News: Beach brawl: Cherry Point Marines scrum with rugby brethren
Story by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken
ATLANTIC BEACH, MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. – Rugby isn’t for the faint of heart and whipping winds and drenching rain wasn’t about to prevent the 2nd annual Blackbeard 7s Beach U.S. Open Rugby Championship Tournament at Atlantic Beach, Aug. 11.
The sport, renowned for its brotherhood spirit, brought out men and women from all walks of life, including a Cherry Point team of Marines, Sailors and civilians, a few teams from across the state and even an all Irish squad, overseas for the summer.
In a narrowed field because of weather, the Irish team took the tournament crown in a final against Cherry Point, but as the game’s nature dictates, the focus from competition quickly turned to kinship. Players from both teams united in a huddle around one of the Irish players fittingly leading a yelling chorus of The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
“What really brings the guys out, especially the Marines and Sailors, is how tight knit and close the rugby community is,” said Sgt. Tommy Anderson, an ordnanceman at the air station who has been on the Cherry Point rugby team for more than four years.
Cherry Point “ruggers,” as those in the sport refer to themselves, dedicate their off-time practicing on the air station throughout the week. Most of the guys wouldn’t have even met each other had it not been for their rugby paths colliding, explained Anderson, a native of Cañon City, Colo.
A rugby scrum itself is symbolic of the sport’s brotherly nature when the players line up across from another, interlock arms, and grit and grind for position to determine possession.
The raucous scrum scenes at the beach saw winds gusting and whistles blowing while players hollered at one another and the sideines echoed the enthusiasm during aerial collisions and feet-lifting hits.
“It’s said that rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentleman,” said Anderson.
All hits and taunts aside, the sport seems to always draw back to its foundational beginnings of teamwork and sportsmanship. It’s just the spirit of the game, though heated at times, everybody gives their all and shakes hands afterward, said Anderson.
“You can hit somebody in the face on the field and share a beer with them five minutes later,” said Chris Underwood, a civilian aerospace engineer at the air station and one of Cherry Point’s veteran rugby players with nine years under his belt. “It’s a strong bond, different than just a regular friendship with somebody you work with, it’s stronger.”
Though rugby is far from becoming an American past time, its culture and bruising hits are catching on in the states and internationally. The Armed Forces Rugby 7s Championship, between the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, was held in Glendale, Colo., Aug. 18-19, with the All-Marine rugby team edging the Air Force in the Championship, 33-31.
“In 2016 rugby will be in the Olympics,” said Anderson, adding that the goal is to get as many service members on the American team as possible.
“It’s just another one of those things, trying to build the sport more in America,” he said.