Knights Rugby Football Club concludes undefeated season


Photo by Brandon Alana

The Knights Rugby Football Club was established in 1968 and is one of the oldest clubs on campus.

Marcel Hurtubise, Reporter

The California Lutheran University Knights Rugby Football Club went undefeated all season, sweeping victories amidst a year of canceled games.

“This was also a year when a lot of schools were having trouble fielding teams,” Club Advisor Peter Carlson said. “One of our games was canceled because USC wasn’t able to field a team right away and that’s USC. USC has more people in a chemistry 100 class than we have in the entire university…so we were a little worried about our own ability to field a team.”

Club co-President Jackson Petty said that the Knights were in a similar situation last year with fewer players than were optimal. Petty said that they only had 16 to 17 players of the typical 25. 

“But the good thing is, we only graduated three of our seniors, we were returning 14 players, which was amazing,” Petty said.

Co-President Matthew Flynn said that he thinks a lot of the players were surprised at the increase from their returning 14.

“We worked hard to recruit new players and to see that pay off was rewarding,” Flynn said. “The most fun part about rugby is training and creating that bond with your teammates, so when I saw how many guys we got, I was ecstatic.”

Petty said that the increase in players was a boost not only for games but for practices and the team dynamic as well. He said that, by the end of the season, the Rugby Club had around 24 to 25 players. They were also getting 15 members at practice minimum, as opposed to the eight or nine players last year. 

“We all worked together, we trained together. New guys got help from the old guys and we ended up winning a lot of games because of that,” Petty said.

Petty said that he attributed many things to the success of the season, such as the returning players, his and Flynn’s combined 10-plus years of experience, their coach, Robert Nedbailo, and their advisor’s support.

“Our success was because of our bond,” Flynn said. “Through the season, we built a real brotherhood and I would consider a lot of my teammates lifelong friends. We trust each other and we’re so tight.”

In the team’s opening game of the season against Loyola Marymount, a team they lost to last season, the Knights won 33-12. 

“We knew we were gonna be a lot better at that point,” Jackson said. “We were still playing a sloppy game, we probably had two weeks of practice at that point.”

Flynn said that the first game was a personal highlight for him and that it marked a great beginning to the season.

“A lot of guys were nervous and inexperienced and we were playing Loyola Marymount, who we lost to last season once,” Flynn said. “From the kickoff, we were electric. The energy and synergy were unstoppable and it really showed us how good we could be.”

The Knights went on to defeat the University of San Diego Toreros 43-0 and the Point Loma Nazarene University 15-5.

The Knights’ last games were a doubleheader against USC and Miracosta on March 25. It was their first and only day of home games of the season, as Memorial Field was flooded for much of the season due to rain.

“Players just want to play, we’re in it for the love of the game,” Carlson said. “And so to have this kind of round-robin event was actually really exciting…We were so glad to be playing at home where our supporters could come and learn a little about the game.”

The games ended with more victories for the Knights, as they won 14-7 over USC and 32-12 against Miracosta.

“We were amped to get a home crowd and show off all our hard work to our fellow Kingsmen and Regals,” Flynn said. “We were also able to get our revenge against USC, who beat us last season. Miracosta ended up being a big win and was a fun way to send off our seniors and keep the momentum going forward.”

Carlson said that the Knights have a tradition for their games that exemplifies their sportsmanship. After each game, the teams gather together and choose a player of the match on the opposing team.

“There’s this comradery…I love when the lads play really well, but, to me, the important thing about rugby is the community,” Carlson said.

Going into next season, Petty and Flynn said that they hope to continue gaining interest in the sport of rugby and build up the program. Petty said that the rugby team is currently a Division II team, but they are on the path toward becoming a Division I team.

“But a big part of that is consistency and consistently having good teams, and what we’ve been building towards for many, many years is a consistently good team,” Petty said.

Flynn said that even though this is his last year playing rugby for Cal Lutheran, he wants to see the club continue to “grow and dominate.”

“CLU has historically been one of the best small schools at rugby in the country, and I think the foundation has been put in place to continue that trend,” Flynn said. “With the guys returning and the new players coming, we have a bright future ahead of us and I am excited to see the Knights continue to win and spread rugby among the people.”

This article was updated on April 23 at 5:24 p.m. to correct the spelling of Peter Carlson’s name. We regret this error.