Coach's Letter  (Men's Rugby)

So the season kicked off in Richmond and the coach can’t lie standing on the sideline it felt like I was standing on the edge of the abyss staring into the darkness. Richmond had just come up from the 3rd division and a largely revamped VMI team hadn’t exactly had the greatest of weeks of practice. To say I had no idea what was going to happen comes pretty close as to how I was feeling. The game started with a roar and although we were dishing out some serious physicality Richmond were giving us as good as they got. Wave after wave we threw at them and wave after wave they repelled us. Dominating both possession and field position we just couldn’t get the ball into the try zone. With 20 minutes gone on the clock and nothing to show for our tremendous endeavour the coach started to get a little concerned. And then with one play the game took on a much different look. 

New find from the football team Mr. Wintz playing at outside center came up on his opposite number in a routine back line piece of defense and I swear cut his opponent in half with the most vicious tackle I have ever seen (and trust me I have seen a few at VMI). Mr. Wintz I swear hit this kid so hard in the chest my teeth were rattling on the sideline 50 meters away. The kid left the field with suspected damaged ribs and the fight appeared to drain out of the faces and the bodies of the opposition. Shorlty after that tackle from a lineout 15 m out Cadet Ralli (Ralldog as you so fondly know him) took the ball off the back of a maul and barreled his way over for a well earned try. Cadet KB not known for his precision goal kicking (wait for it) missed the conversion and VMI lead 5 to 0. Richmond immediately answered with a penalty (don’t look at me it wasn’t my idea to give them one in front of the posts) and now we lead 5 to 3. More attack from VMI and more defense from Richmond and finally at 40 minutes Billy Pugh took the ball from the back of the ruck and crashed his was over (he might have been playing scrumhalf this weekend but he hadn’t given up his No 8 crashing the ball up skills). 

The halftime came and VMI took a breather with the game very much in the balance. Or so I thought. Oh yea of little faith. 5 minutes into the second half Cadet Fisher, who was organizing the defense from inside center brilliantly, snatched up the ball from the back of a ruck, on the left, after we had run a great No. 5 to scoot around the blindside and run the ball in under the posts for a easy score. Even Winoker wouldn’t have missed from here so KB added the extra points and we lead 17 to 3. At 50 minutes it was once again Mr. Fisher (playing possibly the best game of his life) running the perfect No. 2 who torched the defense inside to waltz in untouched for another converted try (ohh look KB is getting the hang of this goal kicking gig) for VMI to lead 24 to 3. The game ended here as a contest as Richmond had nothing left to offer and their scrum was going backwards like it was on rails. 

Cadet Pugh added to his first score with another after snatching up the ball from a blown lineout and once again crashing his way over. KB sent the conversion between the post s and VMI lead 31 to 3 with about 15 minutes to go. We had done enough to win and the effort we had put in was now showing through with some fatigue on our part and the game kinda fizzled out here. Although we had some issues on offense staying focused when we became fatigued we operated some great moves in the backs and looked very sharp at times. I the other side of the ball this game was clearly the best defensive effort I have ever seen from VMI rugby and bodes well for going forward. Standout players were Cadets Ralli, Hornfeck (tackling machine) Black and Pugh and Cadets Fisher and Wintz in the backs. A great start for the A side for sure. 

So now to the B side and if the coach was a little unsure as to how the A side was going to perform it was anyone’s guess as to what the B side was capable of. Silly me the B side produces the same performance whether they have played together for 4 years or if they had just come out to practice that week. Total unadulterated aggression. Cadet Aulbach was the beneficiary of a dominant scrum and scored a hat trick from the back of it. His last one was stolen from the backs when I called a play and the Commandant overruled me and told him to just punch it in (it’s nice to be the boss). In between Cadet Miller punched one in and new player Cadet Rolls (a soccer player who clearly had too many anger issues to be playing that game) converted it. With the game not in doubt we gave a couple of Rats a chance to play and they didn’t disappoint. Cadet Harvey at outside center was creating all kinds of havoc and Cadet Trumps (you read that right the Commandants son) touched the ball once and once was all he needed as he smoked down the sideline and ran the ball around behind the posts to finish the scoring for the B side at 27 to 0. Great efforts were received from Cadets Cheatham, Clauff, and Aulbach in the forwards, and Cadets Vernon, Blake, McCarthy, Harvey, Skudin, and Trumps in the backs. 

Two games and two very good wins and with 0 people on the injury list it really was a great start to the season. What looked like a scary abyss to begin with, now looks like a very nice field stretching out before us with all kinds of possibilities. This week we travel to take on the reining State champions so a tougher challenge presents itself. Hopefully our friends and fans will come out to cheer on this new team to bigger and better things. 

Coach Howe