'Beast of the East' invades Glen Farm in Portsmouth

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by Jim McGaw

jmcgaw@eastbaynewspapers.com

PORTSMOUTH—It's one of the only places where you'll hear a guy complain about his teammate having better crutches than him.

This is the "Beast of the East," the collegiate rugby tournament that returned to Glen Farm for two days of bruises, rescue runs, muddy jerseys and intense competition Saturday and Sunday.

Calling itself the largest rugby tournament in the United States, the "Beast" featured more than 2,500 participants on 80 collegiate teams from Maine to Florida. The tournament is hosted by Providence Rugby Football Club with benefits going toward the Rhode Island Rugby Football Foundation (RIRFF), a nonprofit that promotes the development of rugby in the state.

"It was actually founded 30 years ago by Rugby Imports owner Bob Hoder, when he was founder of Providence Rugby," said Richard Ashfield of Rugby Imports in East Providence, one of the sponsors of the tournament.

The tournament was held in Providence and at St. Andrew's School in Barrington before it moved to Portsmouth over a decade ago, Mr. Ashfield said.

One of the local teams represented was Roger Williams University, whose Division 2 men's team advanced to the final with victories over Brandeis (58-5), Sacred Heart (19-17), UMass Amherst (10-5) and Holy Cross (17-15). Roger Williams was dominated, however, in the finals against Binghamton, 25-0

The Roger Williams women's rugby team, meanwhile, advanced to the Division 3 final 4. Salve Regina University, Providence College, Bryant University and the University of Rhode Island also competed.

Here are the other winners: men's Division 1: UMass; women's Division 1: Radcliffe; women's Division 2: SUNY Albany; and women's Division 3: Maine.

The tournament also featured the only two high school-aged rugby teams in the state squaring off Sunday.

"We have a high school team that we put together called Island Rugby and a lot of Portsmouth kids were involved," said Christopher Gray of the Newport County Youth Rugby Football Club. "They let us play a little high school tournament. Otherwise, it's an all-college tournament."

Island Rugby offers full-contact rugby for 15- to 18-year-olds. The team was matched up against a squad from Hendricken on Sunday but lost, 42-35.

For more information about Island Rugby and its upcoming matches, visit http://islandrugby.org.

Rescue workers busy

As usual, the tournament kept Portsmouth rescue workers busy.

The tournament hired 17 firefighter/EMTs who worked various shifts over the two days.  Deputy Chief Michael P. O'Brien said although it's unclear exactly how many players received treatment, 15 of them required emergency transport to the hospital.

"These injuries included fractures, dislocations, lacerations and head injuries," said Deputy Chief O'Brien. "Despite being a relatively 'slow' tournament, mutual aid ambulances from our neighboring departments were required on three occasions."

Sponsors of the 2013 "Beast" tournament included Rugby Imports Ltd, McGrath Claim Bakes, Courtyard Marriot, Newport Grand, Discover Newport, USA 7’s and Dels Lemonade.

 

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.