National Sevens Champions 2021

National Sevens Champions 2021

It’s great to be able to say that our Chicago Lions are USA 7s National Champions!

What a journey it has been since the last Nationals in 2019 in KC and the LA 7s in 2020 right as the pandemic started. You could feel something special brewing. Coach Matt Wagner took the reins from Coach Dave Clancy in 2020 and built on what was accomplished in 2019. I have been fortunate to be around this team over the last several years to see the hard work, dedication and a level of organization not matched by many clubs in the country. The posts that Coach Matt Wagner and Captain Michael Ziegler made on Facebook say it all, so you do not need to hear from me. They gave me permission to use them in this newsletter as they truly represent what a Chicago Lions player is all about.

Rugby Sevens has evolved over the years since we went to our first 7s Nationals in 1990. Rich Hughes led the team after I retired and took the squad to the Nationals in 1999. We won our first National Championship in 2007 under the leadership of Aaron Mannheimer and the sustained success we have had over the last fourteen years. We are recognized as one of the premier sevens programs for men and women.

Patrick O’Reilly has been on this journey for a long time, and he does more behind the scenes for 7s than anyone. His passion for the players and 7s is unmatched. Patrick told me that the heart this team showed in Seattle was incredible and our players were physically beaten up yet found the will to get it done. Athletico ran out of tape and our trainer, Jessica Blum was amazing. A special thanks to Athletico as we could not have done it without you.

While we celebrate the Men’s Championship, we must recognize our women who worked just as hard. We celebrate our women’s 7s team for finishing 10th in the country and have had sustained success over the last several years under the leadership of Coach Jeremy Nash and the addition this year of Colin Doyle stepping in when needed.
Finally, congratulations to Will “Chevy” Chevalier (a second-generation Lion) for being MVP and named to the All-Tournament team along with Alex Dorrier and “Gonzo” Mendoza (Capped 7s player for Argentina). We had four players who came thru Rugby Illinois (Chevy, Willis Goodwin, Kai Carlberg and Tom Kacor) and four players from Indiana University (two former students, Dorrier and Hidalgo, and two current students in Chevy and Noah Brown).

We will schedule a celebration soon as many players are playing this weekend in the Rugby Town 7s and also some heading back to college.

Thank you to all our supporters and donors who made it financially possible to bring two teams to Seattle.

~ Jeff Simon, President

Watch the Final on YouTube

Coach Matt Wagner’s unedited Facebook post

How lucky am I?

I sit here at home in Chicago, THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD, and I’m reflecting on the past weekend in Seattle and the past 4 months of my life. And I’m just so happy. I keep laughing to myself (& sometimes tearing up) when I think about what we accomplished. WE DID IT! Chicago Lions Rugby are 7s Champions of the United States of America once again. I had to let myself come down to normal life a bit before I attempted to compose my thoughts. And I am probably not all the way back on the ground yet. And buddy that is fiiiiiiine by me. But I have to get some thoughts out into the world, and so many “thank you”s. Like, so many that there is no way I’ll hit everyone who deserves it so for that I am sorry. And I also need you to understand how this came together bcs there was so much more in it than one summer and 13 players. So here goes. & sorry if I ramble a bit. National Champions baby. Drink that in. Drink it in deep.

As the photos roll in, and as I read the posts from the players, and as I replay things in my head, I am just absolutely overcome with gratitude. Tiny Manuel taught me when I was 9 years old to “have an attitude of gratitude” and I try to live my life by that every single day. I am thankful for this club and for this opportunity. The experiences I have had here and the people I’ve met and built relationships with are truly the things that make life worth living. How lucky am I?

I showed up in Chicago in May of 2012 and went straight to my first 7s training. Immediately Eddie Bluemel’s leadership and attitude made an impact on me. I knew I made the right choice. I knew I was where I wanted to be. With a group of exceptional athletes and men. And coaching that group was Aaron Manheimer, a man I have learned so much from about rugby and life and attention to detail and focusing your time on the things that are important. And Patrick OReilly who does so much for this club and team that I can’t even began to elaborate on his impact. He is selfless. He is tremendous. He is my friend. How lucky am I?

And so the stage is set. My playing career was a blast. I only ever wanted to help bring another title back to Chi, and I came close but never got the job done. Over the course of seven years I met and trained and played with and learned from so many incredible people. Jeremy Nash, a man who was on the 2007 National Championship team, I got to learn from him. And he’s still my friend today. David Fee, man we got to do some cool things together – & it’s far from over. I got to learn from him. And he’s still my friend today. Dave Clancy, what a wild ride we’ve been on bro! You taught me a tremendous amount. And he’s still my friend today. And I learned SO MUCH from these dudes. How lucky am I?

I hung up the boots in 2018 when I turned 30. The body just couldn’t handle what is required to compete at this level any longer. Nothing lasts forever, and I felt and still feel at peace with that decision. I joined the coaching staff the following spring. See, I’d coached my alma mater, Purdue University Men’s Rugby 7s (BTFU) for a few years while I was a Lions player and just loved it. Loved getting to work with the boys and interpret things I’d been taught by the people above (and then some). It’s in my blood, my grandad was a coach. He always made it known to me how important it was to be a leader. To do the extras, to do the hard things. So all those factors combined, it was just a no-brainer.

So here I am, now the assistant coach for Chicago Lions Men’s & Women’s 7s programs. It’s 2019, and the men’s team in particular was in a fragile place. In 2018 we did not qualify for the National Championship Tournament for the first time in something like 13 years. Massive letdown. MASSIVE. Clancy knew the culture had to improve, and I knew that great leaders first have to be great followers. So I got my butt in line and we set to change the way things are done here on the near west side of the Chi.

We adopted the mantra “No egos, just amigos”. (And when I tell you that is the principal reason we won the title last weekend, ya better believe me.) We had a great group of guys who just wanted to train as hard as possible and right the ship. They were led by Andrew Guerra . Perhaps you’re thinking “Hey isn’t that the guy who was recently capped to the USA Eagles and who was named Major League Rugby Rookie of the Year?” Yeah, that guy. They were also led by Michael Ziegler, Johan ‘Joe’ Van Zyl, Lucas Thiem, Alex Dorrier, Thomas Kacor, & Jake Hidalgo. These guys did the work. They started turning it around. We regain the Midwest Rugby Union 7s title and make it to the quarters at the Natty. Got bounced by a tough AF Washington Athletic Club Team who went on to win the ‘ship. We finished 5th in the Nation. The Lion’s women finish 7th. Not a terrible year all things considered. Not a bad start. We are getting it back on track. How lucky am I?

Clancy then takes an incredible and well-earned position at UCLA later in 2019 and I am promoted to head coach. Now that was cool. I’ve held this program in such high regard for so long, it was hard to believe that now I was in charge. And here I was in this position to lead and do what I always wanted which was bring another championship home.

My first tournament was LA in 2020, right before Covid hit. We trained hard and we went out there and took 3rd. Only lost to a very good Japan SDS team. Spirits were very high in the group. Everyone was loving each other and the direction and the team culture and we were primed for a title run in 2020. We all know what happened to that season.

But this core group stayed so focused and kept up their training. Zig trained SIX DAYS A WEEK over quarantine. He never let up. Aaron Cummings lived in the gym. All the guys were just so hungry. They kept working and working.

Fast forward to spring 2021 when we’re hoping we can play a 7s season. I had been trying to assemble the team that I thought would get the job done. Mathew DeGutes and Luke Thiem jump on board to help with coaching. Colin Doyle, the man you can always count on, he was in. We added some fantastic pieces to the player puzzle. Noah Brown finally came in. That man played every single minute of the tournament in Seattle by the way. Every single minute! Gonzalo Mendoza joined us from Salta, Argentina – how huge that addition turned out to be! CJ Artuso relocated from NYC to Chi after going to Nationals with Old Blue the prior two years. His experience was invaluable. We returned Will Chevalier (MVP!… MVP!), Willis Goodwin, Zig, Dorrier, AC, TK, & Hidalgo joined us after his Houston Sabercats season ended. I received an email from a French kid at Lindenwood named Clarence Biénès; he got in the mix this summer and was HUGE for us in Seattle. The Terminator himself, Dan Coci said he was all in. And we got some new young guys in that I didn’t know much about in Kai Carlberg and Terran Meek. They were hungry. I love these guys!

There is a difference between interest and commitment, as my HS S&C coach Marc Anderson taught me. When you’re interested, you do something when it’s convenient. When you’re committed, you do it no matter what. These guys committed. All summer long they worked. And we would rack up wins and tournament trophies, and they didn’t care. They had their eye on the goal. They wanted to be the best. They wanted to be National Champions. Two weeks before the show and Coci goes down with a bad knee injury at the end of training. This man is my friend and I was gutted for him. But before we close training he gets up to get in the circle next to me and tells me he wants to say something. And he just tells the boys – boys, we deal with adversity. This is adversity and we deal with it and move on. Next man up must do his job and that is that. – What class. What a professional. My hat goes off to you Cose. You are a true legend and a true champion.
When the final week – week 14 – arrived, they could not wait to get out to the PNW. AC packed his bags on Monday of the tournament week. Monday! WE DIDN’T LEAVE UNTIL THURSDAY! That’s how hungry these guys were.

Friday morning I woke up in Seattle at about 7am and went for a walk. I walked along the river and crossed the little pedestrian bridge from our hotel to the stadium and just walked around by myself. I love early mornings outdoors and how quiet and still they are. I guess that’s an indicator I’m getting older, and that’s ok. And as I took a stroll and looked at the final stage being trimmed out and set up, I just felt very peaceful. I knew that we had done everything we could to be best prepared for the moment. And I knew how bad the guys wanted it. And how much they loved each other and wanted to work hard for one another. “No egos, just amigos”; that’s a powerful thing when you decide you’re gonna live by it. How lucky am I?

Zig led a phenomenal meeting after our jersey presentation Friday night. We talked about why we do this, what is the real bedrock reason we commit to this. Guys went around the room and many of us got emotional. It was a unique experience that none of us will forget. It was a bonding experience that made us love even more. He’s a great leader. The kind of guy you just hate playing against but absolutely love to have on your team. You’d follow him anywhere bcs you know when it all hits the fan, the big man’s got your back.

Day one we start vs a tough Austin team with a lot of familiar faces. This was probably the first time in my life I saw Jack Casey score a try and wasn’t thrilled. But we hang on and get the dub.

Second game v Oceanside, we go up 14-0, I’m thinking we’re gonna cruise. Some mental lapses from us and some great pace from them saw them charge back and lead by 11 points with one minute left. I looked at Chevy (the man would earn tourney MVP) and I said “We have to score twice in one minute. We can do this.” And he looked at me with the most laser beam focus on his eyes. He didn’t say a word. Just turned and ran to his spot. And we did it. Clarence scores the first try. And guess who scored the second try? Chev. Time is up and we’re down one, and CJ nails the kick to win. Cooler than a polar bear’s toenails. 2-0.

Game 3 I knew would be an incredible experience. We’re playing the hosts at the end of the day in front of a great crowd at their house. AND they’re the defending champs AND they knocked us out in the prior tournament. And we dug deep and got the dub. 3-0 day one, box checked and we are into the quarters.

Sunday morning game 4 v NAV who had some absolute guns. Very talented athletes with burning pace. Again we’re in a fight, and again the boys stay poised and score at the death to move on. Thrilling stuff. I couldn’t help but think of the line from Old Willy Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, “All the world’s a stage”. Well we were sure putting on a hell of a show.
Our semi is v STL, our familiar Midwest foe who impressed the hell outta me to make it to the national semifinal. We just kept our heads down and didn’t think about past games v them. Started well and hung on to advance to the final. THE FINAL. Stoke level is high.

Game 6, the last game of the tournament. We’ve got Westside Ronins, another Seattle team with passionate supporters and great players. I knew it was going to be such a fun experience to be a part of this game, especially to play in it. We drew up a game plan that was not complicated, but was going to take a lot of heart to be successful. And if you watched that game, you saw the heart on full display in defense. They just worked so hard for one another. They were unrelenting. If one guy got beat, his amigo was right there to make a cover tackle. We went up 12-0 and hung on to win 17-14. It was surreal. Like the man Jax says – it feels so good to accomplish a goal. I am so proud of these guys.

So we did it. And I am proud beyond words. I’m proud of them bcs they earned it. I am humbled to do the club proud. All the guys who didn’t make this 13 man roster, don’t think you weren’t there with us. Dan Coci and Joe van Zyl, don’t think you weren’t there with us! Our families and our friends and everyone who has come before, don’t for one second think you weren’t there with us. Because you were. That’s what it means to be a Lion.

Thank you to Jeff Simon and Allie Movrich for all the thankless admin work you do. Thank you to all my Lions coaches and teammates I’ve ever had. I cherish our experiences and relationships. Thank you to Jessica Blum! I’m not convinced you knew what you were getting yourself into when you came on board with us, but you were a tremendous trainer and a great part of the team. Tom Argy the greatest video man in the game! Love you man! You help so much!

Thank you to my rugby family, especially from Indy. Thank you to my mom Cyndi Parrett Wagner and my fam for the endless support. Thank you to the love of my life Kelly Allen for having my back and cheering us on always. I love you! All the parents and siblings and significant others – the whole Lions family. All the men and women that came before us. All the ones that will come after. Thank you. We do it for you. We do it so we can ALL be proud.

I was thinking today about how great of an experience this was and how I’ve had the chance to do so many cool things and meet so many cool people through this club (& it’s far from over). But I was reminded of a Bob Marley interview where the journalist asks him about his material wealth since gaining notoriety. Bob says:

“Possessions make you rich?… My richness is life, forever.”

~ WAGS
The Chicago Lions, 2021 USA Rugby 7s National Champions
“No egos, just amigos”

Captain Michael Ziegler’s unedited Facebook post

Sitting here at the airport and coming down from this high I cannot help but reflect on a few things:
Leading this group of young men has been the best experience of my rugby career. When Wags gave me the reigns of this team I’ll be honest I had no idea what approach to take, then just did it the only way I knew how. These men taught me more about myself then I could ever teach them. So many people came up to me and said this team is just a “bunch of kids”. I have played at every level in the USA and what they do not know is this is the hardest, most honest group of “kids” I’ve ever crossed the lines with. When I went down with a dislocated shoulder in the final, for some reason I had even more confidence they would get the job done. I’ve been speechless until now.

The amount of people who supported us from Chicago, around the USA and World is humbling. To everyone who donated, sent messages, watched etc. we cannot be more thankful.

Matt Wagner, Goose, Colin Doyle, Patrick OReilly, Jessica Blum, Tom Argy, Ethan Porter, Jeff Simon, Allie Movrich. These are just a few amongst the many people who allowed us to do what we loved this weekend. This support staff was the best ever – enough said.

For those who watched the anthems in the Final you would have noticed the black jersey laid out in front of me. That jersey was for all the past, present, and future Lions who will have worn that black jersey. We wanted to carry your hopes, dreams, and even burdens with us. For the kids in our neighborhood of North Lawndale who may not feel they have a way out, for the kids who need somewhere to go to feel empowered, for people moving to new cities across the country and want immediate friends for life, for the injured who couldn’t make the trip, for every one of the guys and girls back home who gave everything this summer and fell just short of selection, for the people who just don’t understand what this means to us, and for our families and friends…it was not about us, it was about you. We made a promise to you all not to get on this plane without this Cup.

Thank you.
~ ZIG

Midwest Champions 2019

Midwest Champions 2019

Women’s Division 1

This past weekend, finishing out their first ever season competing in D1, the Chicago Lions became the Midwest Champions by defeating the Metro Valkyries 29-24!

We couldn’t have asked for a better day, or a more focused group of players.  That focus would be tested as the Lions were penalized with a yellow card just 19 minutes into the match.  That yellow card would allow Metro to pressure the Lions, putting up 14 points to take a 14-7 lead.  However, the team regained their composure and turned the tide before halftime to lead 19-14.

The second half saw back and forth play as both teams demonstrated solid defensive posture.  Metro would tie the score at 19, but then the Lions took command gaining a 29-19 lead.  An unfortunate knock-on in the try zone took away a try that would have brought the team to a 34-19 lead and allowed Metro the opportunity to bring the score to a 29-24 level.  At the end, though, the Lions defense held firm into the final whistle.

Women playing

The Lions dominated lineouts, winning all 13 of ours and stealing 1 of 2 Metro lineouts.  As usual, Benny Hershik provided solid, accurate throws, with Aurora Macek establishing a dominant jump and our boosters a firm foundation. Scrums were evenly matched, as were tackles and rucks.  At the end of the day, it was continuity and phase play that allowed the Lions to move the ball to space at the corners and attack from touch-line to touch-line.  Scrumhalf Cara Thayer implemented an excellent attack plan throughout the course of the game, moving the ball into defensive weak points and imposing our game plan on the Valkyries.   Jillian Stariha earned Lion of the Match honors for her solid play at Inside Center – providing that continuity.  Jillian was also awarded the players’ Lightning Lion award.

Michelle “Corkey” Corkery (#5) would follow up her LOM performance vs. Detroit with another Star, along with Michelle Fogelsanger (#13) and Katie Lohaus (#14).

We would like to thank all our friends and family who came out to support the team this season and hope to see you all out in the Spring as we prepare for our run at the National D1 Championship!

~ Coach Bruce Snyder

Men’s Division 1

The Lions (7-1 and champions of the East Conference) took on Kansas City Blues (8-0 and winners of the West Conference) in the Midwest Championships on Saturday in Lemont. KC’s undefeated season was particularly impressive coming from the highly competitive West Conference which includes Palmer and Metropolis. KC bolstered their ranks with the additions of a number of current and former MLR players.

KC came out of the gate hot, diving on a smart grubber kick through to the try zone to score after 3 minutes. The Lions responded with a smart pass off a 5-meter scrum from scrumhalf Joe Van Zyl to winger Dan Coci to score in the corner. Hooker Kevin Lydon was next to score after sustained pressure on the KC line. Fullback Harry Deck slotted the conversion. KC responded after a missed tackle saw them break free and leave it tied 12-12 at the half.

The second half saw KC score first again on a penalty kick. It was all Lions from there on as the boys found another gear and played a smart territory game to sustain pressure in KC’s 22. A dominant lineout game helped the Lions get two more scores, one from prop Frikkie De Beer and second from a lineout interception by Lydon. Now up 24-15 with 15 minutes to play, the Lions defense was barbaric and their blitz defense shut down KC’s opportunities to get the ball to their danger men on the wings.

The Lions sealed the game when center Spencer Cameron slipped through off the fringe of a ruck to make the final 31-15. It was a fantastic result from fiercely played game between two closely matched teams. Man of the Match was captain and eightman Andy Rose, who carried phenomenally, with center Jake Hidalgo and Coci getting special mentions for their sustained defensive efforts and Kevin Lydon for his 2-try performance.

I would like to thank the fans, friends and alumni as always for their continued support but especially on this Saturday night as they were out in full force and voice. I know it lifted the guys to hear the cheers from the crowd and it gave them that feeling of a 16th man advantage, thank you all!

Next up, the Lions will play in the USA Rugby Elite Cup against the winner of the American Rugby Premiership. The ARP was a tightly contested contest amongst NYAC, Old Blue and Life, with Life winning on the final week, setting up a rematch of last season’s national semifinal, which saw Life beat the Lions in a close match.

The Lions will play Life on Saturday, November 23, at Life University outside Atlanta, time TBC.

~ Coach Dave Clancy

Sports Complex – J. Tyke Nollman Field

Sports Complex – J. Tyke Nollman Field

Field

Saturday, September 21st, 2019 was a historical day for the Chicago Lions as we revealed the second completed phase of the Lions for Hope Sports Complex, the J. Tyke Nollman Field. It was a day that Lions from all generations have been waiting for; finally, we have a home. The emotional reaction from alumni, fans, and rugby players was overwhelming.

Sign Nollman

Leading up to Saturday’s event, the Lions received numerous congratulatory emails from rugby players and clubs around the world who either came to Chicago on tour or played against the Lions on their home fields. Several mentioned Tyke and some mentioned that they still have the Lion statue in their clubhouse. The Lions’ reach is truly global and continues to grow each year!

Starting with the Rookie Rugby program and ending with the Men’s D2 side, rugby was played on the new field from 9am to 6pm. Over 500 people showed up throughout the day, with the biggest crowd in attendance between 12:30-4:00 pm.

This project would not have been possible without the support of the Lions’ generous donors. The Lions would like to recognize and thank the core volunteer group:

  • Pat Bolger
  • Kevin Drewyer
  • Paul O’Connor
  • John Duggan
  • Tony Rio
  • The First Fifteen, President’s XV, Captain’s XV that made the purchase of the land possible
  • All of the individuals who donated and volunteered their time over the past five years to make this dream a reality.

Sign First Fifteen

Sign President's Fifteen

We would also like to thank the current CLCA board and the past board members for serving the Lions. We also thank our partner, Chicago Hope Academy.

Chicago Hope Academy

A special thanks to the following for their generous support:

  • The Jay and Jane Nollman Charitable Foundation
  • The Mark and Mary Ann Kaufman Foundation
  • The Bruce and Marjorie Calvert Family Fund
  • Pat and Tracy Bolger

Sign Calvert

Sign Kaufman

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Lions Reach National Semi Finals

Lions Reach National Semi Finals

Quarter Final – Saturday

Rocky Gorge gameThe Chicago Lions headed to Pittsburgh on May 19th for the National quarter-final and semi-final having secured the Midwest title two weeks previous. The Lions first opponent was to be Rocky Gorge, a team from Baltimore who went unbeaten in their conference all season. The quarter-final was played on the Saturday as the last game of the day in a packed schedule which saw 20 men’s and women’s teams take to the two fields of the Pittsburgh Harlequins.

The Lions started with a team of Frikkie De Beer, Patrick Rappleye, Angus MacLellan, Mike Rasmussen, Joe Forgy, Thomas Kacor, Dave Whitney, Ethan Porter, Kevin Lydon, JP Eloff, Sondai Adjei, Luke Thiem, Dan Coci, Brian Rooney and Quinn Macali.

The Lions were first on the scoreboard with a penalty from JP Eloff which was then followed up by a try by Luke Thiem. Eloff hit the conversion to give the Lions a 10-0 lead early on. Rocky Gorge responded with a long range penalty from US National flyhalf Ben Cima before punching a try of their own to leave it 10-10 at the half in what was proving to be a tight encounter.

Rocky Gorge gameRocky Gorge came out of the blocks fastest in the second half with a try to leave it 17-10 but the Lions got going and were ruthless for the next 30 minutes, scoring 22 unanswered points through tries from Jon Serdar, Sondai Adjei and Frikkie De Beer to lead 32-17. The major blow coming from a desperate crossfield kick attempt by Rocky Gorge being plucked out of the air by Adjei and finishing in a try for the Lions by the support play of Captain Dan Coci. This allowed the Lions to empty the bench in an effort to save energy for the Sunday game. Rocky Gorge did have the last say with a consolation try in the final seconds but that brought an end to play and a fantastic win for the Lions 32-22 on the day and on to the National semi-final.

The Lions did not stick around long after the win as they darted straight to the cars and onwards to the AHN Sports Performance Center, a newly built state of the art sports facility which is used by the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as other professional teams in the area. The players participated in 2 hours of recovery protocols ranging from massage to H-Wave stimulation and cryotherapy, the latter sorted the men from the boys as they were exposed to temperatures of around -200 degrees.

Semi-Final – Sunday

NYAC gameSunday saw another game for the Lions against New York Athletic Club (who had taken down last year’s National Champions, Mystic River on Saturday). The Lions were up early again for a repeat of the match day routine which sees them go through a pool activation session including hand-eye coordination drills, mobility work, and active recovery. This is followed by breakfast as a team and then opposition preparation which sees the players go through video analysis of their opponents. Next up is a walk through in the car park where they spend a short time walking through set-piece moves before breaking for lunch and strapping.

The team was announced with the return of Andrew Rose from injury and Robert Stortz. The starting team was: Frikkie De Beer, Pat Rappleye, Angus MacLellan, Jon Serdar, Joe Forgy, Thomas Kacor, Dave Whitney, Andrew Rose, Kevin Lydon, JP Eloff, Sondai Adjei, Luke Thiem, Dan Coci, Brian Rooney, and Robert Stortz.

NYAC gameThe Lions departed for the field with rain and storms being predicted. The weather predictions did not disappoint with the skies opening up mid-way through the team warm-up to provide some very wet conditions for the game ahead.

The Lions took the field in heavy rain against a team littered with US National players and an extremely big pack. ‘We were expecting a forwards game from them and the conditions played right into their favor’ said coach Dave Clancy.

The game started slow with both teams struggling in the conditions and trying to kick territory when possible. NYAC then opened the scoring after some good pressure and a lengthy period of Lions defense. They backed this up with two long range penalties to lead 13-0 at the half. The Lions were disappointed to have left a try out there with the referee judging the pass to the man overlap to be forward in what would have been a walk-in try.

NYAC were first to score in the second half with a converted try giving them a 20-0 lead. Next, the Lions responded through a Brian Rooney try to leave it 20-5 with the Lions growing into the game and starting to have some possession in key areas. The Lions were then held up for what could have been a try but it wasn’t to be and NYAC cleared their lines.

NYAC gameThe Lions threw everything they had at them and emptied the bench in an effort to get some fresh legs and energy on the field but it wasn’t enough against an excellent NYAC side who played the conditions perfectly. Their talented flyhalf, Chris Mattina, and very strong fullback put on a superb kicking game. NYAC scored again at the death as a bonus to leave the final score 5-27, a win that sent them to the National final against the now-professional side of the Austin Huns who defeated Belmont Shore in the other semi-final.

It draws a close to the season for the Lions team who have come a long way from a 3 game losing streak in the Fall to where they ended up. The team has gone from the bare squad numbers for a first side to having two full sides.

The Lions have laid a solid foundation for future success and have in the words of many old boys, restored the roar.

Lions Help the Sport From the Ground up

Lions Help the Sport From the Ground up

Children and High Schoolers in Illinois are beginning to learn to play the game of rugby from an early age thanks to the efforts of many Chicago Lions. These Chicago Lions that we would like to recognize are:

  • Arlington Stallions Rugby Club – Paul Bergman and Fernando Egea
  • Brother Rice High School – David Fee
  • Chicago Wapiti Rugby Club – Roy Hays and Ray Karenas
  • Chicago Hope Academy – Luke Brindle
  • DeKalb Demons Rugby Club – Chuck Pfau
  • Deerpath Braves Rugby Club – Tom Gaye
  • Gary Comer College Prep – Matt Priest
  • Metamora All Reds Rugby Club – John Huschen
  • Naperville Crusaders Rugby Club – John Chevalier, Elliot Hershik
  • Naperville Warriors Rugby Club – Doug Andrews and Steve Taft
  • New Trier High School Rugby Club – Roger Castino and Phillip “Thabu” Eloff
  • St. Ignatius Rugby Club – Tank O’Brien and Marty Perry
  • West Suburban Bulls Rugby Club – Larry Zeno and Paul Vercoe

The Illinois Youth Rugby Association (iYRA) is the governing body which Tyke Nollman, Ray Dempsey, Rod Reeves, Des Jones, Lana Bergman and David Hall helped establish in 2007 with the aid of existing youth coaches. iYRA reports that the total number of children playing rugby in Illinois has expanded at the rate of 20% per annum for the last four years. iYRA is available to help anyone who is interested in starting a rugby program at a local school.

The Illinois Youth Rugby Association (iYRA) is sanctioned by the International Rugby Board (iRB) to develop youth rugby in the State of Illinois. You can apply for or renew your membership, which helps to maintain your standing with the iYRA.

The Illinois Youth Rugby Association is responsible for the organization of rugby competitions between high school and youth rugby clubs within the state, staging the annual State Rugby  Championship Finals, and also the administration of the Illinois All State rugby team— Tornados (boys) and Tornadoes (girls)—to play competitive rugby games against other All State teams and international youth rugby teams. The iYRA organizes and encourages participation of both girls and boys of all ages up to their late teen years to learn and play the sport of rugby. Rugby has a strong tradition worldwide that will benefit the youth of Illinois in their social lives, college days and in the business world through fellowship with other rugby players.

Children now have the opportunity to play non contact rugby starting at the age of six years old with the Waipati. Chicago Wapiti Rugby Football Club (CWRFC) is a 501 (c) 3 Not for Profit Illinois Corporation. Wapiti – Commonly referred to as Elk. Wapiti ranged widely throughout Illinois as far back as the Ice Age until the middle of the 19th century. Native Americans saw Wapiti as symbols of strength, agility, freedom, power, nobility, pace and equilibrium of energy. Wapiti have a unique type of warrior energy.

Our Mission is to create an enjoyable environment centered on the developmental aspects of rugby focusing on the finest qualities of the game – integrity, physical fitness, responsibility, skill development and sportsmanship – while having fun.

The Style of Play will be Rookie Rugby which is a seven-a-side game with no tackles, rucks, mauls, scrums, or lineouts. It will be played as a two-hand touch (between the waist and knee) game, and the format will allow teaching the ball handling, movement, tactics and strategy elements of the game. We already have more than 40 kids participating and the maximum we feel that can be reasonably managed is 96 in our inaugural season. Our target Age Group is 3rd thru 6th Grade Boys and Girls (Teams will be co-ed) for the initial season. After the initial season, it is our goal to develop the program an additional grade level each year. Registration is now open and will remain so for a few more weeks. Please visit the website at www.chicagowapitirfc.com for more information and for registration and sponsorship opportunities.

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