Big Red Rugby’s debut a smashing success

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Saturday, April 17, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Ethan Payne-Hawkins and his teammates had plenty of assistance during the Big Red Rugby club team’s debut match against Central Catholic.

There were coaches on both sides to help guide the program through the rigors of a rugby 7s match. The referee also stopped the match several times, with the blessing of coaches, to make sure everyone was on the right track.

The Big Red were led by Tyrone Lyons, who is a Woodland Hills High school student, with three tries in a 28-5 victory.

Payne-Hawkins was glad the Big Red got to ease into the season by playing another program at their experience level.

“Yes, because we were learning,” Payne-Hawkins said. “The referee even broke the game down for us sometimes. If one of the teams was doing something wrong, she was explaining things to us.”

Penn Hills sanctioned the rugby club team during the fall of 2019 and the Big Red were slated to start in 2020. Because of the pandemic, the Big Red’s inaugural season was put on hold.

The pandemic also changed how the league functions. They decided to play games with seven players per team, which is Olympic style, as opposed to the traditional 15-a-side rugby.

“We started the team last year with the intention of playing 15s,” Big Red coach Matt Rosemeyer said. “We’ve had a tough time recruiting players, and you really need 25 guys to play a full season. The 7s is a nice introduction to the sport and is a game of fitness and form tackling. You need to be able to run dead out for seven minutes at a time.”

Senior Dave Lubawski, who plays on Penn Hills golf team, had friends who played rugby and decided to give the sport a try.

Learning the nuances of the sport is something he has to get used to. Rugby is a game where being creative helps make big plays.

How to perform that way during a match isn’t something that will come natural right away.

“In rugby, you have to be aware of everything at all times,” Lubawski said. “Most of the game is getting to the right spot, but it’s not always clear where you need to be. You have to make plays, and it’s tough to spot. It’s not like other sports, where plays come to you ahead of time and you know where things are going to go.”

The Big Red will have two home games at the Bill Fralic Athletic Center on April 23 and 30. Rosemeyer is hoping some exposure to people in the community will help grow the program so the Big Red can play 15s in the future.

Payne-Hawkins thinks the Big Red are off to a bright start.

“For a newer team, we did well,” Payne-Hawkins said. “It is my first year playing rugby. It was nice how we came together. We meshed together and were able to pass the ball.”

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