PORTLAND -- The game of Rugby dates back to the 1800s, but it’s alive and well here in the Rose City.
“It started in England and branched out to the rest of the world,” says Lincoln High School Head coach Neil Cooper, who is a from New Zealand.
“A lot of us old rugby players like myself like to think of it as a very community social sport, even though the intensity at the international is a very powerful sport,” he said.
It’s that combination of power and speed that appeals to many of the players at Lincoln High School.
“I like the physicality and the speed," said the Cardinals Tiegue Hennessey, adding, “Yeah, I love it. I played soccer for ten years. I found rugby once and then I stopped playing for rugby and I love it.”
Lincoln won the rugby state championship two years ago and was state finalist last season. They practice at Lincoln, Washington Park and Overlook Park in North Portland.
“Rugby’s one of the few sports I’d say that there’s a spot for anybody,” said Lincoln Coach Eli Schroppel. “It’s really good for kids that aren’t necessarily like the starting varsity quarterback or running back, that don’t have that sort of athletic fulfillment in the mainstream sports. They come to rugby and there is always a spot where they fit in.”
Rugby Oregon is based in Portland and oversees youth and High School rugby in the state and Southwest Washington.
“In the school's eyes, we are a club sport,” says Schroppel, “Rugby wise, it’s a varsity sport.”
Lincoln plays against other high school teams all over the state. The game has two halves of 40 minutes each and when it’s over, the two sides get together.
“After every game,” says Hennessey, “we do a social, which is, the home team will provide a meal and both teams that just played against each other and were fighting each other, will sit down and have a meal together and socialize. It’s real nice.”
The Cardinals have three games left in the regular season. The State Playoffs are in May at Delta Park.