The popular saying states defense wins championships. If that's the case, the University at Buffalo men's club rugby team has an excellent chance of advancing in the national tournament.
The University at Buffalo Rugby Football Club went undefeated to win its league title in the fall, giving it an automatic berth in the USA Rugby Men's Division I College playoffs. Buffalo hosts the Pool B Regional for the men and Pool A regional for the women in the national Round of 16 at Kuntz Field on UB's North Campus this weekend.
For Buffalo, its 6-0 season in the New York State Conference and bid into the national tournament is built on a tradition of success. The club has advanced to many regional tournaments but never to the national scene.
"This is the first time Buffalo has made it all the way to the national playoffs," said first-year UB coach Mike Hodgins. "UB rugby has been around for a long time and been very successful over the years, but this is the first time we've gone undefeated in our league and made it to the Round of 16. And to be playing on our home field gives us an extra advantage."
Buffalo will face Southern Connecticut at 5 p.m. Friday, capping a full day of fixtures. The day begins with two women's matches as Stanford and Dartmouth play at 10 a.m. followed by Penn State and the University of Northern Iowa at noon. The men's games begin at 3 p.m. with Harvard facing Northeastern.
The women's consolation (10 a.m.) and championship (noon) games will be held on Saturday while the men's consolation (noon) and championship (2 p.m.) will be on Sunday.
The winners advance to the national final four May 13-15 at Stanford University.
The majority of collegiate rugby is played at the club level, meaning there is no athletic department support or NCAA-sponsored championships. Championships in four divisions of collegiate play are sponsored by USA Rugby -- the national governing body of the sport. But the sport is growing both at the high school and college level for both genders with the women's game benefitting from the NCAA putting rugby on its "emerging sport" list.
"On the men's side, by and large it's a club sport but on the women's side, with it an emerging sport by the NCAA, schools are making it a varsity sport because it's helpful with Title IX issues," Hodgins said. "Schools can get 30 to 40 females into the sport in a short period of time and that has been a boost to the sport.
"In high school, the sport is growing by leaps and bounds. In what we consider our local league, we have 25 club teams in boys and girls competition. All total in New York State we have about 60 high school teams and it's growing every year."
As the sport continues to grow, Buffalo continues its strong tradition. This year's season was fueled by attention to detail on defense, which allowed an average of fewer than 11 points per game.
"This weekend, we need to play extremely good defense, we need to play with a very high pace and then we need to score points when we can," Hodgins said. "For us, it's really about defense. At the end of the day, like in any sport, defense wins championships."
Facts and figures
What: USA Rugby Men's and Women's
Division I Collegiate Playoffs
Where: At UB North Campus
Friday -- 10 a.m., Stanford vs. Dartmouth (women); noon, Penn State vs. University of Northern Iowa (women); 3 p.m., Harvard vs. Northeastern (men); 5 p.m., Buffalo vs. Southern Connecticut (men).
Saturday -- 10 a.m., Women's Consolation; noon, Women's Championship.
Sunday -- noon, Men's Consolation; 2 p.m., Men's Championship.
Tickets: Day passes -- $6 adults; $3 high school students and younger