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Clemson Football Game Offers HS Rugby Preseason Op

    

HS Boys

Clemson Football Game Offers HS Rugby Preseason Op

Charlotte Tigers and Chapin Eagles get together after the game. Photo CJRA.

The same weekend the Clemson University Tigers football team traveled to Charlotte to play in the ACC Championship - the Charlotte Tigers high school ruby football club headed to Clemson to play. 

The Charlotte Tigers were joined by Charlotte Catholic and North Mecklenburg from NC; The Chapin Eagles represented SC; and Alpharetta Phoenix traveled over from GA.  All five of these teams came by invitation to make up the inaugural Clemson University High School Preseason Friendly.

The tournament is the idea of new Clemson Rugby Head Coach Steve Lynch and Erik Saxon, who runs the Charlotte Junior Rugby Association (CJRA).  Lynch and Saxon both share a passion for growing rugby from the bottom up, meaning getting as many grade school kids playing rugby as possible and then letting these kids know there are lots of opportunities to keep playing after high school...including in the ever-growing college rugby landscape.

A big name University like Clemson hosting high school rugby players in numbers for an event like this added gravitas, excitement, and a "wow factor" not lost on teenage boys. The buzz at the tournament was palpable all weekend as the teams played multiple matches on the Clemson pitch.

"When your average 11th grader dots down a try on the huge Clemson Tiger paw logo painted in the try zone...that's not something he'll ever forget.  By Clemson hosting an event like this and by the Clemson coaches and players hanging out on the sidelines with the high school players, it turned what could have been ordinary into something special," said Saxon, "When you create a big moment a kid will remember for his whole life, rugby wins."

While preseason high school rugby isn't always pretty, all five teams at the Clemson Friendly looked pretty good...maybe not by accident, all are coming off of successful 2015 seasons and look to be even bigger and better this year.

Phoenix Alpharetta is generally recognized as the best HS club in GA and played in he National Invitational  Tournament last year (8th).

Phoenix was joined by three other 2015 NIT teams at the Clemson Friendly: Charlotte Catholic (2nd/ Tier II), Charlotte Tigers (24th), and North Meck (4th/ JV Division).

In addition, all five of the participating teams played their way into their individual state's finals last season.   These teams all have a reputation for playing good, crisp rugby and did not disappoint.

Over the course of the weekend:
Charlotte Tigers JV over Alpharetta Phoenix JV
Alpharetta Phoenix over Charlotte Catholic
North Mecklenburg in a draw with Chapin
Charlotte Tigers over both Chapin and North Meck

As this was a true friendly, there were shortened halves, unlimited subs were allowed, and coaches tried many players out in new positions--so precise match scores are probably not the best indicator of the successes of the weekend.  Rather, the important things were most likely that good rugby was played, Clemson demonstrated its commitment to youth rugby, players had fun and knocked the rust off, and all the coaches have pages and pages of good notes to work from over the next month or two before high school league play starts.

In addition to Clemson University Rugby and CJRA, Rugby South Carolina and the Tigers Rugby Academy also sponsored this event.  Plans are already underway to make it an annual event and to invite even more teams from the region to participate next year.