Introducing the Local Rugby Club, Santa Monica Dolphins
Dark clouds swarm over Dodson Middle School's grass field, where Santa Monica’s rugby team, the Dolphins, played their fourth game of the season on Saturday, March 10 at 1:00 in the afternoon. They travel from Santa Monica all the way to Palos Verdes, California, to play -- an hour-long drive. The crowd mostly consists of family members coming to watch the game.
“We’ve been here for 45 years, we’re Santa Monica Rugby Club you know, that name represents the city, and we deserve to have a little more support from the city,” says head coach Riaz Fredericks.
Founded in 1972, The Dolphins are still struggling to get a footprint in the community. “We just don't get enough numbers I guess at the gate, people watching,” Fredericks says. The team has been kicked off of various fields, and due to not having their own field to play at, they have to travel as far as San Diego and San Francisco to play. “We got kicked off a field that we’ve been playing on for four to five years, and we got kicked off it because soccer has a better connection to the principal who decided we’re not gonna play here anymore,” says Fredericks and continued, “We are pretty much bootstrapping this sport in the U.S.”
The team has players coming in from all around the world to play. “I´ve come over from England just to play some rugby here," says Conor Clancy, a member of Santa Monica's rugby team.
Rugby is originally from England, but the sport has been around in the United States since 1874. Even though it has similarities to American football, they are two very different sports. Rugby is a continuous game that runs for two halves of 40 minutes each. “It’s a contact sport, it’s about the only real connection,” Fredericks says.
A game is set up with two teams, each consisting of 15 players -- eight forward players and seven backward.
To compete for the ball, the players tackle and run through their opponents to score in the opponent's in-goal, similar to the end zone in football. The ball can never be passed forward, only backward. For a score to count, the ball must touch the ground of the in-goal by the attacking team, known as the try, which is similar to a touchdown in football. They can then attempt a two-point conversion, with a player kicking the ball over the crossbar and between the goal posts, similar to a field goal in football.
Players are allowed to tackle their opponents anywhere below the shoulders, using their arms to get them to the ground. It is not allowed in rugby to use shoulders or tackling anywhere above them. In open play, the players on defense form a straight line across the field, while the opposite team passes the ball down, trying to find a gap in the defense. If the offense cannot find a gap, the player carrying the ball can run straight into the defense line to break them up, which is called a line break. Each game lasts for 80 minutes and the team with most points win.
Even with the sport growing rapidly, not many people know about Santa Monica’s own rugby team.
“I meet people every week that are Santa Monica locals, they have been in the community for their whole life and, they have never heard of the Santa Monica Rugby club. They don't even know we have a rugby club," Fredericks says.
Fredericks has been in e-mail contact with the Santa Monica mayor about getting their own field to practice on but has not yet received a response.
The Dolphins will play their next game this Saturday, March 17 at 3 p.m. in Old Mission Beach Athletic Club in San Diego, California.
“It's exciting you know, and to back that up, it's free. You can come and watch games for free and be entertained," Fredericks says.
EDIT: Martial Chaput, Vice President of the Rugby Club, refutes Coach Frederick's statement, explaining that the club was not kicked out of the field, but instead not allowed to practice after it rains due to the school's policy.