Commander’s Cup belongs to Kitsap

(Top) Fort Lewis and Bangor mix it up in a srum during Saturday’s Commaner’s Cup at Strawberry Fields in Poulsbo. - Wesley Remmer/staff photos
(Top) Fort Lewis and Bangor mix it up in a srum during Saturday’s Commaner’s Cup at Strawberry Fields in Poulsbo.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photos

With blood bubbling from his nose, Peter Moser hobbled to the sideline.

It was less than three minutes into the 10th annual Army-Navy Commander’s Cup rugby match between the Stud Dawgs of Fort Lewis and Moser’s Bangor Renegades, who gutted out a 36-24 victory Saturday at Strawberry Fields in Poulsbo.

Fort Lewis had won the past nine meetings in this physical, but friendly, rivalry.

“It feels great — a long time coming,” Renegades coach Deane Shephard said. “This provides credibility for the local military rugby program and it provides positive exposure to a sport that is often ignored or misrepresented.”

The Renegades, comprised of active duty military members, veterans and Department of Defense employees, built a 12-5 halftime lead and rode it to victory, never trailing.

Bangor’s John Moore was named Man of the Match and was presented with the award during a post-game ceremony.

“I think (the win) will make this a true rivalry, with both teams knowing that the outcome is not a forgone conclusion,” Shephard said. “I think this will solidify support from the local community for the event itself, making it a better experience for the players.”

It was a full day for Shephard, who prior to the Cup hosted a youth rugby clinic for current and aspiring players 14 to 18 years old. The 10-player turnout was modest, but eight of those players were rugby newcomers and each walked off the pitch hungry for more.

They received a crash course in the sport, learning rules and basic techniques before participating in a scrimmage.

“For us here in Kitsap County, (a youth following) helps to maintain our senior programs,” Shephard said. “The successful senior programs in Washington state have successful youth programs ... It provides a relatively inexpensive physical activity for (cash-strapped) school and community recreation programs.”

Shephard hopes the clinic — another one is tentatively planned for January, although a date has yet to be set — serves as a base for rugby expansion in Kitsap, the thought being participants will tell their friends and the following will grow.

Popular globally — it is an Olympic sport — rugby is picking up momentum across the country, yet it is scarcely participated in locally.

“With the slow, but sure, emergence of the USA from the basement of the rugby world, we must have younger, experienced players,” Shephard said. “Since a vast majority of American rugby players are not exposed to rugby until college or while in the military, they do not reach their rugby prime until they are in their late-20s and early-30s. This puts them behind the power curve in terms of experience when playing other countries where there are well-established youth rugby programs.”

“It’s a rough, gentlemen’s sport. You have your little arguments on the pitch, on the field, and then after the game ... you’re friends after the game. It stays on the field,” added Luke Murgia, who participated in the Cup for the first time as a member of the Renegades. “It’s just exciting to come out and play, get the guys together and have a good time.”

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