THE FINAL SCORE at Saturday's third annual Potomac Rugby Union Youth League tournament doesn't really matter. It's not important that the two participating Severna Park Green Hornet teams went into the tournament with records of 6-0 and 5-1 but didn't win.
The thing to remember is that this was a shining moment in the history of Severna Park youth rugby, the home club playing host to hundreds of visitors at Kinder Farm Park.
Ten teams from Maryland and Virginia showed up, about 300 players plus coaches, parents and friends. The sidelines, marked less by white chalk lines and more by bright splashes of colorful shade umbrellas and overstuffed picnic hampers, would have brought the most stiff-upper-lipped London polo player to his nostalgic knees.
What this proved once and for all is that the British import has a definite toehold in a region where kids weren't even playing rugby as recently as a decade ago. Nor, for that matter, were many adults.
"About 30 years ago, soccer, a less familiar sport at that time, was introduced," says rugby mom Michelle Studnicky. "It was wildly popular around the world, but it had to prove itself in this neck of the woods, and it did."
Now she sees the same thing happening with youth rugby.
In addition to Severna Park, there are two more clubs in the county, in Annapolis and Andover. The two Severna Park Hornets teams have 36 guys and four girls. Colleen Ferris and Christian Studnicky play on the 11-and-under squad, and their sisters Kelsey Ferris and Jessica Studnicky play on the 15-and under.
Adult rugby is one of those sports, like cricket matches or bass fishing, that you used to catch on television at 3 a.m. Maybe it's still there. But the game generates a spunky kind of loyalty among its players, the ones inclined to drive around with bumper stickers that tell the world, "Give blood, play rugby," or "Rugby players eat their kill."
Aficionados of the game say it's like a combination of American football and soccer, only more manly. (But don't tell that to the Ferris and Studnicky sisters.) Rugby players, after all, aren't inhibited by sissy things like helmets and pads.
While the slogans speak volumes about the adult sport, the youth version isn't so rough.
According to rugby mom Studnicky, "Rugby has a horrible reputation, but it's becoming more dignified. No longer do adult rugby clubs encourage big parties and dirty songs. But the game has not lost any of its athleticism."
Like its adult counterpart, youth rugby requires running, running, running. And, as it does with adults, it makes huge demands on a player's endurance. What the kids and parents especially like about the game is that it gives young athletes a way to stay in shape during June, July and August, keeping them fit for fall football or soccer.
The primary difference from the adult version is that youngsters play two-hand touch rather than knock-down, drag-out tackle. But, like the adults, kids are allowed no substitutions and no timeouts during a quarter.
The two-hand-touch restriction makes sense to the local director of the game.
"I think of rugby as a passing sport," says Paul Jacobs, commissioner of the Green Hornets' rugby union. He goes on to say that the kids' version is played with seven players on the field for each team instead of the 15 in the adult game, and the quarters are shorter. In both versions, there is one referee to keep track of the mayhem.
A rugby player in college and a soccer coach before his son took up the former, Jacobs says he enjoys coaching rugby. "I like to see the transition from the beginning of the year to how much they've learned by the end of the year," he says.
"When I started playing rugby, you had to wait until college; then it was until high school. Now we're trying to make a path for the younger players and keep them playing."
When the Severna Park rugby players reach the next level of play, by turning 15 or entering high school, they become eligible for the Severn River Rugby Club.
A bumper sticker spotted on a silver Volvo this week says it all: "Rugby ... because."
For information on the Hornets rugby teams, call Paul Jacobs at 410-647-2814; for the Severn River Rugby Club, call Steve Quiqq at 410-295-7020.
Woods center fund-raiser
It's easy to forget what a treasure we have in the Community Center at Woods. Without the generosity of Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, which seeks only to break even on the cost of running the community center, residents would be hunting for comfortable space in which to meet and paying large membership fees for indoor athletic pursuits.
On Sept. 9, there's an opportunity for the public to show its support, the center's first fall fund-raiser in the form of a humongous, if you will, rummage sale. Hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the parking lot (or inside in the event of rain).
Rent a space for $25 and bring your own table to sell for your profit. Or donate your rummage to the center.
"Make money for your club, youth group, neighborhood, yourself, whatever," says sale chairwoman Barbie Willis. "Remember, it's all for the community center."
Willis says rummage is most anything - furniture, small appliances, tools, linens, china, gardening equipment, electrical and electronic items, children's and baby gear. But not clothing or anything still breathing.
To sustain you while you sell or shop, there will be bagels, doughnuts and coffee in the morning, and hot dogs, cold drinks and baked goods in the afternoon.
For information, or to volunteer to help, call 410-544-0057.