (if any) to play overseas. I might even try my hand at that next year. My dream is to play professionally overseas, but no eggs are in that basket yet other than trying to do my best with BYU, the All-Americans, and the Eagles. My hope is to see rugby at BYU receive the acclaim it so deserves, and that includes the players past, present and future as well as the coaches that have not only laid the platform for over forty years of success, but also the present coaches that continue to uphold and represent the values of BYU Rugby. I also would like to see to the progress of rugby in Utah, including high school rugby as well as collegiate and men's club rugby.


Provo Steelers Banned

(From the 9/29/00 issue of Rugby)

Aspen, CO September 16, 2000

Three Provo players were arrested and charged with third degree assault after a pool match between the Provo Steelers and Denver Barbarians ended in blows. Ami Finan, 24, Keloveni Tonga, 36, and Feinga Valtohi, 27 were taken into custody, after sending Brent Taylor, Tom Smith, and Eagle fullback Andre Blom to the Aspen Valley Hospital.

Following the brawl, which is said to have lasted less than one minute, Provo was asked to leave town. The Ruggerfest Committee is reportedly planning to permanently ban the Steelers.

According to witnesses at Wagner Park, the fight began when Finan elbowed Taylor in the back of the head. As a result of this attack, both benches emptied onto the field. While Taylor was down, the 5'6", 220 pound Keloveni Tonga repeatedly kicked or stomped him in the head. Taylor was unconscious for six minutes.

Meanwhile, Valtohi, 5'1 1 " and 200 pounds, is said to have run the length of the field to "cold-cock" Blom from behind, breaking the orbital bone around his eye. Smith was hit from behind by an unidentified Provo player. Taylor, Blom and Smith were released from the hospital after treatment.

The match, which Denver was winning 24-6, allegedly featured high tackles by the Steelers. According to witness accounts, once the brawl began, other Barbo players were hit randomly by the Provo players. Observers said there were as many as three Steelers attacking a single Barbo player. Billy Tomb of the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office said that when police arrived, several Steeler players took off their jerseys and ran down an alley.

This is not the first time a Provo team has been in trouble for violence. On April 27 of this year, a high school competition in Murray, Utah between Provo High and Murray ended with nearly a dozen players and spectators being carted off to the hospital following a 15-minute brawl. The brawl began when a Murray player was kicked on the ground by a Provo player. Spectators and players took to the field and even the wife of Murray's coach was punched by a woman. Police and paramedics were called to the scene, but no serious injuries were reported.

Another riot involving Provo erupted back in 1992 during the Great Basin High School championship semifinal between Provo and Skyline. During the match, a couple of Provo players suddenly punched, tackled and kicked the referee. Skyline needed a police escort from the field. Provo's players and coaches were supposedly banned for life.


Violence At The Snake Bite Classic

Will Utah clubs ever be invited anywhere?

(From the November 2004 Rugby Magazine)

In August of this year Rugby Magazine attended the National Club 7s in Park City, Utah and one of the teams that attracted our attention was the Provo Steelers. The only previous time we had seen Provo was on Saturday at the 2000 Aspen Ruggerfest when three members of the Utah-based team were arrested and charged with third-degree assault following a particularly vicious on-field brawl with the Denver Barbarians. The police directed the Steelers to leave town that day and the three arrested players subsequently received suspended sentences and were directed to perform community service.

The behavior of the Steelers at this year’s National Club 7s in Park City was exemplary and in Tongia Vaitaki they had, in this observer’s estimation, the most talented player in the competition.

But in late September the following reports regarding Boise’s Snake Bite Tournament found their way to our offices.

Boise, ID
September 25, 2004

Tournament Director’s Report (Part I)

From: Matt Genetti
To: Tournament Participants
Date: Sunday, September 26, 2004

We would appreciate your feedback and constructive criticism as to what you liked and disliked about this year’s Snake Bite Tournament.

With multiple requests and in light of recent events, we will no longer allow men’s teams from Utah into our tournament. I felt they deserved a chance to prove people wrong and they failed to do so. We want quality rugby and enjoy games that are hard-hitting and competitive, but we cannot have teams in our tournament that will allow their players to escalate a situation by kicking opponents in the head and punching those who aren’t looking.

Next year’s tournament will be held on the weekend of September 24-25.

From: Matt Genetti
Date: Wednesday, September 29, 2004

In a semifinal between Snake River Reunion (all retired ruggers) and Provo, the match was in it s final ten minutes with Provo being in full control with a four try to zero lead. Provo’s frustration with the ref (their contention) came to a boil when an altercation broke out between the two sides.

It was your typical rugby fight with two guilty parties until a few Provo players took it upon themselves to kick a Snake River guy already on the ground (opening a huge gash on his head) and punching guys when they weren’t looking (one got his front teeth knocked out and the other was knocked unconscious).

These chicken shit acts are what set Provo apart from other clubs. When I reported these actions to their club representative (who was unable to attend) he stated: "When it’s on, anything goes."

I fully agree with defending yourself and your team, but this does not include taking shots at someone who cannot see you or defend themselves. When a guy is down, don’t kick him and if a guy is posing no immediate threat, don’t punch him.

The cops and paramedics were called and charges will be filed as one of our guys will have thousands of dollars in dental work needed (he was just trying to point out to the refs the Provo guy that kicked our guy in the head when someone whacked him).

Provo came to our tournament saying they wanted to compete nationally, as they did in 7s this summer, and they wanted to prove they could stick to playing rugby. But this ‘anything goes’ attitude is something they cannot seem to shake and should keep them out of organized rugby.

Provo Steelers’ Version

From: Rich Paongo, Provo Steelers
To: Matt Genetti, Snake Bite Director
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2004

You guys have an awesome tournament and I wish to thank you for the opportunity we had to play in it this year.

I also wish to apologize for the inappropriate actions of my players. I had just subbed out and when I caught my breath and turned around, all hell had broken loose. When I finally got in, I knew I could control my players. I grabbed a handful and walked them off to our sideline and things ended.

Unfortunately, it was a little too late. Had I been in there in the first place, I could have avoided what happened. I subbed out because we were in control of the game (four tries to 0 with five minutes left) and our captain had a few key players sub out so we could save some energy for the final.

It’s no excuse, but my guys were just way too frustrated by the repeated penalties the ref kept calling against us. It just seemed he didn’t like us or had a chip on his shoulder against us. So when one of our guys got an uppercut to the lip while running with the ball, that gave them the excuse to retaliate.

Like I said, I am not finding an excuse; what my players did was not rugby and very inappropriate. A few bad apples have spoiled it for the rest of us who truly love this game.

From: Rich Paongo, Provo Steelers
To: Pacific Coast/Utah Rugby Unions
Date: Thursday, September 30, 2004

This letter serves as the official report of the Provo Steelers regarding the Snake Bite Tournament in Boise, ID on Saturday, September 25, 2004. I wish to preface the letter by stating that they have a great tournament, play some great rugby and we highly recommend it to anybody.

The Steelers were part of Pool D along with UVSC and the Boise Lions. We easily won both games and advanced to the semifinals where we faced Snake River Reunion.

During the game against Snake River, our players’ frustration increased from the poor officiating. The ref called at least 20 penalties or infractions against us in the first 20 minute half. I bring this up to convey the frustration we felt from the unfair officiating.

I asked the ref at halftime to call it both ways and expressed that his calls seemed a little one-sided for the home team and that our guys were getting very frustrated.

We led at intermission and the Steelers opened the second half with two more unanswered tries. With the game pretty much over and decided, one of our guys recovered a grubber kick along the sideline where the Snake River supporters were standing. The whole incident started when a Snake River player tackled our guy as he was running with the ball, with an uppercut to his face (verified by the touch judge, Larry Seger). Our guy collared the Snake River guy and a little shoving match resulted.

At that moment, a member of the Snake River team, who wasn’t part of the game, ran in from the sidelines and sucker-punched the same guy (also verified by the touch judge). Our guys then attacked the guy who ran in from the outside.

Snake River’s second team also ran onto the field. I am not sure whether it was to fight or to try to control the fight, but it looked bad that two teams were rushing to the fight when we only had a few guys. I made sure nobody ran into the field from our sideline.

First, Snake River started the fight. We reacted to the blatant uppercut by the Snake River guy.

Second, if the onlooker hadn’t rushed the field and punched our guy, the uppercut would have been swept under the rug and the shoving match would have been dissolved.

Third, when Snake River’s second team rushed the field - whether it was to participate in the fight, help one of their teammates, peace make, or whatever - you do not leave the sideline. It is easier to control a few guys than trying to control three teams (the two Snake River teams and the Provo Steelers). We felt defensive when we were outnumbered and rushing the field just fueled the fire.

The Steelers are at fault for being very loyal; you will not find a more loyal group of guys. However, that means you are either a friend or an enemy. So when Snake River’s second team and supporters rushed the field, that just meant more enemies and our guys felt more threatened when they were outnumbered.

As punches were flying, you were either a friend or an enemy. And if you were not a friend, you had better get off the field because you were a threat to our team. And since there were the equivalent of two Snake River teams to our one, we felt we had to defend ourselves.

It was mainly four individuals from our team that did all the fighting. Two of them play for another team in Salt Lake City and joined the Steelers just for the tournament because we were short of players.

We regret this incident occurred and welcome any suggestions.

Tournament Director’s Report (Part II)

From: Matt Genetti
Date: October 2, 2004

It is unfortunate that Rich actually believes Snake River started it and that the Provo players were just defending themselves.

First, Snake #15, Mike Flowers, was playing wing and ran in (from the wing position) to defend his teammate Travis Crawl and his brother Bob Flowers, who were already on the ground being kicked. Some Steelers may have reacted to Mike’s arrival, but that was no means the beginning of what happened.

Mike Flowers was defending his brother in a fight that was already initiated by Provo players on the far sideline, away from Provo, so the Steelers could not see from their sideline position. Travis Crawl, who had been punched by a Provo guy, took him down and then got kicked in the head while on top of the Provo player (possibly the only one-on- one fight that occurred). All this happened before Mike Flowers came in.

Second, Snake River had possession of the ball, not Provo, and a Snake player got punched in the tackle.

Third, most of our current Snakes, what Rich refers to as the second Snake team, were over at the concessions or under the shade by our bus a field and a half away.

Fourth, not one guy that was not in the game took a hit. If we had so many onlookers rushing in, you would think one of them would have gotten punched. We simply did not have any more guys on the field than Provo did, possibly less.

Fifth, I (as tournament director) rushed onto the field when I saw Provo’s sideline clearing. I rushed in front of them, yelling at them to stay off the field (stating that I was the tournament director). I would have gotten jumped by three or four guys except one of the Steelers recognized me and grabbed them, saying: "Not him; he’s the tournament director."

I will note that a few of their guys made an effort to control their players.

Sixth, our players did rush the field in response to the Provo players coming out. But it was not a full side, as most of our guys were resting in the shade for the championship game. I yelled at my guys to stop and pushed one of them back. This was until I saw the damage that had been done and knew my efforts were too little too late.

At that point I saw one of our guys go down (helping a teammate) and knew that breaking things up was not going to work with the Steelers. Not to mention that by turning my back I was presenting a big target.

Seventh, the ref is not a Snake player, nor a Boise resident. Players in the US encounter a variety of reffing styles and must adjust to the calls. These volunteer refs do their best and although it may get frustrating, arguing or starting a fight will not fix it, especially when you have the game in hand. The Steelers claim to have played rugby their whole life (justifying their anger towards the ref), but if they cannot accept the refs in US rugby, then they should consider boycotting the game.

Eighth, as stated by the ref and everyone except Provo, the Steelers were not involved in one-on-one fights with an opponent who was ready to engage. They were seeking out kill shots on guys trying to point out guilty parties, trying to break things up, or trying to protect downed players. They came in numbers (never alone) on guys who were not looking.

Now they claim that their cheap shots were taken in "defense" because they feared for their safety. Punching and kicking an opponent who cannot see you is not defending yourself or your team. It is an act of a coward who wishes to cause harm to his opponent. I’ll state again, most of the Snake Reunion guys who got blindsided were trying to defuse the situation and not making aggressive moves!

Ninth, if they were not guilty then why did one of our former players, Sefo Insenio, rush two of them away from the pitch when the police arrived and why were others hiding?

If you take Provo’s blatant cheap shots out of the game, you have one or two red cards, the game continues and both sides are to blame.

Referee’s Report

From: Craig Parish
Date: October 3, 2004

I have been a referee allocator since 1996 for the Pacific Northwest RFU and allocated all officials for this one-day event. As the #3 official, I slated myself into the semifinal between the Snake River Reunion side (old boys) and the Provo Steelers.

Boise’s Pat Ryan had the other semifinal and Murray McDowell, a ranked official here on vacation from NZ, had been slated for the final. We were on pitch #4, the furthest from the tournament’s command center, over 120 meters away.  We were short of refs, so we used club TJs as the three other pitches were active.

Things looked good for the majority of the day for both clubs in question. Snake’s old boys did well in pool play without incident. Provo seemed poised to go all the way to the final after cruising through pool play, with a lone yellow card in their first match refereed by Spokane’s Sean O’Connell.

Snake River Reunion vs Provo Steelers

We had a very on-again, off-again first half as continuity was lacking in nearly all phases of play. Snake River had around 75% of the possession, but were not turning it into points. Each time they gave it up, Provo would put together a quick and decisive counter attack that either ended in a try or significant field position.  Though Provo didn’t seem to have any shortcomings defensively,  I couldn’t talk many of the arriving Provo players into adopting an on-side position at the majority of breakdowns.

In the first half, I spoke to the Provo captain twice and he to his players.  Both times we had periods of 2-3 minutes before the next similar penalty. As the 20-minute half neared, I realized that tougher measures were needed.

The 10 meters of lost ground and lost possession didn’t seem to be working - so I finally went to the cards - telling the captain (#10) that, "The next offside player in the red-zone will go to the bin..."

He told his players yet again and we made it to halftime without incident, 14-0 Provo.


During halftime I chatted with two Provo players who had questions about the seemingly one-sided whistle I was using.

"When you have the ball in hand, things are going well for you and it’s wonderful to watch," I said. "But when you don’t have possession, I can’t keep you at the last foot or coming in from the side, or sealing the ball, etc..."

Provo seemed willing to take responsibility for the penalties and move on into the second half with a renewed sense of propriety.

We had a solid five minutes before two Provo players, ahead of the kicker, failed to retreat. I verbalized for them to do so without success - so I blew the whistle before any contact was made. The Provo players didn’t seem to understand the call, so I spoke to the captain again and he to his players - heads nodded and we played on.

The breakdowns were becoming hotly contested and Provo took full advantage, scooping up exposed ball and scoring from an amazing multi-phased attack yet again.

Down 20-0 with less than 10 minutes to go, Snake River knew they were beaten, but took solace in the hard hits they were laying-out at the breakdowns. Conversation between the opposing players was plentiful and complimentary with pats on the butt and helping hands up from a tackle here and there.

Snake River won clean ball from a scrum 25 meters out from Provo’s goal and 15 meters in from touch - and spun it.  I had been on the put-in side and moved out to the gain-line about 10 meters to the open side.

As the ball was taken from the scrum, I didn’t see what Murray McDowell did on the put-in side. "A Snake prop had shoulder-charged the Provo break who was messing with him." McDowell later told me, "Both of these players factored into what happened just moments later."

I followed the ball out through three phases with Snake piercing the Provo line and threatening to score from five meters.  The Provo line lost their composure and stepped up into an offside position once again.

I verbalized for them to, "Get back on-side white, last foot!"  My arm went out to Snake as the white team didn’t respond: "Advantage green, white offside!"

We had a Snake maul three meters out with the ball clearly visible and playable. I went to the open side to try and get the Provo players back to see if we could facilitate a try - as it was clearly on.  As I backed away from the line and into more of a saddle position, the ball was still available at the back of the maul.

Then I spotted two Provo players stomping on a Snake player on the ground. My whistle went immediately - but too late - as a Snake River player had jumped on top of the maul and delivered a punch to the head of one of the stomping Provo players...

That’s when the state of affairs changed markedly for the worse. Punches were exchanged by several players. I blew my whistle loudly several times and instructed the teams to, "Grab your own players - get them back!"

We had an uncomfortable ‘lull’ after the first round of physical reaction. I repeated the instruction - but the touchlines were clearing on both sides now, and everyone in proximity went into a ‘defensive mode’ (for lack of a better term.)

Fighting erupted again as outsiders from both touchlines blended in with the players on the pitch.  The exchanges became more frantic as players were dealing with the reality of being an aggressor, actively defending themselves, trying to protect a mate, grabbing their own teammates, getting hit unprovoked or running away.

Provo then took it to another level, as they became very aggressive as a group. They surrounded isolated Snake players - attacking from behind with punches and kicks to the head.  If Snake players went to ground, they would be kicked in the head and ribs by a group of Provo players.

If a Snake player looked aggressive, the Provo players in proximity would back up. When that same Snake player looked to move on to protect, collect or reach one of his own team, he would be attacked by those same Provo players as the Snake player was otherwise engaged.

Groups of Provo players circled the fray and then sprinted in to attack Snake players who were otherwise engaged with one of their own or another Provo player. Those Snake players would receive punches or kicks to the back or side of the head.

Snake River as a group did not aggressively seek out Provo players.  Instead, they heeded my call to grab their own and retreat. As they did this they were attacked from behind or the side receiving punches or kicks to the side or back of the head.

This all took place in what seemed like half an hour but in reality was less than four minutes. There was simply no stopping the militant actions of the Provo players. I witnessed a few Provo players attempting to cease their team’s actions - then a teammate would jump into the fray and that same idled player seemed drawn in to ‘aid’ his teammate... and so it went.

I stepped out of the middle of this melee to see it in total and get jersey colors and numbers.  I was writing feverishly as I saw each unconscionable punch and kick to the head. Players I saw punching or kicking were White (Provo) numbers: 5, 4, 15, 12, 7, 8, 13 & 9 and Green (Snake River) number 15 & non-numbered. Two or three additional players from each team took aggressive action - but I was unable to get their numbers.

In the 3rd minute, I witnessed something that I’ll never forget. Grizzly prop Glen Amador was leaning down to help a stricken Snake River teammate when he was hit in the back of the head by two Provo players. Glen was stunned and went to his knees. The same two players then punched him in the side of the head from behind, knocking him to all fours - as he was clearly concussed. Then both kicked him in the ribs from both sides.

I got their numbers, threw down my pad and dove in on Glen who was now laying face down. I knew I was going to get it - but couldn’t help it - I was in agony watching. I curled up around Glen and told him to stay down. He kept battling to get up and lifted me with him as he got to all fours.

I held on and closed my eyes waiting for the worst. But it never came as we both escaped. The remaining fights were abandoned within another minute. Glen’s teammates came to collect him and, miraculously, he was able to walk away on his own power.

I found the Provo captain and we walked to the middle of the pitch to cool off. We spoke calmly as four Boise squad cars arrived, called by a bystander with a cell phone minutes before. Tournament Director Matt Genetti came over and we had a harsh discussion as we tried to come to grips with the reality of the moment.

I spoke with the Provo captain for another 30 minutes before the police asked for statements. In that time, the Provo skipper never took responsibility for his team’s actions. He kept repeating that they were simply defending themselves.

"We had to defend ourselves," he said, "We were afraid of getting beat up."

I offered to him that kicking a man in the head while he is down is not in any way defensive in nature. He simply didn’t agree.

Some of the injuries I witnessed were: bloody faces, facial lacerations, multiple teeth knocked out, split ears and badly bruised heads. All belonged to Snake River players.

Fights on rugby pitches are very rare. I’ve seen my share and have been able to identify the flash-points that lead to most altercations. As a player for eight years and a referee for eleven, I’m experienced in sensing such moments in a game. You can feel it after awhile - even if you have missed the root cause.

In this case there were no signs that the match was out of hand, not in the least.

Yes, Provo was repeatedly penalized, but they seemed to understand their transgressions and played on. With a 20-0 lead and the game winding down, we didn’t have an environment that would foster such actions by the side in the lead. The referees, players and bystanders I spoke with never saw it coming – and neither did I.

Punches were thrown by both teams initially - that much is certain. However, at no point did Snake River or their sidelines take on the role of the aggressor. After the initial few stomps and punches, the Provo team and sidelines were aggressive in nature and unwilling to stop unprovoked attacks on Snake players or bystanders.

No Provo players were on the ground being kicked by Snake River players. No Provo players were punched or kicked from behind. No Provo players were stalked by groups of Snake River players and attacked when they were otherwise engaged.

My heart goes out to the players and bystanders whose rugby experience was sullied by this event.

Craig Parish
PNRFU Referee Allocator
Level 1 & 2 Referee Trainer
Level 1-3 TJ Trainer


26 May 2010

On the rise of Utah


Utah has often been seen as promising territory because of senior clubs featuring gifted Polynesian players, but the state's youth ranks are now far more important.

In the past six years, school teams have more than doubled while senior sides have decreased by 50 percent, according to a comparison of figures from Rugby Magazine and the Utah union web site. The Beehive state has spawned a 7th-8th graders competition and 13-team high school league, to go along with 6 college teams (supplemented by 2 Idaho schools).

If the Polynesian community has been rugby's inspiration, the school system has fueled growth.

The narrow, 75-mile Ogden-Salt Lake-Provo corridor, one of America's denser urban areas, is home to scores of sports-minded secondary schools. Strongly associated with football, rugby is covered as sport in local newspapers and played before thousands in a Major League Soccer stadium. Thus there is ample incentive for more teams to form and challenge national collegiate elites Utah and BYU, and under-19 powers United and Highland.

Utah is not a textbook example of schools-based rugby. At the youth level, composite sides rather than high school XVs are at the top of the heap. Highland High's web site considers rugby a club, not a sport.

But Highland's historical predominance has not prevented regional growth nor United's rise. Looking back over the past 20 years, it's hard to find similar examples regarding regionally dominant club teams, such as Charlotte or Life. This suggests that school-based resources are better able to surmount competitive obstacles that start-from-scratch clubs cannot.

As Utah is far closer to Colorado's mountain towns and even Denver than San Francisco or the Pacific Northwest, it is interesting to consider whether regional (territorial) realignment would stimulate further growth in America's mountain west.

Kurt Oeler


University of Utah Men's Rugby

By Krista Numbers

One word to describe rugby at the University of Utah is growth.  The program has seen many changes in the last few seasons including a Utah Men's Collegiate Rugby Foundation being formed, former players turned coaches, and some fresh players coming on board. They have an amazing record as of late and are looking forward to the start of another great season.

In 2002 the team traveled to Virginia Beach, Virginia where they took the second place title in the nation, losing to Cal Berkeley.  They were then under the coaching of Rudolph Mehl.  In spring of 2003 they made it to the Sweet 16, finishing tenth in the nation.  Today the team is coached by Ryan Dunyon and Mark Numbers.  Both are former players for the team and have a track record of their own preceding college days.  Ryan played at Brighton high school and went on to play for the Pacific Coast Grizzlies. Mark had great success playing at Highland High school.

As a club sport at the University of Utah, the players are responsible for raising their own funds to pay for registration, equipment, travel, and all other facets of the program.  The coaches and staff are all voluntary positions and the players are constantly searching for sponsors and new avenues to raise funds.  Bill Hadfield, a local business owner, is President of the Foundation and volunteers a great deal of his time to helping the team meet their various needs.  Another word to describe the program is dedication.

The future holds great things for the Utah rugby team as their program continues to grow and they strive to increase the excitement of rugby in Utah.

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