Forge Men Excited for Fall 2019 Season

Pittsburgh Forge Men pause for a picture under the goal posts after defeating the Syracuse Chargers to open up league play on Saturday, August 25, 2018.

 

PITTSBURGH, PA – After a long summer off, the Forge Men were thrilled to get back at it in August in their preparations for the fall 2019 season. Coming off 2018 fall season which saw both sides earn playoff berths and a challenging spring campaign, the men were looking forward to growth both in numbers and competitiveness that would allow them to take the next step.

Both Midwest leagues that the Forge compete in experienced some change since last fall. In Division 2, Pittsburgh and Cleveland will no longer play cross-over matches against clubs from upstate New York. Rather, the entire Midwest territory is split into four: North, West, Central, and East. The eastern clubs, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, will play each other twice in a home and away series while playing crossover games with three sides from the Central, predominantly Chicago sides. Two clubs from each league will earn a spot in the playoffs, so the Forge will need to finish ahead of either Cleveland or Indianapolis to earn a playoff berth.

In Division 3, the league was split into Ohio and Pennsylvania (ARU) sub-divisions last season, each with four sides. This allowed home at home series within each club’s union/ state and cross-overs only occurred during the league playoffs. This season, Canton has merged with Akron to eliminate a team from the competition. With only seven sides, the league was consolidated into one league with each team playing one another. Rather than league playoffs, the side at the top of the table at the conclusion of league competition will enter directly into Midwest playoffs.

The D2 men will be challenged right away by traveling to the Midwest Champion Cleveland Crusaders in week one. Last season, the Forge lost to Cleveland in Ohio by a narrow margin of 31 – 29. About a month later, the Forge looked to exact revenge on the Crusaders at home but lost by an even less margin of 32 – 31. This season, with increased knowledge, better conditioning and some different faces, the Forge look to improve upon last year’s performances.

Forge forward Alex Gordon carries the ball against the Cleveland Crusaders. Photo Credit: Kiyomi Knox

 

The D3 men will also open their season on the road when they travel to Mt. Pleasant, PA to take on the Greensburg Maulers. Last season, the Forge swept the season series against the Maulers by an aggregate score of 153 – 24. This first match will be a chance for Coach Allan Murray to get a better look at several new players for the Forge include scrumhalf Francois Deniau and loose forwards Michael Rennie and Zach Seger (RMU), all of which may play a role on the club’s higher side as the season progresses.

The following week, the men will host their first home matches of the season. The D2 side will host Lincoln Park Rugby Club, an unfamiliar foe. Last season, Lincoln Park went 4 – 3 – 1 against western Division 2 sides. On the contrary, the D3 men will host a familiar foe, the South Pittsburgh Hooligans. Last season, the Forge also swept that season series by an aggregate score of 81 – 46. To close out the day, the new D4 developmental side will host a local collegiate side from Point Park University.

On September 21st, the third week of competition, the Forge Men will once again be on the road. The D2 side will travel to Indianapolis to exact revenge on the Impalas. This past spring, as part of the Midwest CR’s Thunderbird Cup, the Forge lost narrowly at home to the impressive Impalas. Indianapolis went 5 – 3 last season in the west and were also a playoff side. The D3 and D4 men will travel to western Cleveland to take on two Rover sides. Last season, in the league playoffs consolation game, the D3 men bested the Rovers by a score of 50 – 20. Both sides will be using D4 as developmental, and this will be the first of a home at home series between the sides in fall 2019.

The Forge will once again return home as September closes out. The D2 side will host the Chicago Blaze, another unfamiliar foe from the central league. Last season the Blaze went 2 – 5 – 1 in western D2 competition. The D3 men will host the Eastern League champions from last season, the Presque Isle Scallywags. Last year, the Forge split the series with the Scallywags. The two sides met in Erie last September with Presque Isle dealing the Forge a humbling loss by the score of 30 – 14. The Forge was able to exact revenge about a month later in Pittsburgh, dealing the Scallywags their only loss of the season by a score of 21 – 17. The club is still searching for a D4 opponent for this weekend.

Forge Center David Gregg attacks the heart of the Hooligan defense.

 

To start October, the Forge will enjoy a few weeks of home cooking. First, on October 5th, the Forge will host the Impalas in the return match of the home at home. With the D3 men off with a bye, the D4 men will enjoy their return match of the home at home series with the Cleveland Rovers. The following weekend will be Forge Day, the club’s annual homecoming celebration. Both the D2 and D3 men will host the Cleveland Crusaders. This will be the return game in the series against the D2 Crusaders while it will be the first time the D3 sides meet since the Crusaders controversially beat the Forge in the league playoffs last year by a score of 38 – 29. The club is currently looking to secure a D4 match that weekend.

The following weekend, both sides will finish up league play the same way it began… on the road. The D2 side will travel to southern Chicago to face the South Side Irish. The Irish were a 1 – 7 club last season in the western league and were bested by the Pittsburgh Rugby Club in their last season of existence in 2017. The D3 men will travel to Ohio to face Akron, who recently inherited the Canton Maddogs. In the spring, the Forge traveled to Akron and played the newly combined Ohio side, losing a back and forth match 51 – 24.

The following weekend will be Midwest Playoffs for the Division 2 side while D3 earns a bye prior to the playoffs. The D4 developmental men will host Penn State – Altoona in a friendly match at Phillip Murray Field. If both D2 and D3 can make it through October, they will play in the Midwest Conference Playoffs scheduled for November 2, 2019. Winners of that round will travel to Chicago, IL on November 9th for the Midwest Championships and the right to represent the Union in the USA Rugby National Playoffs in May.

FORGE MEN FALL 2019 SCHEDULE

Date Division 2 Division 3 Division 4/ Develop
September 7 @ Cle. Crusaders @ Greensburg
September 14 v. Lincoln Park v. South Pitt v. Point Park
September 21 @ Indy Impalas @ Cle. Rovers @ Cle. Rovers
September 28 v. Chicago Blaze v. Presque Isle TBD
October 5 v. Indy Impalas Bye v. Cle. Rovers
October 12* v. Cle. Crusaders v. Cle. Crusaders (D3) TBD
October 19 @ South Side Irish @ Akron
October 26 Midwest Playoffs Bye v. PSU – Altoona
November 2 Midwest Playoffs Midwest Playoffs
November 9 Midwest Championship Midwest Championship

*Denote 2019 Forge Day; games played at White Oak Park. All other games are played at Phillip Murray Field near the South Side.

Forge Women Open Season Against Philadelphia

Forge Women lineup for team photo after their defeat of Buffalo

 

PHILADELPHIA, PA – This Saturday, the Forge women begin their second competitive season with a scrimmage in Philadelphia. The women are slated to play against the D1 side of the Philadelphia Women’s Rugby Football Club (PWRFC) in what is sure to be a challenging, fast-paced, physical match.

Last fall, during the club’s inaugural season, the Forge women were able to maintain an almost entirely undefeated record. The team lost only to Buffalo Rugby in the second round of the East Gold playoffs.

PWRFC and the Forge have met before. This past spring, the Forge were victorious over the well-established PWRFC in another friendly match. This upcoming scrimmage will be a platform to work out future lineups, positions, and other logistical questions that have pegged the team in the off-season. The team has been fortunate to have many new faces at practice, and this Saturday will give the coaching staff an opportunity to truly gauge the depth of the team.

Morgan Haggerty, a member of the team’s leadership group, expressed her positive outlook on the upcoming match.

“We have a ton of experienced returning players and many promising new players. I am excited to see the potential unfold and it all starts with our first scrimmage this Saturday.”

Mackenzie Dirlam, another member of the team’s leadership group, expressed similar enthusiasm.

“I am just excited to play for and with the amazing group of women we have, and I cannot wait to see what the season holds for us!”

Captain Chelsey Mitchell shares a similar sentiment.

“The team as a whole has a determined mindset that I’m confident will boost the play on the field, friendships off the field, and steer us toward a winning season,” Chelsey stated.

Stay tuned for the results of the upcoming scrimmage. The Forge’s full schedule can be found below:

9/7: Forge @ Philadelphia (non-league)
9/14: Forge @ South Buffalo
9/21: Forge v. Cleveland Iron Maidens
9/28: Forge @ North Buffalo
10/12: Forge v. Buffalo WRFC (Forge Day)
10/19: Forge @ Akron

Forge Men Announce 3rd Side for Fall 2019

Flyhalf Tyree Massie, supported by his teammates, carries the ball against the Indianapolis Impalas this past spring. Photo Credit: Nicole Beswick

 

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club is pleased to announce the development of a third men’s side for the Fall 2019 season. This social/ developmental side will play three or four games, predominantly at home, alongside the club’s competitive Division 2 and Division 3 sides. 

The goal of the side is to allow players who are unable to regularly attend training sessions, participate in weekly league matches, and travel regionally for games to stay involved with the sport they love while assisting full-time club players who are developing their skills in an effort to make the club’s competitive top two sides. 

Men’s players interested in participating in matches this fall should complete the following tasks:

  1. Register to play part-time with the Forge and choose your Fall 2019 availability here.
  2. Pay Bronze (General) Membership Dues to the Club here.
  3. Register with USA Rugby for the Pittsburgh Forge here.*

*Please note that the annual CIPP cycle runs from August to July. If you are reading this announcement prior to August 20th, please wait until the CIPP cycle renews for 2019 – 2020.

Any questions regarding the club’s newest side should e-mailed the club at PGHForgeRugby@gmail.com

Club Member Spotlight: Derek Neubauer

Coach Derek Neubauer celebrating a cup win with a championship snack.

 

For the fourth spotlight in our Member Spotlight Monday series, we focus on a long-time club member Derek Neubauer. Derek, a ten-year member of the club, has been coaching the University of Pittsburgh Men for the past several years while remaining an active player for the Forge and a referee. We found a few minutes to catch up with him and ask about his experiences…

Q. Can you give us a brief introduction and tell us about your playing history and experiences with Pittsburgh Rugby?

A. I started playing rugby in Pittsburgh with the Highlanders right after college before I left for a job in New York City. Upon my return to the area in 2009, I began playing for the Pittsburgh Rugby Club until presently with the Forge.

Q. The transition from player to coach seems to be the natural progression for many as they continue their rugby careers. What motivated you to first make this jump?

A. I had graduated from Slippery Rock and was living only 5 miles from campus, when current players asked me to coach since I wasn’t willing to drive the hour plus to practice and play. I thought it was a good way for me to stay involved while not really being able to play.

Q. Many players can identify one specific person (whether that be a coach or an influential teammate) that had a significant impact on them. Who is that person for you and what lesson did they teach you?

A. For the first 5 years I played, we never had a coach so there were a lot of people that played in high school that were coached that I learned a lot playing with. One person in particular was Brian Beauregard, he came from the Doylestown High School program and probably had more rugby experience when I met him than I had in any other sport. He brought so many little nuances of the sport that it took mine and are entire teams’ game to a different level. You could tell he was coached quite a bit and what he brought to us only made me look into the game harder to see what else I could find out.

Derek playing for Pittsburgh Rugby Club in 2017.

 

Q. One of the best things about the sport and community of rugby is that it has so much to offer beyond the outcome of each game. Can you tell us a little about the team(s) you currently coach and the messages you try to instill in your players?

A. I currently coach the University of Pittsburgh Men’s Rugby Club and really just try to instill in them to be the most knowledgeable player they can be and that rugby is a game that can be played after college so if you can do it past college you should.

Q. It’s easy to look back on our playing careers and pick out the most memorable and rewarding experiences as athletes. What has been the most memorable and rewarding part of your coaching journey?

A. Playing wise – Without a doubt it was the Pittsburgh Rugby Clubs playoff run in 2012. We had to travel by plane to Chicago then Des Moines Iowa to still drive another 3 hours to play Bremer County in the first round of the playoffs. The game went to two 10-minute overtimes with us winning eventually by 8 points. Then two weekends after that we traveled back to Chicago and beat the Cleveland rovers coming back and scoring three tries in the last 10 minutes to book our trip to nationals.

Coaching wise – Honestly my most rewarding part of coaching is playing with all the players that I have coached in the past. It’s great to see them grow as players and hopefully use the skills that I may have had in helping them develop. Also, it has come to the point where I have coached players that are now out of playing and seeing them continue in the game either by reffing or coaching themselves.

Q. There are a lot of people who might be wary to become involved with rugby beyond stepping on the field as a player. What would you say to someone to encourage them to coach or become involved in some other way?

A. If you truly love the game then you will get involved past your playing days, if you need encouraged to do it, then it will be for the wrong reasons.

Club Member Spotlight: Angela Smarto

Angela Smarto coaching the women of Robert Morris University.

 

The third spotlight in our Member Spotlight series is someone who works tirelessly with unwavering enthusiasm and passion to provide opportunities to grow the game and advocate for our sport – Angela Smarto.

Angela graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education & Teaching and has since obtained her master’s degree in Special Education and Teaching from Point Park University. In addition to her full-time position at the AIU Alternative Education Program, Angela manages to find the time to serve as the ARU College Coordinator, Coach and Manager for the ARU Women’s Select Program, and head coach for the Robert Morris University Women’s Team.

While her rugby resume is both long and impressive, it’s important to highlight that Angela also served as the Pittsburgh Rugby Club’s last President and played a vital role in the successful merger and formation of our very own Pittsburgh Forge.

We were lucky to catch Angela with some free time in her jam-packed schedule to learn more about her rugby experiences as both a player and a coach. Here’s what she had to say…

Q. Can you give us a brief introduction and tell us about your playing history and experiences with Pittsburgh Rugby?

A. I began playing in college at Penn State University which happens to be the most storied collegiate women’s rugby program in the country. There I was on three DI national championship teams, and two DI National Runner – Up teams. After I graduated and moved home, I joined the Pittsburgh Angels at the height of their competitive history. We won back to back DII National Championships in 2012 and 2014. We made the move to DI and had an inaugural undefeated DI regular season and made it to the Club National Semi-Final match. In that time, I also became an admin of the club revamping Steel City 7s, starting the annual Golf Outing, and being the official last president of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club before our merger in 2018.

Q. The transition from player to coach seems to be the natural progression for many as they continue their rugby careers. What motivated you to first make this jump?

A. When studying to become a teacher you are required to have a certain number of hours working with youth. There was a call from the local State High Girls Rugby team to the PSU team for some assistant coaches for the season. We were all encouraged by our coaches because they said being a coach would help us be better players. The opportunity was too perfect to pass up so beginning my sophomore year of college I was an assistant coach. I received my required hours in the first season, but I enjoyed it so much I stuck around for four more years. I am lucky that coaching opportunities continued to present themselves to me over the last decade.

Q. Many players can identify one specific person (whether that be a coach or an influential teammate) that had a significant impact on them. Who is that person for you and what lesson did they teach you?

A. Not a person, but the one and only Penn State University Women’s Rugby Club (PSUWRFC affectionately) has forever changed my life for the better. Not only did they introduce me to this great sport, but the values to be a leader among my peers. They taught me how to set goals, be bold, take risks, and to achieve. I truly can’t imagine my life without every player and coach involved in the club that so many of us alumnae hold so dearly.

Angela Smarto propping for the Pittsburgh Angels.

 

Q. One of the best things about the sport and community of rugby is that it has so much to offer beyond the outcome of each game. Can you tell us a little about the team(s) you currently coach and the messages you try to instill in your players?

A. In 2013 I received a phone call from a college freshman at Robert Morris University who played rugby in high school and wanted to keep playing college but there was no team to play on, so she asked if I’d be the coach of this new team. I agreed and since then I have coached over 100 women through the program in 15s and 7s seasons. Working with college players is really fun because you get to help them turn them into adults. I always stress time management skills, personal responsibility, and building lifelong friendships through enjoying the game together. If you ever come to practice, you’ll see this in action because we spend a lot of time laughing. We know when to be serious and when we can be a little less serious so we can always enjoy ourselves on and off the field.

I also started the Allegheny Rugby Union Women’s Select Side program in 2017 to offer all-star opportunities to our region’s best. It was a disservice to our local players to not give those deserving a chance to test their skills at a higher level than their regular season play. I asked some of my best rugby friends to join me, so we created an all-female coaching staff to run this endeavor. We believe in the power of leading by example and many of our players are coached by men, so we need to be the example for the future of women’s rugby. The goal is if players see us coaching, reffing, being admin, running tours, organizing training and so on that they will see us and believe that they could do it too. I’m happy to report that several of our players have not only continued in the program and reached higher levels of playing, but a few more have becomes certified coaches and referees and we like to think we’ve had a little bit to do with that.

Q. It’s easy to look back on our playing careers and pick out the most memorable and rewarding experiences as athletes. What has been the most memorable and rewarding part of your coaching journey?

A. There isn’t one that’s any more important than the other. When I think of where I started to where I am now it’s rewarding to know that I’ve had the privilege to share rugby with so many young women. I’ve seen some on field success, but the stories that come up over and over again are all the funny moments. Like side splitting moments. My high school team made t-shirts with all my coach-isms with classics such as, “I will make you run home”. My college team made in into a meme to get people to practice. I’ve driven hundreds of miles, stopped at every Sheetz in Western PA, and drank my weight in caffeine every long weekend and I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience. This year I had my first college player transition to a senior club team, two players begin coaching, and another get certified as a ref. To me that was a big milestone because I’ve made rugby a part of their life not just a thing they did in college. You don’t have to be the best to stay in the game but seeing two former players earn caps against the Black Ferns in Soldier Field last fall was pretty cool too.

Q. There are a lot of people who might be wary to become involved with rugby beyond stepping on the field as a player. What would you say to someone to encourage them to coach or become involved in some other way?

A. I’ve always seen rugby as a place of service. There are unlimited ways to serve so whatever time you have to give someone will find something for you to do. It’s ok to be a rookie again – a vet coach/ref/admin will help you learn new skills the same way you learned as a player.

Forge Offers Summer Youth Rugby at BGCWPA Carnegie!

CARNEGIE, PA – The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club is extremely pleased to announce a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania to offer youth rugby programming to campers at the Carnegie location this summer. Current player and alumni volunteers from the Forge will be instructing children ages 5 – 13 every Tuesday and Thursday beginning today, June 11th, through August 15th. This will be the Forge’s first effort in directly facilitating youth rugby programming in addition to currently supporting independent programs in both Moon Township and the North Hills via grants and in-kind donations.

This youth initiative, and all charitable giving, is being managed by the club’s Community Rugby Committee which is directed by Brooke Gawlas, a Community Reinvestment Act Officer for Washington Financial Bank. The committee is dedicated to finding the best ways to reinvest club assets towards the organization’s charitable mission of growing rugby and improving the game in our area. Such initiatives include, but are not limited to, hosting developmental and education clinics for coaches, players, and referees; offering youth and high school rugby programming to area athletes; and financially supporting other area rugby organizations and players through grants and donations.

Speaking specifically regarding the partnership with the Boys & Girls Club, Brooke remarked: “Fostering the growth of participation in Rugby Union is at the forefront of the Pittsburgh Forge’s mission. It is through these volunteer efforts that we are not only able act on our mission, but also give back to the local communities that we call home and support vital organizations like the Boys & Girls Club.”

For more information on this youth program and the Forge Grant Program, please e-mail the club at PGHForgeRugby@gmail.com

Club Member Spotlight: Brittany Marnell

Brittany Marnell playing for the Pittsburgh Highlander Women, carries the ball against the University of Pittsburgh Women in October 2015.

 

The second spotlight in our Member Spotlight Monday series is a hard-working rugby mom known for her fierce competitiveness on the field and from the sidelines – Brittany Marnell. Brittany, the wife of Club President Bill Marnell, remains a part-time player (especially summer 7’s) while being a full-time mother of two and rugby coach.

Brittany obtained her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education 2011 and her Master’s degree in Special Education in 2012 from California University of Pennsylvania. Brittany, from the South Hills of Pittsburgh, returned home and began teaching at a number of different area schools prior to landing a position Clairton Elementary School; there she teaches 1st Grade.

We were able to catch up with Brittany to chat about her rugby and coaching experiences…

Q. Can you give us a brief introduction and tell us about your playing history and experiences with Pittsburgh Rugby?

A. My name is Brittany Marnell. In addition to being a member of the Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club, I am also the current Head Coach of California University of Pennsylvania Women’s Rugby Club. I began playing rugby in 2007 for Cal U when I was a freshman in college. During my tenure there, which totaled five years in order to earn my Master’s Degree, I played predominantly in the centers for several very talented teams. After graduation, I began playing for the Pittsburgh Highlander Women where I moved from the centers to flyhalf. After playing full-time with the Highlanders for a few years, I took the job as Head Coach of the Cal U Women.

Q. The transition from player to coach seems to be the natural progression for many as they continue their rugby careers. What motivated you to first make this jump?

A. As I played senior rugby, my husband and I decided we wanted to start having children and expand our family. This coincided with Cal U’s women’s coach, Jason Edsall, leaving to take a position on the eastern side of the state. I realized that with a growing family my opportunities to play would be fewer and farther between and what a better way to stay involved with, and give back to rugby, than to coach at my alma mater. It was important to me to remain involved with rugby in some way and this opportunity allowed me to do that while growing my family in Pittsburgh.

Brittany Marnell coaching the California University of Pennsylvania Women’s Club in April 2017.

 

Q. One of the best things about the sport and community of rugby is that it has so much to offer beyond the outcome of each game. Can you tell us a little about the team(s) you currently coach and the messages you try to instill in your players?

A. During my tenure at Cal U, my girls have accomplished many things. On the field, we’ve earned berths to the NSCRO 7’s National Championships four years in a row, a tremendous accomplishment. Additionally, this past season, the girls also won the ARU NSCRO 15’s championship and we finished third in our region ranking 11th in the country at that level. This on the field success has coincided with tremendous growth off the field, as a club/ organization and my girls have grown as individuals and rugby players. One of the most important messages that I try to instill into all of my players is that rugby is so much more than just a sport. Rugby is a culture, can take you to new places, and bring into your life some amazing people that can become lifelong friends, or even like family. We’ve had several players earn their way to regional and conference select sides that has afforded them the ability to travel all over the country and the opportunity to play at a high level. This includes the Invitational 7’s Tournament in Las Vegas and the College Rugby Championships in Philadelphia. While playing at Cal, and those various select teams, many of my girls made close, lifelong friends that they remain in contact with today. When my husband and I got married, more than half of our wedding party was made up of fellow ruggers who remain like family to us today. This concept is important and something that makes rugby much different than other sports.

Q. It’s easy to look back on our playing careers and pick out the most memorable and rewarding experiences as athletes. What has been the most memorable and rewarding part of your coaching journey?

A. By far, the most rewarding part of my coaching journey has been witnessing the success of my club and several of my individual players. When you teach someone the game and quickly realize the potential that they have as an athlete, that really gets you excited about coaching them. Then when the light bulb goes off and the player begins to realize and utilize their potential, that’s very rewarding to me as a coach. On a team level, we’ve been able to create a culture and atmosphere on our club to the point where young ladies want to join the rugby team and know that we play competitive rugby both in 15’s and 7’s. We are a club  looking to better ourselves on the field of play and in life as well. That has been the most rewarding thing for me… seeing my club and my girls progress forward as players and young adults.

Q. There are a lot of people who might be wary to become involved with rugby beyond stepping on the field as a player. What would you say to someone to encourage them to coach or become involved in some other way?

A. There are so many great and rewarding opportunities available to a person within the rugby community beyond playing. Many players retire from playing due to age, injury, or changing family dynamics. I feel a great, if not the best way, stay involved within the community is to become a referee, coach a side, or administrate at some level. If coaching seems too much or too intimidating at first, signing on as an assistant coach is a great way to get your feet wet. From an administration standpoint, being involved with your local senior side and serving on a committee or board is also a great way to get started before totally diving in. Just because you aren’t able to continue playing doesn’t mean you’re done serving and growing the game!

Forge Offers Free Summer Fitness & Touch

Senior Men’s Player Billy Gordon finds a lane against South Pittsburgh at the 2018 Steel City 7’s Tournament in Wexford, PA.

 

PITTSBURGH, PA – In accordance with the Pittsburgh Forge’s stated mission to offer rugby programming to all athletes in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, the club is pleased to announce free co-ed fitness and touch 7’s this summer for all interested persons over the age of 18.

The training and touch sessions will be held at the club’s game day pitch located at Phillip Murray Park just behind Arlington Elementary School near Pittsburgh’s Southside. The fitness training sessions will be rugby focused and begin around 6:15 pm every Tuesday and Thursday. On Tuesdays, the training will be led by a member of our senior women’s side while on Thursday, the training will be led by a member of the senior men’s side. The training will run approximately 45 minutes to an hour until co-ed touch 7’s begins shortly after 7:00 pm.

Senior Women’s Player Brooke Gawlas carries the ball at the 2018 Steel City 7’s Tournament.

Last summer, the Forge was thrilled to average 50 – 60 participants for each session of co-ed touch 7’s. Often the club needed to set up multiple fields to accommodate 6 or so teams playing each night. In addition to being attended by current Forge players, the sessions were also attended by other area senior clubs, Forge men and women’s alumni, and a number of collegiate players home for the summer. Last season, the Forge charged $20 for all participants, but this season, thanks to the generosity of the club and the Pittsburgh Public School District, the Tuesday/Thursday fitness and touch sessions will be free of charge.

For any players interested in participating in Summer 7’s Tournaments this year, they should attend a touch session and get in touch with men and women’s side leadership. Both the men and women plan on attending a number of regional social tournaments including Rock ‘N Roll 7’s in Cleveland, Hall of Fam 7’s in Canton,  and of course, the Forge’s own tournament, Steel City 7’s, on July 20th. There will be a cost for each player planning to attend any of these tournaments and some additional training may be held the week leading up to each tournament.

For more information regarding the club’s free fitness and touch 7’s programming, or information regarding our Summer 7’s Tournament schedule, please contact the club or visit our Facebook page.

 

Club Member Spotlight: Jaime Filipek

Jaime making an impressive break on attack as the Angels take on NOVA in 2015.

 

The first spotlight in our new Member Spotlight Monday series is a well-known figure in the Pittsburgh rugby community and has been a longtime member of our rugby family – Jaime Filipek. Jaime, also called “Boo” by those who’ve shared the field with her, is most well-known for her never-quit attitude and infectious love of the game.

Jaime obtained her undergraduate degree from West Virginia University in 2007, and having grown up in the Pittsburgh area, returned home to obtain her Master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She has been working at PUMP since 2013 and is currently serving as their Program Development Manager.

She suffered what would have been a career ending injury during the 2015-2016 season with the Angels, and after taking the necessary time to rest and recover, spent a year as their Head Coach during the final season for the team. In 2018, the Forge women were lucky to have Jaime come out of retirement to take the field with them during their first season as a new club.

We were able to catch up with Jaime to chat about her rugby experiences and hear about a neat event she organized coming up in June – here’s what she had to say!

Q. Can you give us a brief introduction and tell us about your playing experience with Pittsburgh Rugby?
A. My first experience with Pittsburgh Rugby was when the Angels coached my high school rugby team – Schenley – beginning in 1999. I couldn’t wait to come back and play with them after high school and college! I started playing for the Angels in 2007 when I moved back to Pittsburgh from WVU and played with them through the Spring of 2016. During that time, I was privileged to act as Captain from Fall 2009 through Spring 2016. We were fortunate to be very competitive during that time and in addition to winning two National Championships we also placed 2nd in two National Championship Competitions and 3rd in two National Championship Competitions. I came out of retirement to play with the Forge for their inaugural season and have had a blast playing again!

Q. You’ve had a pretty impressive journey since you started playing rugby when you were younger. When you picked up a ball the first time, did you ever think rugby would shape your life as it has?
A. My first game was so confusing so probably not! It was the first ever U-19 women’s game in Western PA. We got the hang of it pretty quickly though and I really fell in love with the sport! We got to do some cool trips to play throughout the Midwest since we ended up having a pretty solid high school team and I think that helped to hook me too, as I had a chance to really experience some of the rugby culture.

Q. How have your experiences with rugby shaped the message you try to share with others through your work with Pittsburgh Sports League and the PUMP program?
A. I passionately believe that rugby, and all sports, have the capacity to enrich our souls and build our confidence and self-esteem. It is so organic in a team setting that you don’t even realize the impact that it is having on other parts of your life. It builds character to be on a team and that character makes you better at your job and in your personal life. My job with PUMP and the PSL is basically to make sure that people have an opportunity to play and that when come out they have fun. Rugby has taught me a lot about the gratitude and simplicity that it is to be able to compete as an adult in recreational sports. It gives people a healthy outlet to be present, fit and to experience new areas of Pittsburgh, and new people. I would never have had the opportunity to apply for my job without rugby, and I wouldn’t have my best friends in life without rugby. It has absolutely helped to mold me into the person I am, and I try to share that passion in my job, with new ruggers and in PUMPed to Run.

Jaime posing with her PUMPed to Run group, a weekday morning running group composed of residents of local homeless shelters and volunteer mentor runners.

 

Q. You have an upcoming event on June 9th – can you tell us a little about it?
A. On June 9th at 8:00 am we have a 5k that benefits our PUMPed to Run program. PUMPed to Run works in local area homeless shelters to give marginalized populations in Pittsburgh the opportunity to exercise with a team mentality. PUMPed to Run has been a passionate program that I helped develop in 2016 and have continued to lead ever-since! Proceeds for the 5k go to purchasing running shoes and gear for all participants so there are no barriers to their athletic desires, and they can compete safely. The 5k will take place in Highland Park. All registrants will receive a t-shirt, fruit, water and baked goods. You can register for the event here.

Q. Are there any ways for people to become involved or support your program in addition to registering to participate in the upcoming 5K?
A. We are always looking for mentors to run with our participants. We also always need new or lightly used clothing and running shoes – we are in special need of XL and larger sizes currently. You can learn more about those opportunities here.

Q. If there was someone who might be considering joining rugby for the first time or any other fitness or exercise activity but is nervous about it, what piece of advice would you share with them?
A. To try and relax and enjoy it! It’s okay to have no idea what is going on, I think just going for it and avoiding hesitation will set people up for success. Knowledge of the game will come and ask questions – it is the best way to learn! Especially with rugby, everyone is eager to help and welcome new players to the game.

Social Media Links
https://www.instagram.com/pumpedtorun/
https://www.facebook.com/events/2378408922190514/

D2 Men Upset Scioto Valley in Obetz

Forge forward Alex Gordon carries the ball against the Cleveland Crusaders. Photo Credit: Kiyomi Knox

 

OBETZ, OH – This past Saturday, the Forge D2 men traveled to the beautiful Fortress Obetz, just outside Columbus, Ohio to take on the Division 1 side of Scioto Valley, the Columbus Rugby Club. This was the Forge’s first match in this year’s Midwest Rugby Union Thunderbird Cup Premiership, and a re-match of last August’s pre-season match at Founder’s Field. The Midwest Thunderbird Cup is a non-league competition that pits Midwest sides against one another that wouldn’t normally compete in fall league competition. The Premiership is the elite competition, with a mix of Division 1 and top-tier Division 2 sides.

The weather was perfect for rugby with a mix of clouds and sun and very comfortable temperature of approximately seventy degrees for the 2:00 PM kickoff. From the onset, Columbus came out flying and put pressure on the Forge right out of the gate. Just five minutes in, the Forge would give up a penalty try due to a high tackle that unfortunately resulted in a quick seven point lead for the home side. A few minutes later, Columbus would strike for another converted try to go up 14 – 0 at the ten minute mark.

Down by two scores, the Forge were able to regroup, led by their eightman, Tony Cardamone (SRU). Tony would score the Forge’s first points of the day, powering for a try at the twelve minute mark. Andrew Knuttel (PITT) would had the tough conversion to cut the Columbus lead to seven.

After three tries in the first twelve minutes of the game, the defenses of each team began to tighten up. The Forge’s defense was led by outside center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) and flanker Alex Gordon (SRU). It would take another several minutes, and many phases from the Forge to secure their second score of the day, a thirty five-meter penalty kick off the boot of Knuttel at the twenty-five minute mark to close the gap, 14 – 10. After the score, the Forge would maintain possession and continue to test the Scioto defense. At thirty-five minutes, the Forge were able to take advantage of numbers out wide and spring fullback Billy Gordon (Villanova) into the try-zone for the Forge’s first lead of the day. Knuttel would miss the conversion, but the Forge would see their first lead well into the first half, 15 – 14. To close out the half, Knuttel would hit another penalty kick, this time from forty-meters out, to increase the Forge lead to four, 18 – 14, at the half.

The second half would begin much like the first, with Columbus putting on pressure and scoring early. Just six minutes in, Columbus would spring for a converted try and retake the lead 21 – 18. Just minutes later, they would add another try, under the posts, but the Scioto kicker would miss the easy kick, giving Columbus a narrow eight point lead, 26 – 18, with plenty of time remaining in the game.

Knuttel would miss an opportunity to cut into the lead when his penalty kick would sail right at fifty-five minutes, but also like the first half, the Forge were able to keep the ball in their hands and apply pressure on Scioto Valley. After threatening for several minutes, lock Brandon Benvenuti, playing great on both sides of the ball, was able to find flanker David Ashline (PITT) for a try near the touch line at the sixty-five minute mark. Knuttel would miss the conversion before exiting the game a few minutes later with a head injury. With the deficit down to just three points, 26 – 23, the Forge kept battling for the ball and kept heat on Columbus.

After a try was called back for a Forge player stepping into touch, Pittsburgh was able to make a fantastic play on the ensuing Scioto Valley lineout and once again Ashline was open for the clutch try at the seventy-three minute mark. Scrumhalf Rousseau Kluever (PITT) would miss the conversion, but the Forge had the lead back, albeit narrow, 28 – 26.

The Forge would play a possession game for the last several minutes to attempt to close out the game. While the Forge were able to mostly maintain possession, Scioto Valley was able to regain the ball and threaten with only a few moments remaining. As they drove down, Tony Cardamone was once again able to show his value to the club by drawing a much needed penalty for not releasing just as Scioto Valley was crossing into Forge territory. With the change of possession, Kluever was able to find touch with his boot on the next play and cement the Forge upset over the Division 1 Scioto Valley. This week, the Forge’s top side will host another Midwest Division 1 club, the Cincinnati Wolfhounds at White Oak Park  in Pittsburgh.

LINEUP INFORMATION

First XV: 1 – Derek Neubauer, 2 – Andrew Knuttel, 3 – Frank Cacciotti, 4 – Andrew Chapman, 5 – Brandon Benvenuti, 6 – David Ashline, 7- Alex Gordon, 8 – Tony Cardamone, 9 – Rousseau Kluever (C), 10 – Tyree Massie, 11 – Julyan Jenkins, 12 – Josh Robertson, 13 – Neil Reynolds, 14 – Bryce Markwardt, 15 – Billy Gordon

Reserves: 16 – Percy Taylor, 17 – Lance Reaghard, 18 – Tim Bagatti, 19 – Yhong Thepboon

Substitutions: 50’ – Taylor for Neubauer (TC), 55’ – Bagatti for A. Gordon (IJ), Reaghard for Chapman (TC), 68’ – Thepboon for Knuttel (IJ)

Discipline: None

Referee: Unknown, Midwest Rugby Referee Society

 

SCORING INFORMATION

Tries: Ashline (2), T. Cardamone (1), B. Gordon (1)

Conversions: Kluever (0/1), Knuttel (1/3)

Penalty Kicks: Knuttel (2/3)

Man of the Match:  Andrew Knuttel

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D3 Men Show Promise, But Fall to Akron/Canton

AKRON, OH – While the D2 men were in western Ohio taking on Scioto Valley, the D3 men traveled with sixteen players to the University of Akron to take on a split squad of Akron and Canton Rugby. After being shut out in the first half, the Forge D3 men were able to dot down three tries and hit an impressive drop kick in the second half while showing a great deal of improvement and promise. Final score Akron/Canton 51 – Forge 24.This upcoming weekend, the D3 men will host a split squad of Greensburg Rugby Club and Cincinnati Wolfhounds (D3) at White Oak Park following the Premiership match.

LINEUP INFORMATION

First XV: 1 – Duc Cao, 2 – Brett Albrecht, 3 – Jason Edsall, 4 – Eric Kress, 5 – Bill Marnell, 6 – Julian Randall, 7 – Nick Hebert, 8 – Charlie Cross, 9 – Steven Joachim, 10 – Al Cochran, 12 – Blayze Richardson, 13 – Cory Hushon, 14 – Tama Galu, 15 – Nick Cardamone

Reserves: 16 – Robert Gregg

Substitutions: Various

Discipline: None

Referee: Unknown, Ohio Rugby Union Referee Society

 

SCORING INFORMATION

Tries: Randall (1), Richardson (2)

Conversions: Cochran (3/3)

Drop Kick: Cochran (1)

Man of the Match:  Al Cochran