In only their fifth season, the Rigby Royals rugby team has won back-to-back Division 2 State Championships beating the Renegades out of Boise 29-17 May 11 in Mountain Home.
Head Coach Chet Blasucci said the team defeated Bingham United of Blackfoot in the first game of the playoffs 46-22 May 4, after finishing the regular season with a first place finish in the “white” division with a 5-3 record.
“The boys really played great this season,” he said.
After ending the 2018 season with the team’s first championship, Blasucci said they saw a large increase in registrations boosting the roster to 60 players and in turn forming a junior varsity team.
One thing that Blasucci said really set the team apart this year was the experience many of the players have under their belts.
“We had a few seniors with four years of experience and juniors with three years of experience,” he said.
The growth of rugby isn’t only seen in Rigby, but at the national level as well. After rugby was reintroduced into the Olympics in 2016, it has become arguably the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Blasucci said players on the team come from all backgrounds from those who compete in other sports to those who don’t have an athletic background. This year he said they had players who also play football, soccer and participate in track and field and wrestling.
“Initially we saw that it was a lot of football players wanting to play another sport, and this was an easy transition,” he said.
In the team’s inaugural season Blasucci said they finished fourth in state. The second season was more of a developing season in which the team had a rough year due to a lot of seniors graduating and upcoming new players. During the third season, the team nearly made it to the championship, coming up short in the semi-finals.
Now in their fifth season, Blasucci said they are starting to see players develop into solid rugby players, with a few of them starting to get college scholarships. Most recently senior Peyton Siepert, signed his letter of intent to play rugby at Lidenwood University-Belleville in Belleville Ill. May 14. Siepert received a $4,000 athletic scholarship and an $8,000 academic scholarship.
Despite the team losing 10 to 15 seniors this year, Blasucci expects to the team to be a force to be reckon with next year.
“We have a very strong junior class and probably the best freshman and sophomore class,” he said. “The talent is in place to win it again next year.”
As the sport continues to grow, Blasucci said he could see it eventually becoming a school sanctioned sport, but for now he enjoys it being a club sport because it allows athletes to play who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make to team if it were a school sanctioned sport.
“Personally, I like where it’s a club, it offers an opportunity for students outside of school,” he said. “It incorporates first time athletes and can pull everybody.”
Like most seasons, Blasucci said his expectations for his team are to create an experience to motivate players to become contributing members of society.
“It’s not only about wins and losses,” he said. “It’s also about motivating the boys to do something good.”
Rigby is one of 12 teams in Division 2, the others include: Eagle, Renegades RFC, Capital, Rocky Mountain White, Rocky Mountain Black, Meridian, Moutnain View, Middleton, Mano, Bingham United, Mountain Home and Magic Valley.