Temple's rugby squad looking for R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Temple team cocaptains Gareth Jones, a senior, (left) and James O'Brien, a sophomore, look forward to this weekend's tourney.
Temple team cocaptains Gareth Jones, a senior, (left) and James O'Brien, a sophomore, look forward to this weekend's tourney. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 04, 2011

The Temple men's rugby team is looking for some respect.

Critics don't seem to care that the Owls have an impressive 12-2 record in their first season as a Division I program. Nor do they seem to recall that the Owls advanced to the Sweet 16 at the national championship tournament.

"Nationally, people are questioning the selection of Temple," Owls coach John Sciotto said of participating in this weekend's 16-team USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championships. "We basically have little to no respect on the national stage.

"But I know for a fact that we are going to show people how we do here in Philly. Everybody is going to be pleasantly surprised. We are going to be in every game."

On Saturday, Temple will participate in the four-team Pool D play at PPL Park in Chester. The Owls' first match is against Arizona at 12:10 p.m. Then they will face Texas at 3:16, and end pool play against Oklahoma at 7:30.

The top two finishers in each of the four pools will advance to Sunday's single-elimination championship tournament. Each pool's bottom two finishers will compete in Sunday's single-elimination consolation tournament.

The event is called the sevens because teams will have only seven players on the field. Games will consist of two seven-minute halves. Regulation matches feature teams with 15 players on the field and 40-minute halves.

"Just from the energy, it's like overtime playoff hockey," Sciotto said. "It's speed, skill and determination. At any point, the game changes because there isn't a lot of time in between. A seven-minute half isn't a lot of time to mount a large comeback."

The Owls hope they won't have to mount any comebacks.

They're focused on starting strong in each match and advancing to the championship quarterfinals. And the players hope a strong showing will bring more rugby interest to the Philadelphia area.

"With [the tournament] being [near] Philadelphia, I've heard from people that they sold a lot of tickets," said Pat Grieder, a Temple senior prop and team captain. "I know personally, we've sold a lot of tickets to the student body here at Temple.

"And we are getting a lot of people who really don't know about rugby getting excited about it and coming out to support. Hopefully from there, they will be able to watch and gain an appreciation for the sport."

The Owls will play in honor of late teammate Josias Sterling, who drowned off Ocean City, N.J., in July 2009. He was 19.

"We will honor him in an event like this," Grieder said, "by holding his jersey out with his number [6] to symbolize him still being apart of things."


Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939, kpompey@phillynews.com or @pompeysgridlock on Twitter. Read his blog, "Owls Inq," at www.philly.com/owlsinq

 

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