OBETZ, OH – In the shadows of Columbus, fireworks were going off on a rugby pitch, just around the corner from the state’s capitol. PRO Rugby Ohio provided them, lighting up the sky and scoreboard with 50 points, in dismantling an overwhelmed Sacramento squad, 50-17. The win was another big bounce-back win for Paule Barford & Co following a tough loss and, along with Denver’s huge win (see this) under Infinity Park’s lights on Friday night over hard-luck San Francisco, had fans of the fledgling pro setup’s California squads cursing the out-of-state rivals.
For a team whose pack was considered too small to compete in the Pro Rugby competition – like yours truly – Ohio just keeps proving that some of us aren’t as smart as we think we are – like his “expert.” In fact, if not for two gut-wrenching losses, the Obetz boys would be right with their Denver counterparts in the Perfect Department. Indeed, one could make the claim that the ability of this team to get off the canvas and pummel their next opponent following a loss will only make them stronger when it counts. And that quality, that handling of adversity, is a credit to Coach Paule Barford and his coaching staff.
When I asked Barford what the secret sauce behind his pack’s success was, he talked about their fitness, mobility and interchangeability:
“We have a solid front row and we’re basically playing 5 back-row players behind them. They are all fit, mobile and aggressive. And we have guys that can play different positions and not miss a beat.” Today we had [Demecus] Beach play lock then go to prop and [Jamie] Mackintosh go from lock to prop.”
When I asked them if there was one player that quarterbacks the forwards, he said there wasn’t.
“All of them are capable and know what they are doing. And the whole squad is like that. We get 24-25 players at training, which gives us depth. In this one we had three scrumhalves in the backline because of injury, and we didn’t miss a beat.”
As for the aforementioned bounce-back ability, the even-keel Barford said,
“It’s the culture of the team. We watch some film, correct the mistakes and move on. We don’t dwell on it. We go 100% for 80 minutes…” Then after a small laugh he added, “And we now know that it takes 81 minutes or more sometimes.”
Indeed, they didn’t need more than 80 minutes to take down Sacramento, who has now lost 4 in a row, despite getting on the board first with a Mirco Bergamasco penalty kick. After that, strong performances by the RWU Man of the Match, Matt Hughston, Spike Davis and the previously mentioned forwards ensured that next week’s match-up versus winless San Francisco may keep those California fans cursing/quaking.
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