Rugby 101: Bethel's team promotes the little-known sport

October 11, 2012 | 11 a.m.

Rugby team hurt by lack of players

Sports | Neil Vance for The Clarion

Rugby 101: Bethel's team promotes the little-known sport

The rules of rugby remain a mystery to many Americans.

When Bethel students think of sports to get involved in, rugby probably isn’t the first one that comes to mind. 

In fact, most students likely don’t know much about rugby. Many have a limited knowledge of the sport, thinking of it as football without pads, or perhaps likening it to what they’ve seen in movies like the recent and popular “Invictus.” 

But Bethel rugby captain Sullivan Keehr was quick to point out that there is much more to rugby than one could ever learn from a movie.

Briefly put, rugby is a sport played with 15 players on a side. The main goal is to score “tries” by touching a ball down in the “try zone,” which is similar to the end zone in football. However, play is more continuous than American football, since the ball isn’t automatically dead when a tackle is made. Instead it remains live until a foul occurs or the ball goes out of bounds. 

The ball is advanced by a player who carries it forward, while passes must be backward or to the side. Unlike football, there is no such thing as a forward pass. If the ball goes forward off of a player's hands, it is called a "knock on" and results in a penalty. If a try is scored, the offense earns five points and has the option to score two additional points by kicking the ball through the goal posts on the playing field. 

However, unlike football, this kick is made on a line straight out from where the ball was touched down in the try zone. The kicker has an advantage when tries are touched down closer to the center of the try zone. Goals can also be made by kicking after penalties for the possibility of three points, but these kicks must be attempted from the point of the foul. 

The fall season for Bethel’s rugby team is underway, and despite struggling with not having enough players, the team has been successful. In mid-September, the team traveled to Otsego, Minn. where it competed in the All-Minnesota tournament, finishing second in its division. Bethel defeated Minnesota State Moorhead and St. Cloud State University en route to the championship game, which it had to forfeit due to lack of players. 

Even though the fall season is wrapping up, one remaining conference match is scheduled for Oct. 20 at home against St. John’s before the playoffs start. There is still time to join the team, and inexperience is not a problem. 

Keehr, who has played Bethel rugby for three years, said that roughly 90 percent of the players on the team had never played organized rugby prior to their time at Bethel. Since the team is short of players, Keehr hopes that anyone who is interested in playing would contact him or another team members.

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