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WWU rugby club eager for first victory of the season against Bellingham rivals

Rugby squad comes off week one loss, will play second game of season Saturday

Western’s Rugby Club run agility drills on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022 at Harrington Field in Bellingham, Wash. The team looks to stay fresh after the Washington State Cougars forfeited their game this past weekend. // Photo by Peter French

The Western Washington University men's rugby club will play against the Chuckanut Bay Geoducks for the Crittenden Cup on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the deWilde Rugby and Polo Fields in Ferndale.

The Geoducks are a men's club team founded in 1973 by a group of Western rugby alumni who wanted to continue to compete outside of college. 

This season, the Geoducks have five former Western players on the roster, including last year's captain, Terrell Nelson. 

“It’s definitely fun to go out and play [against] the young guys because they keep us on our toes,'' said Gerardo Cisneros, inside center for the Geoducks and former Western rugby player. “There is never any bad energy between us, but there is for sure a lot of bragging rights given to the team that ends up winning the match.” 

The Vikings won the Crittenden cup last year, but Paul Horne, director of rugby at Western, said that in years prior, the Geoducks have had the upper hand. 

The Crittenden Cup is named after George Crittenden, who was a tri-sport athlete and member of the rugby club at Western in the early ‘70s. Crittenden died in 1974 during a diving incident in Alaska. His legacy is honored through the competition and devotion of Western players and alumni. 

The Western rugby club started its fall season Oct. 1, with a 13-17 loss against the University of Victoria. The club's second game was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 8, but the Washington State University Cougars forfeited, deciding not to make the trip. 

Rugby Photo 1 (French) (1).jpg

The 2022 season comes at the end of an eventful summer. Vikings Rugby toured the U.K. to play university programs from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. 

The trip overseas got off to a rough start when the team's luggage was lost at the airport, Horne said. Luckily the majority of it was returned a few days later, just before their first game against the University of Edinburgh.

 “It didn't change the attitude of the guys or anything, they just kind of moved on and were happy to turn their underwear inside out and go for it the next day,” Horne said.

The team went on to lose all three of their games on the tour. 

While the trip was not particularly victorious, it provided an opportunity for the team to play against competition from an area with rich rugby history and culture. 

“Even just going to Scotland and watching gameplay is awesome, but being able to play against the college teams over there was really cool … it's just eye-opening to see them being our age and playing that much better than us,” said Oliver Kelleher, fly-half for the Vikings.

This year the Western rugby club hopes to continue last year's success after winning the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference

The Vikings’ postseason run came to an end after losing in the semi-finals of the American Collegiate Rugby Playoffs against Fresno State. Fresno State went on to beat the University of Kansas for the championship in Arlington, Texas. 

“We were one game away from making the national final and that’s one of the things that the guys said they wanted to do this year is to get that one step closer,” Horne said. “Now it's up to them to accept that challenge, work harder, get better and do whatever that takes.”


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