History was made yesterday when WA and The British International School agreed to play each other in the first ever sanctioned middle school rugby league match in North America.
A little background is needed to understand the history making point of yesterday’s match. First, WA has been playing rugby according to the code of the Rugby Football Union. This code goes back to December 1870 when a few players of the Blackheath (Rugby) Football Club in England published a letter in The (London) Times suggesting that "those who play the Rugby(School)-type game should meet to form a code of practice as various clubs play to rules which differ from others, which makes the game difficult to play." This letter led towards a joint agreement of rules to be played among clubs who did not want to play a football game according to recent agreement made by the Football Association (ASSOC or Soccer). It was from here that the Football Union was formed. The rules adopted by these agreeing clubs were those primarily developed from the football game originated and played at Rugby School, hence the name Rugby Football Union.
One of the provisions agreed upon by the clubs in the Rugby Football Union was that no player should be paid for playing the game. This worked out well in the south of England, but some of the working-class northern English clubs wanted to pay their players. So, in 1895 a number of northern clubs met to form the Rugby Football League, which advocated paying players. In order to attract a wider audience the Rugby Football League simplified the game so that those not familiar with the nuances of rugby football’s ruck, maul and scrum could follow along more easily. The new game kept the lateral-only pass, but required six downs (no first downs) per possession. This essentially created a whole new code of Rugby Football.
From this point on Rugby Union (or just Rugby) stayed as the amateur game and Rugby League started off as the professional game. This contributed greatly towards animosity between the two codes.
We can go on and on about the culture surrounding both, but in short, the Rugby Football game became American Football in the early 1900s, but came back into American notice with renewed immigration to America from the British colonies following World War II. Just a side note here: the United States won the Olympic Gold Medal in Rugby in 1920 and 1924.
Well, schools and clubs in the United States have until recently only been playing the Rugby Union code of the game. 22 years ago the first ever sanctioned Rugby League match between two American clubs was played in North America between two clubs in New York, and the first sanctioned Rugby League high school match in North America was played in Philadelphia, PA in 2004.
Now we arrive at Thursday’s history-making event. Yesterday, when Western Academy agreed to play the British International School in Rugby League it marked the first ever-sanctioned Rugby League match played by two middle school teams in North America.
WA came out on top early scoring one, two and three tries in a row. Then the British School fought back with two tries. Following that it was back and forth try-for-try between both teams. In the end, WA came out on top nine tries to eight or 45-40.
Try scorers for Western Academy last night were Jackson Litts-2, Nicholas Ballew-1, JJ Furnace-1, Haden Gabel-2, Harrison Heard-1, Pablo Granados-1, and Joe Bush-1.
Both WA rugby teams are off during Spring Break but will come back to play JV and Varsity Rugby Union games against The Regis School at St. Thomas High School Stadium on Thursday, March 23. JV plays at 4:30pm and Varsity at 5:30pm.