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Delaware Return Complete with Playoffs

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Delaware Return Complete with Playoffs

David Barpal photo.

Delaware rugby captain Chris Mattina looks at the DIAA playoff game ahead for the Blue Hens and he brings up a word you don’t often hear at this time - “cherish.”

“I really cherish this moment,” he told Goff Rugby Report. 

Delaware is one of 28 Men’s DI college team playing a major postseason game this weekend. Of those 24, four have in recent years dealt with major disciplinary action resulting in suspension. Others have had to face slightly less serious pressure from their school in the last ten years or so. All have come back, but non had to come back from as far as Delaware did. The Blue Hens rugby program was suspended in 2013 for five years after a part off campus got out of control and made the news - the party was not hosted or supported by the rugby team, but included a couple of rugby players, and the rugby team was blamed.

Five years was essentially a death sentence. Some kids transferred. All thought rugby was done at UD. But diligent work behind the scenes, and a little perspective in the school’s administration, changed the narrative. After two years, Delaware rugby was allowed to play again. The Blue Hens, hoping to join Rugby East and DIA next season, played close to a Rugby East schedule, and petitioned to be considered for a DIAA playoff team as an at-large independent. 

And that’s where we are now.

“USA Rugby supported us all the way,” said Mattina, who did more than anyone to get the rugby team back on the field. “We didn’t play rugby for two years. But we were able to come back, and USA Rugby was supportive in letting us try for a DIAA playoff spot. I’m just really proud of all the guys that we’re here.”

Here is playing at AIC Saturday in the DIAA Round of 16. During this winter/spring, Delaware has been bouncing between 15s and 7s, trying to get a look as a 7s championship team, as well. It’s been a strange back-and-forth between 15s and 7s, but Mattina said the team has handled it.

“We started it all not know what we’d be doing int he spring, but this way we have an option to play at a high level, which is all we’ve ever wanted,” said Mattina. “We tried to get high-level experience and competition in the fall, and we got that, and because of it we’ve gotten a lot better as a team. We then built towards the 7s tournament at the LVI in las Vegas, but since then we’ve been building our 15s and working toward this playoff. Everyone has been training really hard for it.”

Mattina remains a central part of the team on the field as well as off, but there have been other solid contributors. The centers Matt Ramirez and John McCurdy have shown excellent chemistry. Forwards captain Matt Hess has shown some nifty ball skills as a prop, but is, as expected, a physical and imposing presence up front. 

But it’s about teamwork for Delaware, it always has been - playing rugby or fighting to get back from suspension, it's about working as a team.


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