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


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.