WMA Rugby quickly grows to elite team
Reloading, as opposed to rebuilding, is a sign of a good program.
The Wilbraham & Monson Academy Rugby team, in a short period of time, is a program that reloads.
Despite graduating a dozen players from the 2011 league championship team, the Titans bounced right back and had another excellent season under coaches Tim Harrington and Wally Swanson.
“This season was more challenging than the previous two because we lost the majority of our players with knowledge and ability,” Max Rankin '12 said. “This year we came back with five guys who knew the game. We kind of started back at year one, but when we got to mid-season we played like we knew the game.”
WMA finished 6-3 overall and went 4-1 in the Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization. In just three seasons, not only has the rugby program become one of the top teams on campus, but also one of the premiere rugby programs in the region.
“I couldn't be more pleased,” Coach Harrington said. “If I had had a crystal ball three years ago . . . just getting it off the ground and having rugby be a part of the school would have been wonderful. Who we would play, how we would put a schedule together, how much travel we would have to do were all question marks. What's happened is rugby around us is growing at the same time, so our timing has been propitious.
“And the character of the program is only something I could have hoped for. The kids we get on the team are a great cross section of the kids we get here at school, and they connect on the rugby field. As a culture, rugby fits WMA to a tee, and I think that's what I'm most proud of.”
Injuries caught up to WMA late in the season, but the Titans capped 2012 by beating Springfield RC to claim the Maxwell Cup for the third time in as many seasons.
“That game has not been competitive the first two years, and it was great to see a competitive match that went right down to the wire,” Harrington said.
Max made sure the wire fell on the side of the Titans, scoring the clinching try in the final moments to give WMA a 26-12 victory in a physical game.
“That was one of our toughest games because they scored on us in the first two minutes, but we were able to come back and it was awesome to end the season with the win,” Max said. “And scoring the last try was a culmination of my three years – all the time I put into the sport.
“When the game ended I was thrilled because that was the last thing I did on the rugby field.”