Rugby alumni take third at rugby tournament

A blend of youth and experience helped some Furman University rugby alumni compile a 4-1 record and finish third in a rugby 7s tournament July 24 in Hendersonville, N.C.

Sixteen teams competed in the one-day “Asheville Bele Chere” tournament, held during a sweltering day. Unlike traditional rugby, which is played with 15 players per team, sevens is composed of two, seven-member squads. The games are fast-paced.

The FROGs (Furman Rugby Olde Guys) included three members of the current Paladin team (Phillip Stewart ’12, McClain Byess ’11 and David Kaszycki ’12) and Furman alumni Blair Barton ’08, Michael Erickson ’09, Shaun VanRensburg ’10, Lane Hayes ’09, and Nick Kline ’07. Furman head coach John Roberts, who founded the program, and Tony Coggiola, former coach of the women’s rugby team, rounded out the squad. Roberts and Coggiola are 43 and 48 years-old respectively.

The Furman teams logged easy victories over Southern Pines and Knoxville before facing Appalachian State, last year’s runner up. The Paladins held a slim 7-5 halftime lead before the Mountaineers raced ahead for a 17-5 win.

The loss dropped the Paladins to the “Plate” Division. The squad posted convincing wins over the University of South Carolina and Charlotte to take home third-place honors while App. State defeated N.C. State to take first place.

“It was great to go 4-1, but the real fun is catching up with former players and introducing them to some guys on the team now,” said Roberts.

The Furman men’s rugby team is one of the top small college rugby programs in the nation. The Paladins have won three national championships (2003-05) and finished runner up twice (2007 and 2008).

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Top row (left to right) Lane Hayes, McClain Byess, Michael Erickson, Tony Coggiola, Nick Kline, Blair Barton, David Kaszycki. Bottom row Phillip Stewart, Coach John Roberts and Shaun Van Rensburg.