Hosting a match against a team made up of deaf and hearing impaired players may have brought a few changes to the field, but when it came down to it everyone understood the language of rugby on April 9 as the Warrenton Wolfpack U-17 defeated the Model Secondary School for the Deaf Eagles, 36-33.
“That’s the great thing about rugby,” said Wolfpack Coach Greg Hicks. “When you get on the field, it’s just about the game.”
And it’s not hard to communicate with your teammates when you have that common goal of getting the ball downfield. Two of Warrenton’s players, Spencer Yates and Chris Thornburg, were asked to play on the Eagle’s team which did not have enough players.
“I was a little nervous for a minute, but when I passed the ball around a few times with them, I knew I could communicate,” said Fauquier High School freshman Yates who explained that a lot of hand gestures were used and that their right wing could speak and translate. “Sometimes they had better communication skills than we [Warrenton] did.”
Model is a deaf residential boarding school with 140 students on the Gallaudet University campus in Washington, D.C. Students are in grades nine through 12.
“Rugby has been wonderful for our players,” said MSSD athletic trainer Jenny Carver of the team in its third year. “The sport is very quick. It’s very visual without having to use a lot of talking. And the rugby community has been very helpful, like when teams like yours lend us players. You wouldn’t see that in other sports.”
The Eagles started the game with their own haka, or tribal war chant, and dominated the first minutes, with a 14-0 score. The Wolfpack pulled together after an Anthony Wright try and Ryan Heffernan conversion kick brought the score to 14-7. The Eagles scored two more tries and conversion kicks to Warrenton’s one try as the first half ended, 28-12.
The Wolfpack rallied in the second half of the match, allowing only one try by the Eagles. Warrenton’s Jason Deary, Stuart Deary and Ryan O’Neill scored in the try zone while Heffernan contributed two more conversion kicks to end the game, 36-33.
“We struggled to get the team structure together at first,” said Wolfpack Coach Robin Reid. “But we played very well.”
The Model coach also felt good about the match. “We had a lot of fun playing the Wolfpack. They are a good team,” said coach Mark Burke who is also the Gallaudet athletic director and very good at reading lips. “I knew we would match up well with them.”
Scorers for the Eagles included: Mark Bermudez, Vinny Ventuluo, Matt Whitfield, Earl Edwards and Oliver Lee.