Maul? Ruck? Scrum? And What's A Nice Kid Like You Doing In A Game Like This? [Video]

The Connecticut State Rugby Championships are coming to the Surf Club in Madison Sunday, May 27. Between 700 and 1,000 people are expected. Here's what you need to know to enjoy watching "a hooligan's game played by gentlemen."


Maul? Ruck? Scrum? And what's a fly half and a hooker? Those terms sound strange at first, but they're second nature to coaches and members of 22 teams who will be competing in the Connecticut U-19 Rugby Championships Sunday at Madison's .

This is Madison's first time hosting the championship tourney, which will feature two nationally ranked teams and four women's teams. Teams are coming from Cheshire, Darien, Madison, Fairfield Prep B, Cheshire B, West Hartford, Staples, New London, Hartford, Greenwich B, Fairfield B, Amity, Stamford Academy, Southington, Simsbury B, Stamford.

Madison Coach Jay Rubino, who was instrumental in bringing the tournament to Madison, says it will feature lots of action, good runs and big hits. Each game will run for about 40 minutes, instead of the typical 80 minutes, to make sure there is time to get all of the matches in, he said.

What you need to know to enjoy watching the game

Other than that, the basic rules will remain the same, he said. Here is what you need to know to enjoy watching the game, from the USA Rugby website.

Scoring is as follows:

  • Try – When the ball is grounded over an opponents’ goal line in their ‘try zone’ it is worth 5 points.
  • Conversion – After scoring a try the scoring team gets an attempt to kick the ball over the crossbar and through the posts of the rugby uprights. A conversion is worth 2 points.
  • Penalty – If the opposition commits a penalty, a team can choose to kick at the goal. A penalty kick is worth 3 points.
  • Drop Goal – During play a team may drop the ball on the ground and kick it over the goal, this is called a drop goal. This is worth 3 points.

The team with the most points at the end of the match wins.

Four main plays to keep in mind

There are four main plays to keep in mind as you watch, including a lineout, a maul, a ruck, and a scrum. A lineout, roughly the equivalent of a jump-ball in basketball, re-starts play after a ball or player goes out of bounds. A  maul takes place when the ball carrier is being held up, and his teammates come to support him to retain possession.  The players can drive the opposition or would-be tacklers backwards by “pushing” or “driving” forward to gain yardage. If the ball is placed to the ground from the maul a ruck is formed. A ruck takes place when the ball is on the ground. Players “ruck” or come crashing over the ball to push or drive off any would-be opponents trying to get the ball on the ground. A scrum is a way to restart play after it has been stopped. Eight players link together and push against the opposing eight players for possession of the ball.

See the video with this story for examples of each of the plays.

In terms of players, the pack, or the forwards include the props, the hooker, the locks, the flankers and the eightman. The pack is charged with winning possession of the ball. The backs, or back line, includes the scrumhalf, the flyhalf, the wings, the inside and outside centers, and the fullback.

No time outs, non-stop action

Rubino, and others who love the game, say one of the best things about watching rugby is that the action never stops. There are no time outs, no switching of sides. It's just non-stop running, tackling, and play. The players have to be tough, strong, and smart as they move from one play to another in their effort to score.

"It's like soccer except you get to smash into people," Rubino says.

Doesn't that hurt?

Taking players down, not taking them out

Rubino and other rugby experts say that, while people do sometimes get hurt, catastrophic injuries are rare because players don't use their bodies as a weapon, which sometimes happens in games like American football. Team members in rugby play without pads and helmets. Players who engage in foul play are tossed into the sin bin, or penalty box.

"In rugby, we always try to avoid inflicting injuries. We take the players down. We're not trying to take the players out," Rubino said. "It's about winning the game."

It's been said that rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen, and gentlewomen, of course, in the case of the women's teams playing this weekend. Variations of that quote have been attributed to the 19th century Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, English novelist George Orwell, and English author Rudyard Kipling. If that's true, it's clear that the MadRugby team values hard work, discipline, and training when it comes to playing the game.

“Rugby is both mentally and physically taxing," Rubino said. "Players hit hard and there is no padding, so you need to be tough and very aware.  But you also have to be very smart to play rugby. You play both offense and defense; there is no switching players ... you play hard, there are no time-outs, which also makes it a great spectator sport.”

A game that attracts a diverse group of young men and women

Madison's team is made up of a diverse group of young men that includes hockey players, musical comedy afficianados, and several who are members of the National Honor Society. Rubino said the Madison team is typical in that the game tends to attract players who are strong, who enjoy being members of a team, and who are leaders.

Rubino said he expects his team, which has worked hard this year to bring its play to a higher level, to do well. Rubino says if they play mistake-free rugby, the Madison team will do well.

Also helping out this weekend will be Assistant Coach Mike O'Rourke, Coordinator Bill McMinn, Assistant Coach/Coordinator Tim Haigh, and members of the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company, who will be helping with first aid as needed.

Competition begins at 9 a.m. Sunday May 27th

This is McMinn's fifth year with the team. He started with the team when his son started playing rugby. McMinn recruited Rubino this year, and Rubino asked McMinn to stay involved for at least one more year. McMinn's son is now playing rugby at the University of Hartford. The MadRugby team is not only a program of the Madison Beach & Recreation Department, it is also a developmental team that is part of the New Haven Old Black Rugby Football Club,which is part of the New England Rugby Union (NERFU).

Competition will begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 27, and will be played simultaneously on three different fields.  Admission is free, but there is a $10 fee for parking if you don't have a Madison Beach Pass. Beach passes can be obtained at the Madison Beach & Recreation Department at Madison town hall.

For information about this event, contact Jay Rubino, jayrubino11@gmail.com

Jeff May 23, 2012 at 11:44 PM
We're hoping if this event is a big success, it will come back to Madison again year after year!
E.B. WALSH May 24, 2012 at 10:17 AM
Great write up Jay- this came up on a google alert this morning. We look forward to playing against your club this Sunday. EW- Amity
Barb Chupp May 24, 2012 at 11:41 AM
3 yrs of watching the sport and finally, I get it! Thanks Pem!
Pem McNerney May 24, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Great! You're welcome!
Betsy Millane May 26, 2012 at 02:06 PM
What a fast paced, interesting game. Can't wait to watch it in Madison this Sunday!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »