Men’s rugby falls to Vikings in championship game

Mens rugby falls to Vikings in championship game

By Amye Ellsworth, Senior Reporter


Their regular season may have just come to a close, but the EWU men’s rugby club is already looking ahead to next season.

This year, the club gained a new head coach, David Ratcliff. Ratcliff joined the team and completely changed the way they had been playing up to that point.

“Rugby here in America has [a] kind of loutish reputation, whereas where I come from in England, it’s a gentleman’s game,” Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff proceeded to change the team’s conditioning and practice schedule. He also helped them develop a more professional attitude off the field by promoting fundraisers for the club.

Eric Populus played with the rugby club for five years before graduating this winter quarter. Now he plans to start coaching for the club in order to help them develop a stronger coaching team.

“I think we’re on a good path with what David [Ratcliff] taught us this year with using our whole team and relying on what we can put in as a team rather than our individual efforts,” Populus said.

Ratcliff said that he has seen improvements in the athletes over the course of the season.

“This has been good because these guys had a lot of raw potential, but they didn’t have a lot of technique. They didn’t have a lot of thought about where they were going to go next,” he said. “In a very short span, we were able to turn them around. They’re much better rugby players now.”

Initially, Populus said it was difficult to make the transition to a new coach coming in and changing the way the team operated.

“[Ratcliff] came in and kind of changed up our whole game plan, and it was hard to adjust. But he definitely gave us more interest in the game and more drive to do better, which is what our team was lacking,” he said.

This drive led them to the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference Grand Final match on April 13 against Western Washington University. Eastern was a major underdog entering this match, and Ratcliff said that Western had already printed championship T-shirts before the match had even begun.

EWU started the match with momentum and scored the first points, but Western ended up winning in the end by a score of 38-14. This match determined which team would qualify for the National Sweet Sixteen in Texas on March 16.

Ratcliff plans to bounce back from this loss and build a superior team next season by developing a fuller coaching team and a recruiting program.

“That is kind of a new thing because recruiting takes money,” Populus said. “I personally have started recruiting early this year, and hopefully we can see some good players coming to Eastern, but I think it’s going to take a few years before we see serious recruiting efforts.”

The club plans to offer clinics in the fall and a flag rugby tournament for athletes of any skill level to come out and try the sport.

They also hope to coordinate better with the women’s team to develop fundraising opportunities for the sport. Their next fundraiser will be an alumni game, which will be held on June 1.