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UVRFC Men Go D3 Fall 2018

Upper Valley Rugby Club is proud to announce that the Mountain Men will be playing in NERFU Division 3 in the fall 2018 season. Our schedule is available now, and we encourage you to visit a home game to support your local Mountain Men!

We are always recruiting and looking for sponsors.  To get involved with this great rugby movement in the Upper Valley, contact us via email at uppervalleyrugby@gmail.com.

2018 Spring Results

Kings of the Mountain: Upper Valley Rugby Club Wins New England Title (UVRFC in the Valley News)

This post originally appeared in the Valley News. You can find the full original article and many more accompanying images here. UVRFC sends a huge THANK YOU to the Valley News for spreading the news about our Ruggers!

After its inaugural New England Rugby Football Union season ended under less-than-ideal circumstances in 2016, the Upper Valley Rugby Club entered this year determined to make a statement to both itself and the league.

Did it ever.

Showcasing athleticism and commitment, the Mountain Men shredded through an 8-0 campaign in NERFU’s Division IV while outscoring opponents, 370-52. After it earned a bye following a 6-0 regular season, Upper Valley edged Boston Ironsides in the semifinals, 19-12, and beat rival Black River, 33-5, in the championship game at West Rutland’s Gawet Memorial Field on Oct. 28 to celebrate its first league title.

It was far more satisfying than they way things ended last year, when the Mountain Men were disqualified from the tournament because of a paperwork error that inadvertently led to an unregistered player seeing game time. Subsequently, the club was denied by NERFU administrators in a request to move up to D-III, the next step for Upper Valley to increase its reach.

“We played this year with a chip on our shoulder, no question,” said team captain Zac Conaway, who previously played for several teams while enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Drum, N.Y. “We wanted to show that we were better than what we felt we were made out to be last season. We expected to be in the championship game. We didn’t know for sure that we’d win it, but that was the goal from the start.”

For coach, player and administrator Brian Frampton, the success didn’t come as a surprise.

“To be honest, I thought we’d be right where we ended up,” he said. “With the amount of talent and experience that we have as a group, and the type of season we had last year, I knew we’d be better.”

Comprised of many who played collegiately or recreationally, the Mountain Men’s devotion to this season began last winter, when they staged indoor touch sessions at Lebanon Middle School. The practices kept players’ skills honed and helped spark interest for several newcomers.

With six beginners on the roster and a philosophy by coaches to focus on fundamentals, much of the Mountain Men’s practice time was devoted to essentials such body position, tackling and ball handling.

“There was a lot of training and preparation to build a skill set we knew we could take advantage of during the regular season, and everybody was all in on that approach,” said Conaway, a co-coach with Frampton. “We did some fun stuff, too, some lighter drills, but everyone knew we were building toward the season.”

Upper Valley’s progress was evident during a preseason game against Amoskeag, a Manchester-based Division II unit that had scored 160 points in a lopsided win over the Mountain Men in a 2016 exhibition. This year, Amoskeag won just 32-25, and Upper Valley also fared well against D-III Burlington, Mad River/Stowe and other seasoned teams over the spring and summer.

After a week one bye, Upper Valley won 57-3 at Rutland in its season opener and 69-12 the following week at Bennington. The Mountain Men’s on-field strategies were working to a T in the heat of September.

“A big part of rugby is maintaining possession and protecting the ball, and we were able execute a lot of set plays that allowed us to do that,” said Darius Long, a former Williams College player. “Guys like (first-year Mountain Man and former Colby College player) Jack Sears had great ideas for when to use set plays.

“On defense, we learned we were best when we ran up to the line together so there were no gaps.”

Success continued during a two-game homestand on the field behind the former Lebanon Junior High School, first on Sept. 30 with a 57-0 trouncing of Boston Ironsides. The following week, Upper Valley doubled up its closest geographic rival, Ludlow, Vt.-based Black River, in a physical 34-17 win.

The Mountain Men returned to the road in mid October to play in soggy conditions at Cape Cod, leaving Sandwich, Mass., with a mucky 73-3 win.

“The field was an unmowed cow pasture, and it had been raining for hours and hours before the game,” Long said. “It was a rough combination.”

Upper Valley received another bye when would-be regular season finale opponent Berkshire forfeited, and the Mountain Men’s top seeding meant they would sit out the quarterfinal round in West Rutland as well.

Overmatched in Lebanon a month prior, Boston Ironsides came out vigorously in the teams’ rematch in the semifinals, scoring first to give Upper Valley its only deficit of the year, 7-0.

“They were a different team than we’d seen earlier in the season, and we expected that,” Conaway said. “Everyone is much more seasoned by the tournament.”

Long felt the team may have come out a bit overhyped.

“We were pretty ramped up,” said Long. “We had beaten all of the remaining teams (after the quarterfinals), and I think we had a lot of nervous energy. Then going down (on the scoreboard) was another psychological hurdle.”

Long and Taylor Harned scored tries to help Upper Valley lead 14-12 at halftime, and the defense held steady in the second half to aid a 19-12 triumph.

Matched up with Black River in the final, the Mountain Men prevailed more convincingly than they had during the regular season. After a crash-ball try by Conaway early on, Tim Puzio sparked Upper Valley with a kick return for a score. In the second half, another Puzio try helped ice a 33-5 win and the team’s first crown.

“It’s significant, because we put a lot of hard work, commitment and heart into our team this year. I’m proud of the teamwork and effort we achieved this year,” Conaway said.

Upper Valley Rugby plans to once again request a move up to D-III for next season and, barring the unforeseen, should be granted the switch by NERFU this time around.

“Moving up will help us continue to grow our team, take on more challenging opponents and expand our presence as a new, up-and-coming team,” Conaway said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.

Fall 2017 Results

A Kick on the Floor: UV Rugby Club Takes Game Indoors (UVRFC in the Valley News)

This post originally appeared in the Valley News. You can find the full original article and many more accompanying images here. UVRFC sends a huge THANK YOU to the Valley News for spreading the news about our Ruggers!

Yes, there is such a thing as indoor touch rugby, and it looks like a blast.

The Upper Valley Mountain Men have been active during the winter months, staging informal pickup outings every other week in the Lebanon Middle School gymnasium.

After going 7-2 and finishing second to Monadnock last autumn during its inaugural New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) Division IV season, Upper Valley’s players are keeping the game fresh on their minds while using the outings as a recruiting tool. A fair number of newcomers have shown up for one or more of the untimed, unscored contests, introducing them to the fundamental rules and skills of the game, minus much of the physicality.

It’ll be a different story once the spring scrimmage season kicks off in mid-April, but for now, playing on a gym floor beats what the club was doing last winter.

“We were actually playing outside in the frozen snow behind (CCBA’s Witherell Center),” said Brian Frampton, a Lebanon resident who serves a number of administrative roles and plays for the Mountain Men. “I think this is a lot better for the winter, especially trying to get more people to come out. Paul Coats and the (Lebanon Department of Recreation and Parks) were very encouraging about it. They always like to see more adults get involved in community sports.”

The Mountain Men hope to attract high enough numbers to field men’s “A” and “B” teams as well as a women’s team, if not in time for informal spring play then by their second league season next fall.

More than 20 people, including five women, attended last Wednesday for 90 minutes of co-ed play. Three captains chose teams in one-by-one fashion.

The games were essentially a series of possessions. When one team scored, the other exited for the team in waiting. It was enough to give the experienced their competitive fix while allowing newcomers to keep gaining a feel.

Megan Chapman, a competitive rower, has been playing since the beginning of the indoor season.

“It’s been really cool, just learning the ropes and the basics of the game,” said Chapman, a member of the Upper Valley Rowing Club who sported a Tom Brady jersey on Wednesday. “I’d say I’ve been improving every week. Some of the rules are still a little confusing, but I’m getting there.”

For those who cringe at the notion of rugby on a gym floor, rest assured it’s fully two-hand touch. When a player is “tackled” by getting contacted by both hands of an opponent, he or she simply sets the ball down, just as someone tackled in an outdoor version of the game would be required to set the ball down for the opposition.

“Awe, man, you would have just got lit up if this was real life,” someone called from the sideline during one sequence.

Of course, not all plays developing indoors on a gym floor would necessarily transpire in the elements on grass. That’s not lost on Vince O’Shea, a Mountain Men board member.

“This favors a lot of quick running and speed,” he said. “There’s a lot more juking going on and breaking out for runs than you might see on grass.”

That’s fine by 23-year-old Taylor Harned, of Quechee, whose long strides and thrashing arms make him difficult to tackle — or touch.

“I call (my running style) flailing,” said Harned, who began playing rugby 5½ years ago for the club team at Eckerd College in Florida. “Indoor rugby is great for flailing around.”

Harned is one of many former college players, including 2013 Dartmouth graduate Quinn Connell, Worcester Polytechnic Institute alumnus Tyler Morin, former UMass player Emeric David and Darius Long, who played at Williams.

There was plenty of athleticism on display, such as Long’s zig-zagging rush to avoid numerous tackles, including a stab by Claremont resident Matt Kier at the goal line yielding just one hand of contact thanks to an elusive last-second torso maneuver by Long.

There was also some inadvertent contact, such as one collision between White River Junction’s Tim Puzio and Dartmouth assistant women’s coach Mike Cameron that sent Puzio to the floor.

“For those who want to, you can still go pretty hard,” Frampton said. “But it’s mostly for fun and to stay engaged with the game. Diving to score on a basketball court can be pretty rough on your elbows.”

Gavin Lee was excited just to be playing a version of rugby again. The University of Maine graduate played for one semester in Orono before stepping away for academic reasons. He recently moved to Sharon.

“I was psyched when I found out about this group,” said Lee, who joined for the first time last Wednesday. “I definitely plan to play for the outdoor season.”

Indoor play, which is free of charge, continues Feb. 22 from 8-9:30 p.m. and every other Wednesday night through March.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.

Men’s Fall 2016 Results

Date Details Results
9/3 Home vs Framingham Win 61-10
9/10 Home vs Rutland Win 65-0
9/17 Away @ Monadnock Loss 32-25
9/24 Away @ Boston Ironsides Win 34-25
10/1 Away at Black River Win 44-27
10/8 Home vs Cape Cod Win 28-0
10/15 Away @ Berkshire Loss 36-33
10/22 Home vs Bennington Win 56-10
10/29 Away @ Boston Rugby D4 Win 61- 24
11/5 D4 Tournament @ Bennington DNP

If You Scrum It… (UVRFC in the Valley News)

This post originally appeared in the Valley News. You can find the full original article and many more accompanying images here. UVRFC sends a huge THANK YOU to the Valley News for spreading the news about our Ruggers!

They came. They saw. They ran. They passed the ball and caught it. But not a one of the half-dozen gentlemen playing football on the field adjacent to the old Lebanon Junior High School early Wednesday evening had ever heard of Brian Frampton.

Another half-dozen gents tossed a rugby ball around at the other end of the property. “Try there,” one of the footballers suggested. “They’re the tough guys.”

Recounting of the introduction-that-wasn’t made Frampton smile. It also made him consider recruiting the footballers for his Upper Valley Rugby Club.

As it is, Frampton has made considerable inroads in that area. What started out as a handful of rugby enthusiasts horsing around in the snow behind the Witherell Recreation Center last January is now the Upper Valley Mountain Men, a squad less than two weeks away from formal league play in the New England Rugby Football Union.

Most years, Upper Valley rugby has been limited to a deep Dartmouth College connection or the occasional high school club squad. A harmonic convergence of Dartmouth’s rugby reputation, Olympic attention and enough warm bodies looking for a match are bringing curious eyes in his favorite sport’s direction. Those willing to put in the time and effort like what they see.

“In my experience, and I’ve played in D.C. and up here now, it’s tough to get guys out for more than just organized rear-end-grabbing in the spring and summer; in fall, the guys come out,” said Frampton, who describes his club role as “marketing-slash-match secretary … and I’m also listed as coach.”

“Our summer season has been fantastic,” Frampton noted. “We might be just organizing a club, but we got it going quickly, elected officers and got our recruiting strategy with Facebook and posters and getting the word of mouth out there. The last three or four weeks, it’s taken off. Plus, we have all of the Dartmouth graduates and residents from the hospital coming, people from other areas with talent but without a team to play for.”

Frampton and his Upper Valley Mountain Men spent Saturday engaged in a preseason scrimmage in Portland, Maine. It gets real on Sept. 3: a 1 p.m. match on the old LJHS pitch against the Framingham (Mass.) Exiles to open the NERFU Division IV season.

Frampton has a core of about 15-25 players who he expects will be regulars for the nine-match schedule, plus another two dozen or so from which he can also draw. His ultimate goal: enough athletes to form first and second squads, maybe even start a women’s team.

First things first.

“As altruistic as it sounds, I wanted a club to play on,” Mountain Men founder Grant Gordon, of Plainfield, said. “I feel rugby is the best sport in the world. It incorporates everything a good sport should be: agility, strength and camaraderie. You don’t see it anywhere else.

“I feel as if any effort I can do to help spread it in the States, where it’s deficient in popularity, is a noble undertaking.”

NERFU’s fall schedule features four divisions of teams engaged in 15-man rugby. Standard playing field. Standard two halves of 40 minutes, running time. Promotion and relegation as with international club soccer. And, of course, post-match schmoozing with the guys you just spent two hours trying to grind into the turf.

Independent rugby — the kind without a Dartmouth affiliation — has had an on-again, off-again existence in the Upper Valley. Gordon was once part of a youth club, the Upper Valley Berserkers — “I have the dubious honor of having named that team,” he admitted — that faded after its coach left the area. Kimball Union Academy and Kearsarge High have sponsored school teams. But adults have had fewer opportunities.

“When I came back to the area, I found myself with the time and ability to play again,” said Gordon, 30, an assistant manager at Lebanon’s Salt Hill Pub. “Since there wasn’t a team, I obviously assumed there was a demand for one.”

Turned out he was correct. With recruitment efforts that included posters, email blasts and meetings at West Lebanon’s Kilton Library, Gordon drummed up enough interest to start informal workouts and gain sponsorship help from his employer.

Furthermore, some of the gents drawn to the new club became interested enough to invest their time in organizing it.

“I just think it’s great for the community,” said first-time rugger Alex Corindia, 27, of Lebanon, whose athletic background includes football experience at Hanover High a few years ago. “I think rugby a strong sport not only because of the intense competitive nature and just the sheer will and athleticism it requires, but also for the culture around it. It’s got a strong culture that brings a team closer together, brings a community together, and we’ve got the opportunity here to make a club that could be the envy of New Hampshire.”

Recruiting via poster also had an unexpected benefit: a veteran coach’s volunteer assistance. The collegiate women’s rugby season will take up Matt Cameron’s time soon enough, but he’s made many of the team’s workouts — he led Wednesday’s practice as well — to offer pointers.

“We’re all getting a taste of rugby that a lot of us have never seen before, and Dartmouth’s also involved in that,” said Cameron, the second-year assistant of the college’s varsity women’s rugby program. “Madison Hughes, the captain of the U.S. team (in Rio), is from here (a Dartmouth graduate). … It’s the fastest-growing sport in America, with something like a 20 percent increase in player registrations in the past 10 years.

“There’s a lot of exposure from the Olympics, the local connection, just more people playing rugby that ever before. What I told Grant when I first talked to him was of all the rural areas in the country where a club could be successful, this is the best possible place. There are unique factors that really gear it: There’s an established rugby culture here, and there is also a lot of people around here and a lot of athletes around here.”

If the game draws them, it’s the culture that keeps a lot of rugby players around.

One of the Mountain Men’s summer scrimmages came against Manchester’s Amoskeag Rugby Club, which has been around for more than 30 years and plays in NERFU’s second division, two above Upper Valley. “And we got obliterated,” Frampton reported. “We weren’t ready to play yet.”

But when it was all done, it was off to the pub for a pint and a chance to converse with more of rugby’s converted.

“We didn’t know a lot of other guys in the area, but it brings us all together,” said Frampton, who works as an advertising rep with the Valley News. “Auto mechanics and bartenders and guys with positions at the VA and other guys who are nerds doing strict research at Dartmouth, it brings all sorts of different classes and races and socio-economic (states) together. You forget some guy may be 20 or 62. You’re just friends. That’s a cool thing that you don’t expect in most other American sports.”

Little things remain to be done before the Upper Valley Rugby Club’s first competitive season commences. The old LJHS field won’t be painted until sometime this week. The club has yet to acquire — or build — goalposts, which will also need padding. The 15 hard-core players represent a minimum roster; the Mountain Men will need a few more players to be available when the inevitable injuries or schedule conflicts arise.

Like Amoskeag, Frampton can see a day — if the club continues to take off — where it can support men’s, women’s, youth and old boys squads. The organizational infrastructure is there. The NERFU credibility is there.

But first things first.

“I’m obviously getting older, and wear and tear takes a little bit different toll on me than it does a lot of the younger guys,” said Brooks Robey, of Hanover, a member of the faculty at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine who — at 57 — represents the Mountain Men’s most experienced participant. “As much as I can (play), I do; I really enjoy it. The game has been very good to me over the years, both in terms of discipline, fitness, friendships, a variety of different opportunities.

“These guys?” Robey added, looking at his fellow tough guys during Wednesday’s practice. “They’re totally different. They’re going to be in and out every weekend.”

Author Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.