October 14, 2022 | SPORTS | By Lorea Zabaleta | Photo by Alex Slomin
At 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7, the CC Men’s Rugby team finished their first home game of the season with a final score of 34-12, riding a cacophony of emotions. For the first time in six years and five seasons, the team won a game of 15s; on Homecoming, no less.
“Every season, the goal is to win. But this season, it felt realer, you know, it wasn’t as abstract,” said club president JP Salazar ’23.
Sam Treat ‘24, recruitment director extraordinaire for the team and forward’s captain, said that this year there was a particular desire to make that win at Homecoming.
Not only was this past Friday the team’s first real game of the 15s season, later than usually, it was also the first one since the Rugby Club and greater CC community suddenly lost Hank Bedingfield this past spring.
Halfway through the Cutthroat’s game where they defeated Airforce B, before the men took the field, captain Delaney Kenyon announced, among other things, “Hank, if you’re listening, we love you so, so much and miss you every single day. This and every single game CC Rugby plays is all for you.”
For games and scrimmages this year, members of both the Cutthroat’s and Men’s teams have been writing Hank’s number, four, on their wrists to motivate themselves mid-game. Some added personal touches to this. Salazar kisses the four after each try, and Treat throws up the number with his fingers for everyone to see.
The consensus as fans, parents, alumni, and coaches watched CC Men’s Rugby play such an incredible game was that there were 16 men on that field.
CC scored the first try in the first half of the game but the matchup remained close for a while after that.
Coming into the second half, it felt like anyone’s game.
Up until the last minute, members of the team, Coach Sam Harrison, and the fans were not quite sure how the game would play out.
“I was on my toes the whole time. I lost my voice,” Harrison said.
The scores were neck and neck, but CC started steadily widening the gap after a regroup and tactics talk during half-time.
The team also faced a bit of a shake-up after starting scrumhalf Alex Reynolds ’25 was injured, and Salazar left his usual position as a forward and lock to take on the vacant role.
“I had been practicing a little bit,” he said. “Playing scrumhalf, that’s an important position because every single decision is like you’re the guy, you’re getting the ball and passing it out.”
The first few passes, he said, were “awful,” but they got better. He also said his style of playing scrumhalf was different, a little more “rushed” than Reynold’s. DU was “gassed,” he said, so rushing the game worked to CC’s advantage, allowing for more line breaks.
“We made some really solid adjustments in the second half,” said Backs’ Captain Luca Espinosa ‘23. “We noticed that when we kept the game flowing, and we didn’t get it stopped because of dumb penalties, we were just better than DU. We were better on the ball. We were better at passing, better on decision-making.
Towards the last twenty minutes, nearing an hour and a half of intense contact play, both teams were getting tired, but Espinosa said the CC team just “had that extra gear.”
As the clock wound down, even inundated with emotion and practically tasting that elusive win, some players didn’t see the victory as locked in yet.
Treat said he did not accept the win until after the last whistle blew.
“Regis last year I had that same feeling. I was like, ‘holy shit, we’re gonna win.’ Choked it away, right at the end,” he said. “So I was like, I can’t let myself fall into the trap and get comfortable, and I can’t let anyone else do it either.”
Coach Harrison felt similarly.
“I’ve seen the pattern too many times where we’re ahead and, you know, we make one critical mistake and we let the other team back in and [it] sort of felt like in the second half that moment was bound to happen because I’ve seen it so many times before and it just, it just went the other way,” he said.
When Jensen Rawlings ’25 scored his second try, Salazar immediately found Treat for a hug.
“The first person I found was Treat,” he said. “We both started sobbing, but, after that hug, I was like, there’s still like 15 minutes left we can still shit the bed.”
Rawlings then pulled off a hat trick before leaping into the crowd, followed by two more tries from Mason Foard ’25 and Ethan Gould ‘24, and then a field goal from Espinosa.
“I couldn’t believe I was able to do that two or three times. It felt amazing,” said Rawlings.
“We had the momentum,” said Espinosa. “That’s when everyone kind of started to break down I’d say in tears in tears of happiness and also just emotion. You know, I remember that I dropped to my knees at that point because I pretty much knew that the game was over. We just needed to see it out.”
In those moments following the official call of the game for CC, Treat said it was “pure jubilee.”
“Then the real emotion started like right after that moment, like we took a team photo, and then I started just bawling my eyes out,” he said, “it was like the payoff for everything and it was like that that itself was an emotional rush.”
The image on the field in those moments following the game’s conclusion was a mixture of high-intensity emotions. There was celebration, elation, and in equal parts feeling the physical absence of Hank. Many of the older Ruggers were also grateful and honored to have won while their recently graduated teammates could see.
“They were so happy and it made me feel so good because they put the jersey in the place for us to be able to do this,” said Treat.
“It just means so much to be able to go out there and win for [Hank],” said Rawlings. “We really felt like we were playing with 16 guys out there, felt like there was just a little extra that we were playing for.”
Ruggers were screaming in joy and crying in equal parts; some jumping up to touch the hands of fans and alumni, and others, like Salazar and Treat, taking a moment to lay or kneel on the field and process the moment.
“When you picture this moment, which you do over and over,” Treat said, “Hank was always there.”
This game was more than just a simple win for the team and community, and it showed in the turn-out and in the energy on and off the field throughout the weekend.
Salazar said he saw kids from his classes, from other teams, all flavors of CC student in the stands. Treat said he’s been approached by people who all said they were at the game, cheering rugby on despite a hockey game and the general chaos of Parent’s Weekend.
Salazar got texts from people saying that watching the game was the most fun they’ve had at CC and he didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the weekend.
“I feel like campus was happy rugby won. Both teams won, which is super important,” said Salazar.