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Hamburg Rugby Club’s boys team earns silver at state championships

A fairly new local club team has made its strides at becoming a competitive team on the state level.

The Hamburg Rugby Club, which was founded in 2009, saw the boys team make its first trip to states since its inception.

Tom Eichler sent his boys to the New York State Public High School Rugby Championships at the SUNY Institute of Technology in Marcy, NY on May 31-June 1 and came back home with a silver medal.

The self-funded Hamburg rugby team went up against teams that have been affiliated with their respective high schools for years.

The girls team made a second consecutive appearance in the state tournament this spring, earning a bronze medal.

That Saturday, Hamburg defeated Saratoga, 45-18, to earn a spot in the gold medal game on Sunday.

However, Eichler’s team ran into a more polished Harvey Rugby Club in the championship, falling 51-31 for a silver medal against a team that has been around for over 20 years.

“Saturday was a definitive win,” said coach Eichler. “Sunday was a game that Harvey…a much older program and a much more mature program…they probably have several more years of experience in rugby, and the Hamburg guys played well above themselves.”

“It was actually a pretty tight game. Tighter than the score. They just played great. It was an excellent game.”

Playing in the Rugby New York league, Hamburg posted a 4-2 record in the regular season. The mark gave Hamburg second place in the Western division.

Rugby New York gave Western three teams to send to the state tournament, since the division is so large.

There are over 60 members between the boys and girls rugby teams at Hamburg. Since it is not affiliated with the local high schools, the players are residents of various areas.

“Anybody can play. They do not have to be from Hamburg,” Eichler noted. “We have kids from the Frontier district and the Eden district.”

Eichler says that the foundation of the club and how fast it has grown largely comes from the help that some local teams have given to the youth over the years.

“A lot of it stems from the two local mens rugby clubs, Buffalo Rugby and South Buffalo Rugby, pushing and teaching the game to the local high schools,” Eichler said. “Locally, right now, Kenmore has a team, Hamburg has a team, Orchard Park and Grand Island.”

The Hamburg Rugby Club begin practicing in February for the spring season, which starts in April.

Hamburg alternates its home field between Howe Field and the Nike Base during the regular season.

“We’ve got 60 active playing members right now,” said Eichler. “It’s a club sport, which means it’s not affiliated with the school. Hamburg’s athletic director (Pat Cauley) has been really good to us helping us get some field time over there. But we are completely self-funded through fundraising and are always open to new players from ninth grade to 12th grade.”
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