UNA rugby team recoverts from loss to Memphis, still optimistic

UNA and Memphis rugby players fight for possession of the ball in their game Sept. 6. Coach Roberts and the players are confident this season will be better than last.

The rugby team took a 19-14 loss in its first game of the year against the University of Memphis.

Players Eli Phillips and Darnell Tothard were the top scorers, while Daniel Logan kicked two conversions.

Despite the loss, head coach Eddie Roberts said he was proud of the team and is optimistic about the rest of the season.

“We battled hard all game, so I’m really proud of how well the players played today,” he said. “We were a Division III team playing a Division I team and played them really tough.”

USA Rugby determines which division a school is in by the total number of male full-time students, Roberts said.

“We are much improved this season from last year,” he said. “Last year we lost by about 30 points to Memphis, so it shows what a great group of guys we have.”

Roberts said the team had about six or seven guys who had never seen a rugby ball before their first practice.

First-year player and junior Jamie Spillane said he was proud of the way the more experienced players helped the new players in the game.

“The leadership from the older guys today was really important,” he said. “We started six new guys, and (Memphis) had their entire team back from last year and we still played good.”

This weekend the rugby team heads to Arkansas State University for a mini-camp.

“They’re a top-five team in the country so I’m looking forward to the experience,” Roberts said.

When UNA returns from its trip to Arkansas State University, the team will then start its conference schedule.

“We should have no trouble with our conference,” Spillane said. “We handled Memphis pretty well today, and the competition won’t be as tough as today.”

For those interested in playing rugby, Roberts and Spillane both said they encourage guys to come to open tryouts every 7 p.m. Monday and Thursday at the Veterans Park football field.

This is just the fourth season of rugby at UNA, and Roberts said he sees the amount of people coming to tryout grow each year.

“If you enjoy football, you’ll enjoy rugby,” Spillane said. “I just now started playing it and it’s been really fun.”

The next home game for UNA is Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. at Veterans Park.