Ducks disappoint hefty crowd
It was a big weekend for the Oregon club men’s rugby team. Between its game with the Oregon State Beavers, helping Food for Lane County with a food drive and trying to bolster attendance, the Ducks were busy on Saturday.
More than 100 spectators braved the soggy conditions to watch the Ducks take on the Beavers, and they helped out a good cause while they were at it, donating 400 pounds of food to Food for Lane County.
The club’s president, David Hoffenberg, said the rugby team’s canned food drive for Food for Lane County helped boost attendance, as the first 50 donors received free gear.
As for the actual game, Oregon struggled. Down 27-3 at half, the Ducks played much better in the final 40 minutes, notching two unanswered scores and dominating possession. Although the final line read 27-15 Oregon State, Hoffenberg was impressed by his team’s second wind.
“We hate losing to Oregon State, but if we were able to play the whole game like we did in the second half, we would have trounced them,”
Scores from junior Frank Tempest and senior Zach Hellmann highlighted the day on the soaked pitch, but fans appeared indifferent to the score. The real story was the club’s marketing success. Designating the Civil War as their “spirit game,” the talk amongst spectators was of the impressive turnout.
The first 50 fans to donate food received a free Oregon rugby T-shirt and a crew from energy drink manufacturer Monster furthered promotional efforts, dispensing free beverages under a tent. First-year marketing director Kellam Nelson is excited about the team’s direction on a promotional level.
“We got more people out to the game than we’ve ever had; we want to do more promotions in the future,” Nelson said.
The event produced 400 pounds of food for Food for Lane County, and virtually solidified rugby’s claim to the $100 prize for the club sport with the most spectator support at their spirit game. The crowd ranged from students and faculty to community members and their kids.
Hoffenberg acknowledged that rugby has a long way to go in the United States, but the sport’s popularity has ballooned over the last decade.
“Kids come out of high school after playing football, and more often now they transition to rugby,” Nelson said.
Many of the players who play club rugby never touched the egg-shaped ball before enrolling at Oregon. Other players were competitive in high school rugby, or even before that. Nevertheless, the team shows no fragmentation or favoritism. Nelson points out the positives of a loss to Oregon State, while already looking ahead to the team’s next matchup.
“We played our physical style and caught (the Beavers) on their heels in the second half,” he said.
Nelson knows the winless team has an even tougher task ahead of them. On Halloween, the club will take on No. 13 Central Washington from Riverfront Field in Eugene. Halfway through the fall season, Oregon hopes its grit and determination will pull it through.
But after outscoring Oregon State in the second half, then formally thanking more than 100 spectators, the Ducks hope to rebound after their second consecutive loss. Oregon has two weeks to gear up for its toughest test of the season, with the rough edges of Saturday’s loss serving as a template for the squad’s future success.
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