The Elizabethtown Rugby Blues held their fourth annual 7s Tournament at Rheems Field on Saturday, July 7. Including Elizabethtown, there were eight different rugby programs in attendance, split into high school, junior and youth divisions.
This was the first year that the tournament was sanctioned by USA Rugby, an exciting development for the event’s long-term prospects. Still, it requires a lot of work to put together, with a small, dedicated team of volunteers organizing the logistics of both the set-up and execution.
“As the tournament grows each year, we have to think about tweaks to try to keep it running well,” said Paula Knudsen Burke, who fronts the Rugby Blues program alongside her husband Kenny Burke. “We have to order extra portapotties for that field, athletic trainer, transport in tents, buy and bring food to sell that helps support the non-profit program, arrange for referees (and so on). In the midst of all that, there’s some great rugby.”
The two Elizabethtown teams that competed had different paths to the end of the tournament. The high school team started well in the round-robin structure for the division, winning over Hempfield, Berks and Coventry 24-17, 24-7 and 21-0, respectively. However, the Blues’ final contest ended up being their downfall. They lost to Carlisle 22-12, putting the two teams in a three-way tie for first place with Coventry. The tiebreaker came down to total points scored, and since Coventry had 86 cumulative points, five more than Elizabethtown, they won the title.
There was no junior team from Elizabethtown, so the junior team was the only other Blues representative. The Blues struggled early on, falling to Conestoga, Doylestown and the Maryland Vipers. However, they did end on a high note, topping Conestoga Valley in a consolation game.
“Our small size continues to hamper our efforts, but the coaching staff has worked to equip players with strategies for tackling larger players,” Knudsen Burke said. “We could see that work play out in the games Saturday, with our small players bringing down much larger players.”
The Rugby Blues will take the rest of the year off before gearing back up in spring 2019 for another season. If their efforts in the tournament mean anything, both teams should be very competitive when that time arrives.
“We’ll continue to recruit as both a local club and throughout Rugby PA, so that there are more kids aware of the opportunity to graduate from rookie rugby (noncontact) to U-13, U-15 and U-19 tackle,” Knudsen Burke said. “Rugby is one of the fastestgrowing sports in the world, and it is great to see more and more families catch on to such an exciting game.”