I’ve teamed up with one of my favorite companies, Serevi Rugby, to give all my readers the chance to win a limited edition, signed USA Eagles jersey! What better way to support our Eagles as they take on the All Blacks this weekend than with this gorgeous jersey? There’s a ton of ways you can enter to win! Good luck, all!
J & I headed out to beautiful San Diego last weekend to watch the national Mexico U19 rugby team take on University of San Diego. I became a fan of Mexico when I saw them play at the iRB 7’s at Petco Park many years back; they were considered the “underdogs” of the tournament and I will never forget how kind, gracious, and fun their fans were!
It was great to see Mexico’s young, fit, and quite quick squad tear it up on the field. It was even more of a treat to see our dear friend Andres (who J played for Black Thunder and the Mexico U19 national team years ago) dominate not only as scrum half, but as “El Capitan”.
Mexico’s back line excelled with quick feet, powerful runs, and crisp passes. Although their average size was smaller than USD’s, they used it to their advantage. Mexico scored within the opening minutes and went on to dominate San Diego with a point differential of 65 points at 74-19. To be fair, it must be noted that USD’s squad was made up of newcomers and freshmen; without a doubt, the score would be much closer if Mexico played USD’s starting squad. There were some wonderful spurts of brilliance from USD’s side, and I’m sure that with practice and some more game time under their belts, their rookies will become more confident and rugby-conscious.
I’m eager to see how both teams develop throughout their season and expect nothing but great things from them both. Here’s to a successful day of rugby (and the beach, too!).
Check out some of my favorite shots below; more snapshots from the game can be found here.
I’ve played rugby with hundreds of girls from all over the country in the past fifteen years. It’s been quite the opportunity to share the pitch with some of the best players in the nation, and quite possibly the world. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the pleasure of being exposed to players who have grown up playing the sport and athletes who happily transitioned from another, more well-known sport.
It comes as no surprise to me that none of the transitional athletes I’ve encountered have looked back after changing their courses of action. By giving athletes the opportunity to showcase their speed, stamina, and strength, rugby opens many doors for athletes looking for a fresh start in an emerging sport. Hannah Gauthreaux, 20, caught my attention years ago and has effortlessly continued to keep it.
I first met Hannah when she was in high school and I knew she was an athlete who spent a lot of time running track and playing soccer. As someone who loves watching rugby expand, I was pleasantly surprised when she joined the Fullerton Lady Lions Rugby team. Within a matter of days, I heard of Hannah’s raw athletic talent and how excited coaches were to throw her on the pitch. I was excited to see her play her first game and turn on the wheels.
A week before her debut on the pitch, Hannah’s mother passed away from cancer. My heart ached for her and I could only imagine the pain she was going through. When I found out that she decided not to sit her first game out, I felt an instant connection to her. Rugby has been my rock throughout my entire life, and it had just become Hannah’s, as well. Hannah helped her talented team win their first game and made quite an impact on the already powerful squad by scoring and making powerful runs. She went on to play every game since in her mother’s honor and now has special fan smiling down on her.
It was evident that Hannah had found her proper fit. Her mind was set on rugby during games and it was her escape from the problems of the outside world. Her seemingly effortless runs down the sideline, her well-positioned kicks, and solid rugby mentality of scanning the field and being ready for tackles, rucks, and mauls (along with her signature tie-dye headband) helped Hannah stick out on the field and helped her love for the game grow.
“My favorite thing about rugby is meeting people from all over the world. I love improving my game each time I’m out there,” says Hannah.
Not only is Hannah remarkably fast, she’s also able to intelligently maneuver her way around the field. She’s played everything from wing to fullback to outside center and it’s always a treat watching her plan her next move. Throughout it all, Hannah has remained humble and preferred to stay out of the spotlight. She is able to strike a fair balance of calm, collected, and competitive.
After graduating high school, Hannah was able to play another season with the Lady Lions due to their U-19 status. She went on to play many successful games throughout the years with her team and was chosen to be a part of the Southern California Griffins All Star Team, which played during summer and fall. During her second and last year with the Lady Lions, she was nominated as MVP at the California State Games, a high honor for a newcomer. She then gained the attention of Notre Dame College head coach, Mark Andrade.
“I scouted Hannah when I was on vacation in California. She is probably the hardest working, most determined player I have ever coached,” said Andrade, who hopes to have many more championships with Hannah.
She joined the Falcons in 2012 and has been a dominant force during Notre Dame College’s year round combination of 15’s and 7’s rugby the past two years. Not only has her speed helped her stand out, but at 5’3″,her hard hits have as well.
“For a small girl, Hannah has a lot of strength. She can tackle some of the biggest players out there,” Andrade added.
In January, she played for Carl Barth’s APEX team at the Las Vegas 7’s, where she was the only player to score against the Serevi Selects.
Notre Dame College went on to win the D2 7’s Nationals, where Hannah scored an immense amount of tries and continued to stand out on the team. She also played a major role in the success of the club at the ACRA tournament and was deemed with a high honor.
“My best experience in rugby was winning the ACRA 7’s with Notre Dame College I was also voted as the Most Valuable Player,” Hannah shared.
In June, she made the temporary move to New York, where she has been playing with the Old Blue Women’s Rugby Football Club; her contributions on the field helped the team dominate at tournaments such as the Saratoga 7’s and the Tri-State 7’s.
As rugby continues to grow more and more successful in the United States, so has Hannah. In fact, her Old Blues team will be traveling to Seattle to participate in nationals on August 7th.You can also support Hannah’s quest to nationals by donating to her Go Fund Me account. If you’d like to see Hannah in action, here’s a recent highlight reel of hers.
Hannah will join the Notre Dame College squad again this fall when school starts and already has her eye on winning more championships and upping their rankings. She plans to continue playing rugby at an international level when she’s doing finishing her education. She’d like to put her future Sports Management/Business degree to use by becoming an athletic director at a high school or college, while coaching rugby on the side.
Even with the hardships life has thrown her, Hannah continues to keep her legs moving both on the field and off. Her ability to stay humble, yet confident, is endearing, as is her sweet personality. By utilizing her speed, strength, and brains, this fierce and determined rugger has made it clear she’s in the rugby community with no plans of slowing down. You can try and stop her, but I’d suggest you get a head start.
We headed to the venue about half an hour before kick off to meet up with friends and teammates. I’ve grown up in such a tight-knit rugby community that it’s hard to go to a game without running into someone you know. Personally, I love it! It certainly gives a “family” feel to the sport. We become more than just spectators watching a game together because we can all experience it.
Last year’s game against Tonga in the same venue didn’t sell as well as expected, so I was pleased to see more tickets were sold for this match. Rugby is growing at such a fast pace, it’s incredible! I love sharing my passion and love for the sport and seeing a professional game is a great way for newbies to get their feet wet.
Many people were tailgating in the parking lot, some repping USA jerseys, others decked out in red, white, and blue, and some even in sumo outfits. Needless to say, it sure is a party at rugby games. The girls and I dressed as patriotically as we could and the boys wore jerseys.
USA was filled with a good mix of players I’ve seen throughout the years and new players. I’ve grown up watching Todd Clever and Chris Wyles (who captained the match) and am always impressed by their hard work ethic as a forward and back, respectively. USA players made some great hits and an early on interception set the stage for the match, certainly exciting the home crowd. The game was pretty back and forth, with strength being shown on USA’s wings, who had solid breakaways throughout the match.
Japan was able to capitalize on breakaways in the scrum, and in my opinion, there was too much hesitation in kicking. I’ve been taught that missed tackles lose games, but a golden rule that’s just as important is that poor kicks can cost you. For professional players who should be used to kicking under pressure and clearing the ball from their “red zone”, there was a little too much hesitation and delay. There was quite a bit of kicking from both sides.
The game was fairly close throughout the entirety of the game, and USA fans tried hard to pump the home team up with chants and yells. (Maybe a few fans were a bit drunk..? ;)). Things got quite exciting at the end. With just about ten minutes to go, the score was just 34-29, with Japan only a try away. USA gave away a penalty right in front of the posts, which was successfully kicked, giving Japan a lead of 37-24. While the crowd was hopeful that in ten minutes USA could score, convert, and make a penalty kick, unfortunately the cards didn’t get played that way.
I have a habit of sticking behind my camera during big events and missing out on the fun, so I didn’t snap many pictures. However, you can find some at the USA Rugby Facebook.
Overall, the game was much more successful than last year. Although the seats in the pictures are fully open, the sides we were sitting on were packed, which is great. One can only hope that with more of a marketing push, the stadium will be packed next year, for whichever team comes our way!