Saturday, March 29, 2014

Oklahoma wins the 2014 Allied Rugby Conference XVs Championship

On a sunny Saturday in Norman, OK on the Tim 'Tarzan' Wilson pitch of the Al Velie Rugby Complex, the Texas Tech Men's Rugby Club met the Oklahoma University Men's Rugby Club for a match that had been rescheduled from early Spring due to terrible weather. Little did they realize in January that this match would decide the conference championship. Nevertheless, the conference championship was at stake and neither team disappointed in their quest for that prize.

The Sooners struck first as wing Isaac Koh crossed the line and converted his own try a couple of minutes into the match. The drive was so dominant that it looked like Oklahoma would run away with the match. Ten minutes later, senior captain Michael al-Jiboori dotted in the corner to bring the score to 12-0. Again, the Sooners were looking to put their stamp on the game. 

Then the Red Raiders decided to wake up as their big loosehead prop, Jordan Talley, banged in for a try after Tech had spent a few minutes camped out on the Sooners' goal-line. Flyhalf Wes Mitchell could not convert, but Tech was on the board. A quick minute later, Tech lost their feet in a breakdown in front of their own posts and referee Scott Green began to warn his charges about repeated breakdown infringements. Isaac Koh slotted the penalty kick easily to bring Oklahoma's lead to 15-5. 

Texas Tech answered back with a flawless backline move inside Oklahoma territory. The ball found the hands of Tech utility back (wearing the 14 jersey on the day), Kyle Kulka who darted in-goal to close the gap. Minutes later, Tech's forwards were camped out on Oklahoma's goal-line again. Eventually, the multi-phase possession resulted in a converted try for the Red Raiders. Tech was up 17-15. Moments later, Tech returned to that end of Tarzan Pitch for five more points as Kulka grubbed ahead and beat his teammate/target to the ball for the try. With three tries in a row, Tech seemed to enjoy a bit of momentum that even al-Jiboori's unconverted try at the end of the half could not subdue. 

At the halftime whistle, Tech had the lead, 22-20.

Oklahoma started the second half determined to break Tech's momentum. They drove a nice maul in from ten meters out only to have Tech's much bigger forwards hold it up. Oklahoma then gave up possession and Tech found their other winger, Zach McKinney, in space. McKinney dotted down. Mitchell could not convert. Tech held the lead 27-20.

It was at this point that all seemed lost for Oklahoma. Green finally tired of the breakdown infringements and issued a yellow card to a Sooner lock. The same play had seen Oklahoma's captain leave the playing area with an injury. Inside Center David Nixon was already playing with a heavily taped up ankle and the Sooner front row was out-weighed by about 200 pounds. Winning this match seemed a tough ask.

However, the Sooners persevered and held the Red Raiders scoreless while they defended the Tech attack with a man in the bin. 

With 13 minutes left, it was Oklahoma's turn to camp out on the Tech line before Toby Harden drove in to score an unconverted try. The Sooners had pulled within two points of Tech. Moments later Blake Hutzler and Cale Witter added converted Sooner tries to bring the score to 39-27 in favor of the home team. With only two minutes left, victory seemed assured. 

Tech gave it one last 'college try', though. Zach McKinney garnered a brace of tries for the day. Mitchell converted. Green whistled Full Time. Oklahoma 39, Texas Tech 34. The Oklahoma Sooners are the 2014 Allied Rugby Conference XVs Champions! They proved they are "ALL IN!"

After the game, Oklahoma Coach Jason Horowitz had this to say about his team and the game: 

I could not be more proud of the boys today. Started off completely dominating Tech in all facets. Got ahead. Gave up the momentum. Then the Tech team stepped up huge and owned the middle of the match. Mike on the sideline, Blake in the sin bin... 2nd game players on the field... And the second half was on.Once again taking the momentum, OU climbed back out of the hole and took the lead 39-27. Then, off a line of penalties, Tech scored with time expired ending the match 39-34 OU.
The Sooners have won back to back 7s and 15s conference championships.Great birth day present for me. Could not be happier for all of the boys.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Texas Collegiate Cup Championship

The Texas Collegiate Cup bracket has been released. Teams from across the Texas Collegiate Rugby landscape will vie for the only Texas Collegiate Championship Series open to all collegiate rugby programs in Texas. All three collegiate conferences are represented well.

The Allied Rugby Conference (ARC) sends Texas Tech, Baylor, and Sam Houston. All seven of the Southwest Rugby Conference (SWC) teams (Texas, Rice, Texas Christian, UHouston, Stephen F. Austin, North Texas and Texas State) are included. While the Lone Star Conference's (LSC) Angelo State, Southern Methodist, St Edward's, LeTourneau, UT-San Antonio, and UT-Dallas round out the competition.

This single-elimination tournament, held over four weeks, leads to a Championship Match to be held on April 26th! Seedings are an approximation based on the teams' performance over the past season, conference play, and by collective cooperation of the Commissioners of the ARC, SWC & LSC with some consideration to match teams that haven't recently played.

The action starts April 5th!

This competition marks the first time that Texas-based college clubs have launched out on their own for a Regional XVs Competition that culminates in a Championship. This idea has been bandied about Texas for over a decade. It finally began to make sense to the member clubs at the end of the Spring 2013 season when Rice and Texas A&M had to make long trips in the first round of National College Play-offs. Texas A&M opted out for multiple reasons. A solid Rice squad made the trip to Bowling Green only to return home with losses under their belts.

First Round Predictions:

These are almost always wrong, given college rugby's late season fickleness, but here goes:

Baylor at SFA: SFA is just getting back into the college rugby scene this year but has played everyone tough. Baylor is at the end of a tough, but close ARC XVs season that featured them defeating the Aggies in College Station last weekend. Baylor has a young squad that can hold their own at the breakdown and show speed out wide. Baylor moves on.

UNT at ASU: The Rams had a great year in 2012-2013, but just could not get past St Edward's this year in the Lone Star South Division. The Mean Green Machine of North Texas played some TOUGH rugby this year, but just fell short of the top end of the table. North Texas should win.

Texas St at SMU: The Mustangs played some much-improved improved rugby this Spring, but it won't be enough to overcome the SWC runners-up. Texas St will make the short trip to Burr Field on the second weekend of April.

St Edward's at UH: The Cougars are one of those up/down teams that display magical moments one weekend, but travel light the next. They have an advantage of being at home, so they should be at full strength. They'll need it against a well-drilled, well-disciplined St Edward's team. The Hilltoppers saw the low side of the scoreboard twice this season: once against an in-tune Texas A&M squad and once in the NSCRO Cowboy Cup Challenge against the always solid University of Denver. Both games were close. The Hilltoppers are hungry now and they've some unfinished business to attend to in the quarterfinals. St Ed's moves forward.

Texas at LeTourneau: LeTourneau is the little team that could. Everything about the Yellow-jackets is like-able: their fans, their camaraderie, their pitch, their coach, etc. For Texas, this is a warm-up match before they travel to Gary, Indiana the following week for the first round match of the Varsity Cup against the Fighting Irish. Texas is the 2014 SWC Champion. While LeTourneau will play with sting, the 'Horns should leave Longview with the win.

Sam Houston at UTSA: Most years, this would be an easy pick. However, Sam Houston just weren't crisp this year. Tough, but not crisp. UTSA seemed to have had a rebuilding year. As they weren't as tough in the LSC as the two years previous. I'll pick Sam to win a close one, but UTSA could surprise.

UTD at Rice: Rice had a good year in the SWC, but not perfect. Still, the Owls are a smart. strong team and have the home-field advantage. UT-Dallas has huge advantage over most of their rivals in that they have developed a lot of depth. This in only three years. Comets for the upset.

Texas Tech at TCU: Texas Tech has had a fair season, but it could have been better with more game time. TCU is building a program that could leave other schools salivating, but the Frogs had a tough year in the SWC.  TCU has played up a few matches this Spring, though. So they may be ready for some sweet victory. Texas Tech will move the ball well and show their speed. Who wants it more? Texas Tech has the advantage and should advance with a slim victory. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

HARC SHARCs victorious over the Austin Valkyries

HARC Captain Gina Steffano breaks the gainline.

The Austin Valkyries are the perennial top women's team in Texas' Red River Rugby Conference. However, on Saturday the Valkyries were upset by the Houston SHARC's determination to prove their worth in Division 1. Saturday's weather proved perfect for rugby as heavy rain swept through the Houston area for about 2 hours before the game making the grass field unplayable and dictating a move to the Turf field, marked for soccer and gridiron. The heavy rain continued for the first 20 minutes of play, then cleared to allow for a more open game to develop.

The SHARCs started the scoring off in the 2nd minute with a try from outside center Bonnie Richardson (AKA, "Bonnie Rugby" because she is an Aggie, class of 2013) who received the ball through some quick hands after a scrum 15 meters from the Valkyrie's in-goal. After a long period of solid defense in the SHARC's half, Austin scored their only points of the game in the 20th minute. The rest of the first half saw some very determined defense from both sides with Austin losing a player to the sin-bin for repeated early lifting in the line out. At halftime, the match was drawn at 5-all.

Four minutes into the second half, the SHARCs added seven to their score when Richardson darted 30 meters down the left touch line, then turned to dot down under the posts, making an easy conversion for Nick James (another Aggie, '11). A few minutes later, the SHARCs lost Captain Gina Steffano (recently returned from Fiji with Atlantis 7s) to a calf injury.

At the 65 minute mark, the SHARCs garnered a yellow card when lock Teresa Pavljuk commited a dangerous tackle on a low running Valkyrie. Some loose ball handling from the ensuing lineout allowed Richardson to scoop the ball at the half way line and run untouched to score for her hat-trick. Superb ball handling after a scrum allowed the SHARCs (with a forward still in the bin) to pass the ball along the back line to Richardson, who again showed her amazing speed to score for her 4th try on the day and the final points of the match. 

The balance of the game was played in the center of the field with neither team allowing the other to threaten their try areas. The SHARCs pack dominated the scrums and the Valkyrie’s failed attempts at complicated lineout maneuvers created multiple free kicks awarded to the home team.

The Women’s division of the Red River Rugby Conference is no longer a one horse race. Houston proved eager to make their mark this season and have done so in no uncertain terms. The balance of the season is far from over for the SHARCs, as they face long trips to Denton and Tulsa followed by a final home match against the always-tough Oklahoma Roses. Austin remains on top of the RRRC D1 table, though. The Conference Champion may likely be decided by point differential. Austin currently has the edge by having played one more game than Houston, but that is most certain to change. The SHARCs will be looking to hang as many points on their final three opponents as possible.

Houston SHARCs coach Martin Chalmers lauded his charges stating, "All the ladies have worked really hard this year to justify what we saw as our rightful inclusion in division 1. Although some did not see it that way and said so publicly, we used that as motivation so we could prove them wrong. We built from a solid core of girls and added some new players, Nick (James), (Chelsea) Peper and Bonnie (Richardson). We've really enjoyed the competition and the good heated rivalry that the Valks have given us, even though both teams want to win I think we can see the benefits in have good strong opponents to play against."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

OU Rugby announces 2014 Hall of Fame inductees

OU Rugby 2013 Hall of Fame inductees
University of Oklahoma Rugby will enshrine its 2014 class of Hall of Famers in conjunction with its 40th Anniversary Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sooner Legends, starting at 7:00 pm.

Jon Velie, OU’s Director of Rugby says, “This year’s class is indicative of the great tradition of OU Rugby, our first coach Kieran Malloy, our first National Team player in Drew Allan, Our biggest international rugby star Michael DeJong, our most prestigious referee and former national women’s team member Wendy Young and the longest serving referee and true character of Oklahoma rugby Lenny Burger.”
Head Coach Jason Horowitz states, “Oklahoma’s Rugby Hall of Fame provides the bridge between the rich tradition of Oklahoma’s rugby past and the future success of today’s student athletes. We have something special at OU where we invite those that competed for Oklahoma to come back and step on the pitch and compete again against our current squad. The 40th Anniversary will be a celebration of Oklahoma Rugby, a nod to its past with a view to its future.”

Michael Al Jiboori, OU’s captain, “The history of success at Oklahoma is not only appreciated it is expected. It will be an honor to watch those that played here before us receive their Hall of Fame jackets.”

The Oklahoma Rugby Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is as follows:

  • 1978-1980. OU’s First Coach. Flanker. Inducted 2014
  • OU MVP 1978, 1979
  • 1977 English Universities XV
  • 1971-1977 University of Nottingham RFC (captain 1974, 1977)
  • 1981-1984 Bective Rangers RFC (Dublin, Ireland)
  • 1984 - 1990 Old Bristolians RFC (Bristol, UK)

  • 1974–1980. Wing. Inducted 2014
  • USA National Team 1983.
  • Eagle Trialist 1977 – 1983
  • Western RFU 1977-83
  • Texas RFU 1983
  • Ozark RFC 1977-83 
  • Heart of America RFU 1975-76
  • Vancouver (Canada) under 19’s 1972
  • International Matches: Western RFC vs England (Dallas 1982)
  • Oklahoma Comanche’s vs New Zealand Barbarians (Auckland 1981)
  • International Tours: Australia (1); Canada (1); England (2); Ireland (1); New Zealand (1); Scotland (1); and Wales (1)
  • Club Member: OU RFC; Tulsa RFC (1980-83); San Antonio RFC (1983); University of St Andrews RFC (Scotland) (Assistant Coach 1984-88); Madras RFC (Scotland) (1984-88); London-Zealand RFC (England) (1988); The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) RFC (England)(1989-90)
  • Captain: OU RFC; Tulsa RFC; and Oklahoma Comanche’s tour of NZ/ Australia
  • Patron: OURFC - Scholarship for the “Commitment to Excellence” (Luke Turner 2004)

  • 2001-2006. Scrumhalf, Captain. Inducted 2014
  • USA Women's National Team XV 2004-2009;
  • 2012: West Senior XV 2004-2007:
  • West Senior 7s 2003-2004:
  • West U23 XV 2001-2006:
  • Austin Valkyries 2006-2008:
  • Member of USA Rugby Competition Committee
  • Editor and Creator of Your Scrumhalf Connection
  • West Senior 7s All Stars Assistant Coach 2011 Present:
  • West U23 All Stars Coach 2008 2012:
  • Texas Rugby Union U23 All Stars Coach
  • 2014 - Assistant Referee at IRB Women's Sevens Series #Atlanta7s 
  • 2014 - USA Rugby Women's Collegiate D1 Playoffs 
  • 2014 - USA Rugby Club Playoffs 
  • 2013 USA Rugby All Star Sevens Championship 
  • 2013 Collegiate Rugby Championship 
  • 2013 USA Rugby Women’s Collegiate 15s Playoffs 
  • 2012 USA Rugby Collegiate Sevens Championship

  • 1975- Present. Hooker, Referee. Inducted 2014.
  • Longest serving referee in Oklahoma.
  • Refereed the first high school rugby match in Oklahoma
  • Played every position on the pitch
  • American School of London 1971-1974
  • Saracens RFC Colts
  • Ozark RFU
  • All three OU International Tours (Van Canada, Bahamas, England)
  • Played rugby in England, France, USA, Canada, Oman, Nigeria, Kenya and Bahamas


  • 1980 -1986. Scrum-Half. Inducted 2014.
  • OU’s first International Rugby Star
  • 1990 – 1991 USA Eagles 9 Caps (Tours to Ireland, Australia and Japan)
  • 1991 Rugby World Cup 2 Caps
  • 1985 All American
  • 1986 -1989 Jr Eagle tours Europe and New Zealand
  • 1997 -1998 Manager USA Eagles
  • 1998 – 1999 Backs Coach USA Eagles
  • 1999 Rugby World Cup USA Eagles Backs Coach
  • 1996 – 2002 All American Selector and Manager
  • OURFC to Bahamas – “the best tour ever – Trust Us”
  • 1984 – 1991 West RFU
  • 1991 National Champion- Denver Barbarians RFC
  • 1985 Most Valuable Back-OURFC
A. Jason Horowitz
The University of Oklahoma
Head Coach, Men's Rugby
610-223-9784 mobile
405-801-2493 office
214-572-9737 fax

401 West Main Street, Suite 310
Norman, OK 73069


Thursday, March 6, 2014

State of Play podcast and Way of the Warthogs trailer

So two biggies this week are the release of the Way of the Warthogs trailer and A Rugby Life's State of Play podcast on which the Pacific Rugby Premiership is discussed by Kevin Sullivan of Rucking Insurance, Curtis Reed of This Is American Rugby, Ted Hardy of Rugby America, Hedley Lagrand of A Rugby Life, and myself, Grant Cole of RuckBottom (at least until a thundersleet storm knocked my power out).

Way of the Warthogs director Serge Bakalan states:
We are EXTREMELY proud to share the three minute movie trailer of the documentary on our program called, "Way of the Warthogs". Please spend three minutes to see why you should be so proud of the support you provide to make a difference for young men in Oakland. It has been called "Inspiring", "A Must See!", and "Incredible". Take a minute to see the difference you make for our young men. Then feel free to repost it and pass it on!
State of Play podcast

Monday, March 3, 2014

Allied Rugby Conference March 1 review

Tech's Wes Mitchell converts against Texas A&M

It was not a good weekend to visit an Allied Rugby Conference club. Home teams dominated as Baylor ran rough-shod over Sam Houston in a played forfeit, Texas Tech played an explosive first half against an Aggie team that woke up too late, and Oklahoma shut out Texas in the out-of-conference Red River Rivalry match.

If you take a close look at the scorelines of all the matches so far this season, a bit of parity is revealed. It is tough to be a visiting squad in the ARC, regardless of how strong your team was at home the week before. This type of parity is exactly what the Allied Rugby Conference was formed to achieve.

Baylor 52, Sam Houston 20

Sam Houston took several new rugby players to Waco, Texas on Saturday. While the Bearkats were able to score four tries, Baylor's fitness and skills played out late in the game. The Bears ran away with the game  in the second half. Baylor now sits at 2-1 and only two points behind Texas Tech in the standings. Baylor next plays Texas A&M in College Station on March 22.

Texas Tech 50, Texas A&M 19

Texas A&M made the long trip to Lubbock only to let the Red Raiders own the second half. Halftime saw the score at 21-19, but A&M had lost Senior Captain, Chris Frasier, to injury in the first half.  The first few minutes of the second half were hard fought and scoreless. However, one Aggie handling error put the ball in the hands of Tech's speedster. With the wind at their back and the sure foot of Flyhalf Wes Mitchell, the Red Raiders were off to the races. Texas A&M had used up all their strength in the first half driving in forward-centric scores. The Red Raiders came away with the bonus point win and some redemption from a close loss to Baylor. Tech faces Oklahoma in their final game of the season on March 29. A make-up game in Norman, OK.

Oklahoma 39, University of Texas 0

Press Release by OU Rugby

On Saturday the Sooners took on the Longhorns in the long-lived Red River Rivalry. This was the 1st time in many years that OU hosted the event in Norman.

“This rivalry is one of the best know in college sports,” said Sooner Head Coach Jason Horowitz. “Football, Basketball, etc. always make this match up a big deal. In fact, we kicked off at 2 p.m. and just an hour later across the parking lot, Men’s Basketball hosted Texas as well. It was a big day on campus with 2 big wins.”

The Sooners opened up the scoring 4:30 into the 1st half as sophomore winger Tom Murphy struck off the centers for a 22 meter run to find the line. Scoring was all over the field with the Longhorns defending well end-to-end and applying pressure forcing the Sooners to balance an attack and create space. No easy tries were scored on the big physical Texas side.

“I was happy that we were able to get our young players another solid match. Most of the team is made of up freshmen and sophomores, which has been challenging… but will pay off for sure in coming contests. Coming off a tie with A&M, it was important to solidify those learning experiences,” said Horowitz. “Our defense was impeccable for the most part, still with many improvements to come.”

Junior captain Mike Al-Jiboori was happy with the outcome of this very intense game. “The Red River Rivalry is always one of the most physical and most anticipated games of the year. It is the biggest rivalry in the South in all sports. We respect each other as athletes, but when the whistle blows it’s a different story. It’s all about the pride of being the dominant University, which is why this game is so great. We played strong at some points of the game and less cohesive at others. We are a young growing team so we are still working on it. Our coaches set some goals and we nailed most of them. A win over UT is gladly taken any day no matter the fashion. Sooner Glory.”

The Sooners have the next weekend off and well deserved as they have been at it since early January. The season will kick back into gear on the weekend of 3/15 as they host Wisconsin during the 40th anniversary weekend of OU Rugby and the get back into conference play the following weeks.

OU vs Texas scoring line
Murphy, 1 try
Hutzler, 1 try
Gatica, 1 try
Al-Jiboori, 2 tries
Koh, 2 conversions
Crowder, 1 try
Lair, 1 try

Monday, February 24, 2014

Battle in the ARC

OU attacks inside A&M's 22.
Dogfight. Brawling Bash. Tooth-&-nail scrap.

Those are apt descriptions of what has evolved in the Allied Rugby Conference this season and only three games have been played! 

Baylor traveled to Norman, OK and got a rugby lesson from the Sooners. It seemed to be the wake-up call that the Bears needed. They turned around and traveled to Lubbock this past weekend and nipped the Red Raiders by a point. 

Tech has a win under their belt, but it was a unplayed forfeit by Sam Houston. Their match against Oklahoma had to be rescheduled due to weather. Weather has also prevented them from putting in plenty of meaningful practice time. This may have been the crimp in their step Saturday.

Texas A&M had to reschedule their match against Sam Houston due to an unplayable pitch in Huntsville. The Aggies defeated NSCRO's St Edward's, but they had to dig deep and rely on a lot of size and strength to do so. The next weekend, they took a shellacking from Arkansas State in another out-of-conference match. That woke up the Ags when they needed it. Texas A&M opened up this weekend with a try in the first 30 seconds to put the Sooners on notice. Had their cover defense matched their breakdown defense, the Aggies may have nipped the Sooners. 

It wasn't to be. The Aggies and the Sooners played to a bone-breaking, eyebrow-swelling draw. 

The Sooners are "All-In." They did more than was necessary to obtain minutes before the spring season. Wins against TCU and UNT, a trip to Vegas for more 7s, and a exclamation-point win against Baylor at home all built up a team that needed the depth. The Sooners arrived in College Station, TX with flankers playing at prop (and no props to replace them with) and a slippery scrumhalf-type at hooker who doubled as their goal-kicker. They moved their star outside center into flyhalf to ensure the ball could get delivered to their speedy fullback. A&M's first two tries woke up Oklahoma with some serious nike en rectimus. The Sooners may not have won on Saturday, but their forwards certainly did not allow them to return home with a loss. 

What about Sam Houston? They've yet to play a conference match and have had to forfeit their scheduled match against Texas Tech. If you've played or watched any college rugby around Texas in the past decade, then you know that Sam is comfortable playing the spoiler. No team will be able to play the Bearkats without being ready. 

Three games into the season and it is already close, undecided, and exciting!