Ruggers Vie for National Championship
Berkeley Looms as Team to Beat
"Berkeley players have bragged that they have already passed over the hard part of the road to the National Championships."--John Knauss, organizer of the National Rugby Championships which will take place this weekend in Dayton, Ohio.
Although the defending champion Bears are favored to repeat as titleholders. Knauss and others feel that the other three teams in the tourney--Harvard, Miami of Ohio, and Kansas State--"have an excellent shot at receiving the crown."
Berkeley coach Ned Anderson apparently disagrees with some of his players, saying that "the emotion and intensity of a particular team will determine if they can rise to the occasion and win in Dayton."
The majority of Crimson players echo captain Al Halliday, who said, "We know we won't be embarrassed," and added that "if we play up to our capabilities and the matches come down to aggressiveness and loose play. I can't see anyone beating us." Prop Keith Cooper expressed the same sentiments when he said, "The key to winning will be aggressiveness and doing some assassinating."
To capture the national crown, the ruggers must first defeat Miami of Ohio on Saturday and then overcome the winner of the other semifinal match between Berkeley and Kansas State.
Miami of Ohio club president Terry Jones says that his team's strongest asset is "a really excellent set of backs,"--with an experienced fly half and fullback anchoring the line. At an estimated 185 pounds per man, the Midwestern forwards are likely to be the smallest pack in the competition. Jones added that "the team has been able to make up for the lack of a tall jumper and average set play by hustling and playing in the loose well."
In assessing Miami of Ohio's kicking game, the team's adviser, Robert Graham, called their kicking game "consistent but not outstanding: our fullback never gets us into trouble but also does not boom the ball; and our kicker can hit very well from mid-range."
Jones added that the team's most prominent weakness was its lack of experience which has led to a lot of penalties. With the school only 50 minutes from Dayton, the Ohio side will have a significant home-field advantage.
Halliday sees the Crimson's biggest weakness as the small size of its pack, which weakens the ruggers' play in lineouts and scrums.
On the other hand, he says "The backline is unbeatable, plus we don't rely on one player but have six or seven different sparkplugs: on any given day, any given player will shine."
Berkeley, the only team with national tournament experience, returns to Dayton with two players from the American national side, outside center Tim O'Brien and number-8 Mark Deaton, and the MVP from last year's tourney, Englishman Mick Luckhurst who plays fullback and also kicks for the California football team.
The Bears' forwards, averaging about 210 pounds, will try to control the play while Luckhurst can be counted upon for 9-12 points per game, according to Coach Anderson.
If Harvard and Berkeley meet in the finals, as Knauss predicts, "the best collegiate backline will be pitted against the best frontline." With both clubs playing at their best, Halliday says that the "continuously improving play of second row Dave Sauve may determine the outcome."
Scrum-half Keith Oberg feels that Sauve's tournament ritual is equally important. Before Easterns, Sauve had his size-52 jacket stolen from a bar; that Sunday the team won jackets. His favorite mug broke before the Ivy League Championships; a few days later he had an engraved replacement. This week, he is asking readers to tear or steal his jersey so he can put on a gold Collegiate Championship shirt this Sunday.
The matches will be filmed by ESPN and shown on cable TV at a later date.
Steven J. Rosston '81 is a member of the Harvard Rugby Team and a Crimson editor. >