High school girls’ rugby takes off in Vermont

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(Host) This weekend, the Essex High School girls rugby team heads to New Hampshire to defend their New England championship title. The sport is played at five high schools in Vermont, and it provides a new language for most fans, with words like “scrum,” “ruck,” and “maul.”

VPR’s Patti Daniels got close to the action in Essex this week to find out what all the excitement is about. She filed this audio montage:

(Coach, talking to players) “I want you guys to look sharp out there, I want you guys to have fun…”

(Player) “Rugby is a fast paced game and it is chaotic and you do keep moving and it’s quick; and you tackle, you get up you go again.”
(Player) “There are 15 people on the field at one time. The forwards are the muscles of the game and what they do, they try to push the other team back to game advantage in rucks, or scrums or mauls. The backs are the runners on the team, mostly. They do different plays – they try to advance the ball.”

(Player) “In rugby, you have to throw the ball backwards, which I think is unique to rugby – most other sports you can throw the ball forward.”
(Player) “I had no idea what rugby looked like, I had no idea what was involved and the first day when I got in there to practice and they were doing passes – all the veterans – and my mind was boggled, ‘What is this?!'”

(Player) “We have two people on the field – and that’s the captains – who communicate with the ref. And that’s really important because if anybody on the field has a question about anything at any point during the game, the ref is willing to listen. The ref is willing to explain the whole thing out.”
(Referee, during a game) “Let go of it!” Whistle blast. “Let me explain, that’s twice now. It’s not like in football … that’s a penalty for blocking.”

(Referee) “Advantage!” Whistle blast. “Knocked by Blue, we’ll have a scrum to Navy.”
(Player) “A scrum is when – it’s not a penalty but it’s when something goes wrong in the game. And there’s 8 people against 8 people, and they engage and the ball gets rolled into this tunnel and they fight over the ball.”
(Player) “It sort of looks like a table, because there’s the two legs, with the two teams and there’s a tunnel down the middle and it’s very flat across the top. It’s actually kind of amazing to think – 8 girls on each team so it’s this pack of 16 girls just pushing together – it’s fun to watch.”

(Player) “Rugby is a very physical sport and if you don’t trust the other people on your team it could turn into something dangerous. So especially the forwards, in the scrum the forwards have to trust that everyone in the scrum knows what they’re doing – as well as the people on the other team.”

(Referee, during game) “Let go of it! Let go of it Blue 2, roll away!” Whistle blast.
(Player) “If you’re on the ground and you try to grab at the ball, that’s illegal. Because you can’t play the ball while you’re on the ground, because when you’re on the ground you’re a dead player.”

(Player) “Rugby is the sport for everyone because no matter how big you are, what shape you are, who you are – which I think is awesome that our team is diverse and that rugby allows that.”
(Whistle blast, cheers from crowd.)

(Host) In this report we heard from players Katherine Budnik, Katie Bouffard, Sarah Gibson, and Leslie Carter; coach Amanda Walker and referee Christopher Davis.

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