As the Walter Pyramid towers in the distance, one team tirelessly works in the shadows of the larger athletics programs at the Beach.
The players juke and strafe to avoid unprotected bone-crushing blows as the soft white leather ball floats laterally from man-to-man. This is the scene of one of Southern California’s most successful rugby clubs.
After losing 10 seniors, including a large number of starters, the club finds itself with a collection of new talent and a significant amount of underclassmen.
“We graduated some key seniors that played together for four years,” head coach Jason Reynolds said. “This year requires more grassroots coaching.
Long Beach Rugby has won six of the last seven Gold Coast Conference titles, but Reynolds considers this a rebuilding year for the club and is pleasantly surprised with how the new members are assimilating.
“The young guys are really buying into this team, and that is going to help us be successful,” Reynolds said.
Although they are ranked 10th in the nation in Division 1-AA according to USA Rugby, the team has adopted an underdog mentality and is willing to go head-to-head against any program.
“We don’t have the funding and support that the bigger Division 1-A teams have,” freshman Patrick Beattie said, “but we can definitely hang with the best of them on the field.”
Beattie says the key factor that made him want to join was the success of the 46-year-old program on and off the field.
“That’s why a lot of us chose to come here,” Beattie said. “It’s a historic program and we take pride in that.”
Long Beach Rugby is and has always been about more than just competing on the field, dating back to 1974.
Aspects of rugby’s familial culture are heavily instilled in players. The team has close bonds outside of practice and games and often have team dinners or meet up on campus during school hours.
“It’s more than just a team, it’s a brotherhood for us,” Beattie said.
It’s a long-standing rugby formality that once the battle on the field has concluded, no matter what happens in the heat of the moment, both teams gather together and share a meal and maybe even a couple of beers.
“Even if there’s a few scuffles during the match, you always put that aside and enjoy a few drinks with your opponent,” Beattie said.
The team has a biennial tradition of making a trip overseas to compete against European rugby clubs. This year, Long Beach Rugby traveled to England to play three matches and won two of them.
Its most notable win was against the fifth oldest rugby club in the world, Streatham-Croydon RFC, which was founded in 1871.
“It was amazing,” freshman forward Stefano Menicou said. “Touring the countryside and playing rugby. Nothing beats that.”
Menicou is part of the freshmen group and has high hopes for the future of Long Beach Rugby.
“We’re making a natty run every year. Believe that, that’s the goal,” Menicou said.
Reynolds has a more practical goal for his team this season: “Start with winning the conference championship, then advance to the national tournament.”
To outsiders, rugby players have a reputation for being rugged and reckless, but this crew tries to be more hardworking and focused. Senior club president Michael Mcglone said they maintain this mentality by holding each other accountable to perform their best every day.
The club welcomes any and all that want to join the team; they don’t make cuts and don’t hold tryouts.
“It’s not about that,” Mcglone said. “If you want to be a part of this brotherhood, as long as you’re willing to put the work in, you will make that happen.”