With the help of a coach from Rockville Centre, the Long Island Rugby Club heads into the top eight of the national championship tournament this weekend, and they expect to win it all.
After toppling the Boston Maccabi Rugby Club, 52-27. in Providence, Rhode Island on May 6 to secure the National Rugby North Atlantic Championship, LI Rugby advanced to the national quarterfinals. Not only is this the furthest the team has gone, but they are the only undefeated team in the tournament.
“We expect to go the whole way,” said Rockville Centre coach Derek McDonald, formerly from New Zealand. McDonald came to the village in 1995 and then joined the Rockville Centre Rugby Club in 1996.
The club was founded in 1992 and the members formerly referred to themselves as “the Rogues.” McDonald went on to coach the team in 1997, right before they merged with the Long Island Rugby Club in 1998 — because both squads, which were local rivals, decided it would be better to combine forces than compete against neighbors.
While currently the club, comprised of both Nassau and Suffolk County residents, is in the Division III of Met Union, they used to be in Division II, and before that, Division I. Since their inception, many who came to Long Island from other countries became members, like McDonald. Off the field, they participate in charity work such as fixing and painting shelters for single mothers, according to McDonald; on the field, they are dominating opponents.
“It’s a winning mindset we have now,” he said. “You get arrogant when you win, and it’s a good place to be in. We haven’t played anybody this season or last season that had any chance of beating us.”
Another first for the club is getting their game braodcasted, which will happen this Saturday when they play Fort Wayne Rugby Club of Indiana in Obetz, Ohio. The match will be live streamed on USA Rugby TV. Because of how unpopular the sport is in the states, he said, the broadcast is a big deal.
“We’re not finished yet,” McDonald concluded. “We’re going to go for number one.”