GUEST POST | Good Memories on Rainy Days
I’ll never forget how miserable the weather was on one of the best days of my life. Most of the night before, and the entire morning of, it had been raining steadily on the farm in lower New Hampshire where the 2006 New England High School Rugby Championships took place (the big ol’ fat rain Forrest Gump talks about). The weekend prior, BC High’s “A” Side had been knocked out of contention for the National Championship at a Northeast qualifier tournament in gut-wrenching fashion. To this day, between high school, college, and men’s rugby, the game we lost to Keio Academy of New York still haunts me. Losing in the qualifier tournament after a dominant regular season wasn’t great, but there was still rugby left to be played.
After a week of practice and prom on Friday night, we gathered at school early the following morning in various states of awake for the bus. It certainly felt like the beginning of the end of our season during the near-silent drive from Boston to New Hampshire. And getting to the field, kitting up, stepping out into the cold rain. We warmed up, got ready to play the first game. Even rolled around in the freezing puddles because our brilliant coach knew we might get surprised by it during the match.
The first match against Lincoln-Sudbury was a muddy, sloppy, mistake riddled stalemate. Rugby, like life, is a game of mistakes - if you’re not making mistakes it means you’re not trying anything. A blur of rain, dirt, and bodies flew around the field. Tackle after tackle, ruck after ruck, scrum after scrum, neither side would give. Then, our fly-half spotted a gap in the defense, and darted through. As tacklers closed in, John deftly chip kicked it straight downfield, inside the try. He won the sprint and slid directly on top of the ball, scoring the try and giving us the 5-0 win.
We had our work cut out for us in the next round against conference rival St. John’s Prep. They came out swinging, making hard, charging runs at our defense. Each time, we’d meet the runner, but were slowly being driven backwards. Their efforts, coupled with our inability to stop them, led to a try in the corner and a 5-0 St. John’s lead going into halftime. With quiet confidence, we pushed on into the second half. Defense seemed a little faster off the ball. Passes started to look a little crisper. The intensity was up, but we were running out of time. Only a few minutes remained and St. John’s had possession. They made one long pass, then a second long pass, and then the third pass was intercepted by our outside center, who streaked past the other team to score under the posts. The kicker made the easy conversion and we were into the final with a 7-5 win.
In the moments before the final match, we talked. We talked about how no matter what happened, we’d have each other’s backs. How winning this game would show our coach what he’d taught us about humility, passion, and determination had actually stuck. How great winning would be. By the time the championship match against Bishop Hendricken started, the water was so deep in parts of the field we had to hold our breath when we got tackled there. Through some quick hands and caught passes, we scored early in the corner and went up, 5-0. Once we scored, we must have only had minutes of possession for the remainder of the game. Crash balls, goal line stands, too many tackles to count. On the last play of the game, the opposition had a chance to cross the try line on a penalty play. Both teams lined up ten meters apart, and prepared to collide. They surged toward the line, and we met them in their tracks. It felt familiar, a lot like the Keio game from the weekend before, and I think that’s what helped us keep our heads. We held them out of the try zone until time expired, and became the 2006 New England High School Rugby Champions. One of the best days of my life.
If you like incredible feats of strength, acrobatic displays of skill, mind-boggling acts of endurance, bone-crunching tackles, blazing fast runs, and also appreciate values of family, trust, respect, commitment, ambition, pride, and being a part of something bigger than yourself, then you might like rugby.