The O’Dowd men’s and women’s rugby teams embraced a community service opportunity last week, helping set up and break down for a retreat for women who have male family members – spouses, children or other relatives – in prison. The retreat took place at Holy Redeemer Center, where the teams practice, and was sponsored by Kairos Outside Northern California. Read more…
Rugby player Bianca Ortiz-Pallen ’16 hadn’t played the position of hooker since freshman year of high school – and even then it was only a few times in practice.
Last month, Ortiz-Pallen played the pivotal position in the USA Rugby Girls High School All-American (GHSAA) game, helping lead the team to two resounding victories, 58-0 and 45-17, over the British Columbia High School All Stars on Aug. 21 and 23.
Front and center in all scrums, Ortiz-Pallen was charged with hooking the ball backwards, between the legs of the props to the 8 man. She typically plays the 8 man position, tackling, rucking for the backs, or powering through the line. Read more…
O’Dowd defeated the North Sacramento Warriors, 45-31, at St. Mary’s College in Moraga on Saturday to claim the Northern California Boys Varsity Rugby Championship, and fullback Jose Moreno ’15 was selected as player of the match by Canterbury of New Zealand – the corporate sponsor of the high school championships.
“I am really proud of my team, they have risen to every challenge that has been placed in front of them. Our opponent was previously undefeated and they also had us by about 25 pounds per man, but our boys never backed down,” Director of Rugby Ray Lehner said. “It’s a great victory for our school and the program. All things considered we are punching well above our weight class. Again it’s a tribute to the lads they are a tough bunch.” Read more…
The 2nd annual Touch Rugby Tournament and End of Season Awards Picnic was held on Sunday, May 19. Six coed teams made up of current players, alumni and family members took to the field and, initially, “Ari’s Annihilators,” “Team Gretchen” and “The Ari Killers” looked to be the teams to beat. But a late run of form by Team USA would carry the day, defeating the stacked “Ari Killers,” 7-4, in the championship match. Some highlights included the dazzling play of parents Helen Garfinkle (Ari Flink’s Mom) and Greg Nuti (Corey’s dad), which gives merit to the saying “experience and guile will always defeat youth and skill.”
Rugby is a game that is played in over 120 countries throughout the world. Many of the values of Rugby come from its rich history, traditions, camaraderie and community involvement with the sport. It is the contact sport that “the rest of the world plays!”
Rugby is a continuous game whereby two teams carry, pass, kick and ground the ball in order to score as many points as possible, with the team scoring the greater number of points being the winner.
15 people play at a time per side, each of which have specific duties as a player. Players are usually talked about in respect to two categories. Members of the first group are called the forwards, or the pack, and consist of your typically bigger stronger players (like linemen in football) they wear numbers 1-8. Members of the second group are called the backs, and consist of your smaller faster set, they wear numbers 9-15.
A continuous game.
If a player is tackled to the ground they must release the ball, which usually results in a ruck. If a player is held while standing, a maul will usually be formed. The purpose of the ruck or maul is so that the game can continue without any stoppage in play.
The line-out and scrum are two key distinguishing factors to the game of Rugby Union. A scrum occurs when there is an accidental infringement and a line-out occurs when the ball goes out of bounds. Both of these are methods of restarting the game.
A try is scored when a player places the ball in the opposition’s in-goal area. It is counted as 5 points and can be converted to an additional 2 points with a successful place kick or drop kick. Points may also be awarded from a drop kick in general play and a penalty kick. Both are worth 3 points.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I – or my child – have never played rugby before?
Rugby requires specific skills just like any other sport. In fact, some of the best rugby players started playing other sports first and then converted to rugby. Skills acquired in any other sports will help you learn the basic rugby skills and allow you to quickly adapt to the new game.
I thought you had to be big to play rugby?
No. Rugby requires many varied body shapes and sizes to play the game. From shorter, strong front rowers to tall far reaching second rowers and the fast, nimble outside backs. There is a crucial position for everyone in rugby. Rugby is, however, a contact sport. It is therefore critical that correct tackling techniques are coached and learnt, so that all shapes and sizes coming into contact with each other can tackle in a safe and correct manner.
What gear does my child need before they play the game?
Mouth guards and football or soccer cleats are the major requirements.
What time of year is Rugby played?
Rugby is a Spring Sport, our season runs from February to May.
Is Rugby a Varsity Sport at Bishop O’Dowd?
Yes we are. The commitment required is exactly like Varsity Football and Basketball. We train 4 days per week during the season and 2 days a week during our pre season (Fall) for those kids not participating in a Fall or a Winter Sport?
My son or daughter plays soccer in the Winter can they still play rugby?
Yes they can begin training with the rugby team at the conclusion of the soccer season.
Who do we play against? Do other High Schools have Rugby?
We live in the epicenter of High School and Youth Rugby in America. There are over 100 High School and Youth Rugby Programs in Northern California. The Men play in the Top flight “Single School” Conference with the likes of Jesuit, Christian Brothers, De La Salle and Bellermine. The Women play in the “Open” competition against other Multi High School Club Teams; Alameda, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, El Dorado Hills, to name a few.
How many teams do we field?
We field 3 teams, a Men’s Varsity and JV and a Women’s Varsity.
There’s a new sport on campus and it’s attracting a considerable following.
Rugby debuts at O’Dowd this semester, with matches scheduled for March and April.
A group of 70 boys and girls are currently participating in conditioning workouts and learning about the intricacies of the ruck, scrum and maul from O’Dowd rugby director Ray Lehner. Official practice begins Feb. 8.
The boy’s team will face Berkeley, Oakland Military Institute, Pleasanton, Alameda, De La Salle, Bellarmine Prep and Piedmont, while the women’s team will take on Berkeley, Davis and Alameda during the inaugural season. Schedules for both teams will be posted on the school website soon.
“Interestingly, we were only going to field a boy’s team and a bunch of girls came to me and said ‘Why can’t we have a team as well?’” Lehner said. I told them they needed 25 committed girls to play, and they brought me a sign up sheet with the names of 40 girls.”
The seed for the rugby team was planted last spring, when Lehner and parent Amy Vernetti, whose son Nate Mills ’11 plays club rugby, drafted a mission statement and business plan for the team.
Lehner says that the Bay Area is the epicenter for high school rugby, with dozens of schools fielding teams that carry on the rich history, traditions, camaraderie associated with the sport.
In short, rugby is a continuous game whereby two teams carry, pass, kick and ground the ball in order to score as many points as possible. Fifteen people play at a time per side.
It’s a misconception that one has to be “big” to play rugby, says Lehner. “Rugby requires many varied body shapes and sizes to play the game. From shorter, strong front rowers to tall, far-reaching second rowers and the fast, nimble outside backs, there is a crucial position for everyone in rugby,” he said.
Players need to be prepared, however, for a very physical game. “There are no pads – it’s all flesh and bones,” Lehner said. “But it’s a contact sport, not a collision sport. Because of that it’s much safer than American football.”
Lehner and his staff will spend a great deal of time coaching correct tackling techniques so that players avoid injury.
Rugby is different from most other American sports, which Lehner calls “tribal.”
“In other sports you only care about your team winning, and after a game you don’t want anything to do with the opposition,” he said. “With rugby, the tradition is that after a match you share a meal with the opposition. I admire that aspect of the game — being fierce competitors on the field, but afterwards realizing you share lots of common interests with your opponents.”
Lehner has been playing rugby since he was in elementary school. He played on the Cal rugby team, where he was a three-time All-American front row forward and his team won three rugby National Championships, and played professional rugby overseas for Henley RFC and Neath RFC.
He later played for Oxford University, where he earned a master’s degree in history, and participated in the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
Lehner has coached rugby at Jesuit High in Sacramento (his alma mater), Cal and the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He has also coached the Oxford University women’s team and the United States Under 20 National Team.
Lehner will be assisted by O’Dowd teacher and former Princeton football and rugby player DJ Vierra ’99, former St. Mary’s College rugby player Rebecca Wright, former Cal rugby player and O’Dowd Board of Regent member Paul Manca, former Santa Clara rugby player Jim Cramer ’78, Olympic Club rugby player Kevin Herrera, who is a member of the United States Junior National Team, and Allison McKenzie ’08, who played rugby at UC Santa Cruz.