On Saturday, May 27, the Wizards Rugby Club hosted a rugby sevens friendly and invited the Boynton Beach Bulldogs, a new rugby club in Palm Beach County. The Bulldogs are in their inaugural season and look to compete in the summer season.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the invite for the chance to compete against more experienced players. “We’ve been going since November. We’re building four teams, and hope to be able to play locally,” said Sean Simon, head coach of the Bulldogs.
Simon was thrilled that his club was invited by an experienced club such as the Wizards.
“We have two great neighbors, the Wellington program and the Boca program, and when we do travel, that’s as far as I want to go, and when you have two well-organized and experienced teams that local, it’s nice for our program,” he said.
The two teams played a series of five games over a three-hour period at polo fields off South Shore Blvd. in Wellington.
Rugby sevens is a variant of standard rugby where teams are comprised of seven players on each side of the ball, as opposed to the typical 15. The sport has caught on in the United States, and has been recognized recently as the fastest-growing youth sport in the country, according to Wizards high school division head coach Ron Vargo.
“This is sevens rugby, which is what we played today,” Vargo said. “It is the fastest-growing segment of rugby. It’s the most exciting form of the game, and it’s what they played in the last Olympics.”
Vargo and coach Shahan Quraeshi were excited about last weekend’s event for good reason. The Wizards are competing this summer in the sevens series season for the first time.
“It’s a feeder into regular rugby, so what we try to do in the summer is to get the kids excited and conditioned,” Vargo said. “You can see we play on the same size field, so you can see how there will be a lot of running and a lot of breakaways.”
The matches are played in two seven-minute halves to increase the pace of the game. The quick pace also makes the matches more exciting, according to Vargo.
The sport of rugby commands much respect among players and clubs. Players are encouraged to treat each other with the utmost respect, including the officials. “It’s a brotherhood among rugby clubs,” Quraeshi said. “When you wear a rugby jersey, you are part of a brotherhood.”
Rugby also has fewer concussions and injuries, which Quraeshi attributes to the technique of the tackling. Both noted that many football teams at all levels now teach rugby-style tackling because of the safer approach to the game.
The Wizards club has grown as it enters its third season. In the first two years, they have made back-to-back state final appearances, winning their first in the under 14 boys division. This is also the first year that the club is affiliated with the Village of Wellington.
“We are very grateful to the Village of Wellington,” Vargo said. “We are a provisional rugby sports provider for the village, and we hope to be voted in as a permanent status in June.”
Up until now, the Wizards have been granted a trial basis but will go before the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board on June 5 for a final vote. The Wizards have received a lot of support from the village. The club and their fans hope to become a permanent presence within the sports community of Wellington.
ABOVE: James Dodge dives for the score for the Wizards.