Roughing it on the rugby field | October 27, 2006 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - October 27, 2006

Roughing it on the rugby field

Locals bring tough sport to Pleasanton

by Rebecca Guyon

There's no denying it--rugby's a rough sport. While, in many ways it is similar to American football with offensive players running across a field to score goals and defensive players making tackles, the main difference is rugby players don't wear helmets, pads or any protection at all. But that doesn't stop a dedicated group of about 16 Pleasanton men from going out to Sports Park for regular rugby games. If anything, it motivates them further.

"My first game was great--I walked away with 12 stitches," said rugby player Ken Burnthorn without a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "I was hooked at that point."

Burnthorn had never played rugby before joining the pick-up games, which were started last year by Pleasanton resident Kevin Miller. Miller played rugby in college and missed playing the game, so he got a group together and now they regularly play Thursday evenings during the spring and summer months and every other Sunday morning during the winter.

"I like it because it's physical, but it's also non-stop," Miller said. "It's a true combination of hockey, basketball, wrestling and soccer with counter attacks and strategic play."

Rugby teams are usually made up of either 13 or 15 players that run across the field with an oval ball in an attempt to touch the ball on the other team's side, scoring a goal. A goal can also be made by kicking the ball over two upright goal posts. And, of course, the other team can stop goals by tackling opposing players.

The Pleasanton games attract a wide variety of players, ages 17-50, novice and experienced. In an effort to keep the games fair, the players will divide into two teams making sure there is an even distribution of skill, speed and size, Miller said. Because the men really just meet for pick-up games, they don't practice outside of their regular meetings, but Miller said most leagues will practice twice a week with games on the weekends. In fact, Miller is hoping that someone will be inspired to make the pick-up games a more formalized league in the future, although he admits he doesn't have the time to do it right now.

One player who is used to organizing, but perhaps also too busy to take up this project, is Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho who joins in on the pick-up games. Fialho started playing rugby two years ago.

"We have all skill levels from people who are new to the game to people who have played professionally overseas and on the East Coast," Fialho said. "It's a great sport and a great release of energy."

Burnthorn has enjoyed this past year of rugby so much that he decided to try out for some competitive teams in the Bay Area. Since he works in San Jose, he's played a few games with the San Jose Seahawks in their pre-season and is planning on trying out to play with the Diablo Gaels in Walnut Creek.

"I just really love the game," Burnthorn said. "The camaraderie is like no other sport. It's really a team. American football is going in the way of every player for themselves, but rugby is no way like that."

Miller echoed this sentiment, saying his favorite part of the weekly pick-up games is the social aspect.

"We usually go to a local brewery after games with everyone's families," Miller said. "It's a family event."


Posted by Matt, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Glad to hear rugby is goin on in Pleasanton. I've never played before and would like to get in contact with someone who plays with these guys. Anyone know how?

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Aug 23, 2008 at 4:27 pm

I've played rugby and it's a very rough sport. I think that you would enjoy ping pong. Leave rugby to the men folk!

Posted by Matt, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Well right now my personal hobby is muay thai and jujitsu. So a fun night out for me means getting puched in the face, kicked in the thigh, and choked out till I am coughing up blood(seriously) and then intense calitsthenics after I've bashed my body. I've tried ping pong, and it doesn't hurt very much, so pretty much a sissy could play it, plus it's another individual sport. I would very much like to get in contact with some non-sissys that play a team sport i.e. rugby players. In case you are wondering I didn't just read this article, I've been hunting down a rugby club, but am too old to join the vikings, someone please tell me how to get in contact with these guys.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Aug 25, 2008 at 10:21 am

If you want to play rugby, move to the UK. That's where I learned to play. Rugby is not about punching, drowning in your own blood or clapping your hands while you jump.

No...I don't think that the rug is for you...try tether ball...

Posted by Davey, a resident of Parkside
on Nov 23, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Rugby is the greatest sport ever created. I can't wait to hopefully play with these guys!