It's Rough, It's Tough, It's Rugby

English Team Blanks Westminster Squad

October 13, 1991|By Mike Nortrup | Mike Nortrup,Contributing sports writer

HAMPSTEAD — The North Carroll High gridiron Wednesday night showcased the sport that gave birth to American football.

There, before some 250 chilled spectators, England's Royal Air Force Wildenrath Stags, currently touring the United States, tangled with the Westminster-based Mason-Dixon Rugby Club.

The visitors won, 13-0.

That might be expected. After all, thegame was invented in England, and those folks have played it a lot longer than we have.

Stag team captain Chris Davis said rugby is aspopular in many parts of the United Kingdom as baseball is here, andyoungsters there start just as early.

Most area players, on the other hand, have played about six or seven years.

The 25-year-old Davis said he has played since he was a child.

You only had to watch for an instant to realize that this ancestor to American football was far down the evolutionary chain.

Each team tried to advance theball to the opponent's goal line by kicking or carrying it, sometimes around, but generally through or over opposing players who tried toknock down the ball carrier and grab the ball.

Those getting it over the goal through the horde of opposition tacklers scored a four-point try.

And nobody wore pads or helmets.

The ferocious hitting sent four or five players to the sidelines with injuries, though most returned later.

Mason-Dixon coach Mike Gallagher's felt he could use his team's superior size to muscle the ball down the field on the Stags and offset their advantage in speed, finesse and experience.

"We felt pretty good, because we've been playing against teams from England and Canada for three years," he said. "We weren't in awe."

His team though, spent most of the first half in goal-line stands.

Still, the visitors managed only a 3-0 lead on the strength of a40-yard drop kick field goal near intermission.

Mason-Dixon dominated the second half, even though the Stags scored the only points ontwo tries and a two-point conversion kick after the second score.

Mason-Dixon's biggest threat came early in the second half, when Bill Utermahlen lugged the ball to the 3-yard line before being tackled.

Then, the gritty British held off repeated plunges by Mason-Dixon, which tried to use sheer muscle to cross the goal line.

Then, the Stags suddenly broke free, carrying and kicking the the ball upfield in a lightning stroke.

Burly Nick Short dragged Mason-Dixon tacklers 20 yards over the goal, only to have a tackler lie between him and the ground, preventing him from touching the ball down for the try.

Short, though, subsequently bulled over, and a fleet back named Jaime Allayne later scored another try by falling on a loose ball past the Mason-Dixon goal line after a missed dropkick field goal.

Davis later said the more physical Mason-Dixon style kept his team fromusing its open field speed to advantage.

"They are used to American football and tackle a lot more ferociously than we're used to. We wanted to put on a bit of a spectacle, but their style kept us from doing it," he added.

But it didn't keep the R.A.F. team from partying with their opponents at a local pub in rugby's traditional post-game bash, where the aches, pains and occasional sharp words of battle were all washed away in gallons of beer.

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