Taking the Pitch

The Pacific University rugby team practices in the field house in February 2013.

March 1, 2013

Rugby finds enthusiasts at Pacific University.

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What sport has the home team making dinner for its opponent after a hard-fought game?

It may not fit the image many Americans have of the rough-n-tumble game of rugby, but the dinner tradition is one aspect of the sport that Pacific University participants find most interesting.

“It’s like a barbeque celebration,” said junior Ben Cabral ’14, vice president of the Pacific University Rugby Club. “You go from trying to kick someone’s teeth in to enjoying a meal with them.

 “There’s no other sport that does this,” said Cabral, who played high school football in Medford, Ore. In other sports, an opposing player is often considered “just a bad guy.”

Nikk Novero ’14, who was recruited to play football at Pacific, also is captain of Pacific’s rugby team.

“It’s like fierce athletic competition, different than any other sport I’ve been in,” he said.  “All teams are really part of the same family.”

Even though the game of rugby is “war like,” Cabral said, “Once you’re in the rugby community, you’re all brothers.”

Actually, rugby has “sisters,” too.

There are both men’s and women’s club teams in the Portland area, and a couple of women students at Pacific University participate in passing drills with the men’s team, though not in contact play.

The Pacific’s rugby squad started in the fall of 2011 with the help of Cabral, a former student and New Zealander Miguel Minchin, and coach Ben Dictus, who is an area coordinator for Student Life at Pacific. Between 15 and 30 students have participated on the team in the past two years, many of them football players.

Coach Dictus, who grew up in Wisconsin, has played rugby since he was a sophomore in high school. He also played in college, then semi-pro for a couple of years.

“One real nice thing about rugby is that it’s very much an amateur sport,” Dictus said. “Amateur in the sense that people do it and they’re really passionate about it, but there’s no professional league; there’s no money in it, so people do it for the enjoyment and actually end up paying money to play.”

The Pacific rugby team, which has been a student activity organization for its first two years, will become an official club sport in 2013-14, joining handball and cheerleading in receiving benefits such as field scheduling, a travel and uniform budget, and coach stipends, as well as access to an athletic trainer for injuries incurred during games or practices.

The team plays in a small college league organized through Pacific Northwest Rugby, under rules established through USARugby, which governs collegiate rugby in the United States. The league includes Willamette University, Seattle University, Gonzaga University, Central Oregon Community College, University of Puget Sound and Oregon Institute of Technology.

For fans used to watching American football, rugby feels like a backward movie, partly because there are no forward passes.