August arrived and fall rugby training started up. You could tell there was something more than what we've had going on for the second side this time.
It began with Bootcamp. A great initiative by both administrators and senior players helped boost awareness to joining the club and created a great atmosphere at training for retainment.
As the Division 3 season kick-off approached, strong veteran leadership emerged again in the election of our forward (Joseph Kloiber) and back (Jason Talbot) captains.
Black and Blue
We kicked off the fall campaign against intra-city rivals Milwaukee Black and Blue. The Barbos put in a couple first half tries from 2014 newcomers Jesse Barron and James DeYoung.
Critical conversions from Sam "Rooster" Huschen and stingy defense pulled out the victory for the good guys. Barbos 14 - Black and Blue 12.
The impressive defense turned out to be a staple throughout the season to come.
Fond du Lac
The team next went up against Fond du Lac and put on an impressive and complete performance. Even with a couple handful of overly aggressive offensive plays, complete control of the game was had by the Barbos.
It started up front with the forwards and their complete domination of the scrums, timely aggression in the rucks and an overall mindset that that ball belonged to us.
Great support play made for some simplicity in putting in tries throughout with what seemed like endless options for distribution. Barbos 55 – Wolfpack 7.
Tries all over the place (Jared Abt, Kyle Slick, Mike Rudy (2), Todd Todd Todd Todd Chini, Big Jake Elsner, Randy Fendryk and Rooster (1T, 1Penalty and 6 conversions).
Up next we hit the road for our second-longest road trip of the fall; a grueling trip to Gurnee, IL.
We found ourselves up against a persistent and aggressive bunch in Lake County. They got in our faces early and often and unfortunately we let them dictate the flow of the game much more than we should have.
Thankfully our defense once again helped weather the intensity and choppiness and we maintained control of the score. Aside from missing out on the bonus point victory with only 3 tries, we returned home unscathed midway through the season. Barbos 20 - Gladiators 8.
After a week break with a bye, we returned home in week 5 to join our D1 side at home for a matchup against Lincoln Park’s D3 side. A slow start throughout the first half left us with a small lead going into the half.
We opened it up a little more in the second half and our stout defense held them scoreless for the second half to get to 4-0 on the season. Barbos 28 - Lincoln Park 5.
Tries by James DeYoung, Alex “Raw Dog” Kovisto and Rooster, along with 2 conversions and 3 penalty kicks by Rooster.
In week 6 we set out on our second road match of the season. We traveled strong to Manhattan, IL to take on a winless Shamrocks side. This game took several veteran players back to what we thought were the days of yesteryear bar league rugby games.
Up a bunch with only a few minutes to play, we let our defensive guard down for really the only time in the season. Two tries allowed made the final score look much closer than it should have. Barbos 34 - Shamrocks 22.
The culmination of the fall brought us back home to face Rockford in another Barbos double-header to close the season. While it could have been easy to look ahead to the offseason and assume victory, neither occurred.
One of our strongest weeks of training with focused strategy on game plan execution set us up for quite a performance. In addition, we were missing several people due to injury and other commitments. From the outside looking in you probably wouldn't have even noticed it.
What ensued was a great performance in all aspects of the game. Controlled aggression, strong scrummaging, support filled attaching phases, executing our line outs and once again our disciplined defense saw us put on a clinic throughout the first half. A slight lapse in communication on defense midway through the second half, which was immediately followed up with some great attacking phases to re-solidify control, took us through the remainder of the game and season. Barbos 58 - Ravens 12. Tries all over the board and several conversions by Drobot.
The Barbarian Difference
In addition to the constant defensive prowess that stuck with us all season, a few other key attributes to the team were critical to our success:
- Commitment: For most of the season, D3 represented themselves very well at training and for each match. I believe we had a full 23 roster most games, which is a positive change from the depth this club has been able to constantly deliver on the second side.
- Depth: As is typical in a rugby season, injuries and other commitments will often poke their head through as the season goes on. We had plenty of both yet neither led to much falloff in performance on the pitch.
- Game time together: As has been mentioned regularly throughout the season, this really was our first season playing together as a team. While it likely had an impact in the overall scoreline in a few of our games, it was never used as an excuse nor a factor in the overall outcome.
- Cohesion (one of Coach Loader's favorite words): This one was most evident in our final match, and probably isn't that surprising considering this was the first season many of us played together. This one will only get better as we continue to train, practice, play and grow with one another. It will also likely be the greatest factor to our success moving forward this spring and beyond (aside from fitness).
Wrapping it up
Our mission of going 1-0 each week and always focusing on the match at hand has been accomplished. We can be proud of ourselves and enjoy what we accomplished for a couple days. Our future is very bright as a team and a club.
However, stay focused, as it only gets tougher from here. We have plenty to improve upon and the challenges we face this spring will continue to increase with each week we continue playing.
Is our goal of continuing to go 1-0 each week attainable?
You're damn right it is!
And what’s more, we will be the ones who decide if we are up to that challenge.