Gophers Ends Pre-Season with All Minnesota Victory

Head Coach Jimmy Hanson’s second season at the helm of University of Minnesota Men’s Rugby started with a come-from-behind victory over the University of Kansas and concluded this past Sunday as the Gophers were named champions of the All Minnesota Tournament.

The match against the University of Kansas was played at the Gophers’ new-look home field on the Saint Paul campus, where the Alumni Association unveiled new field dressings including custom goal post pads and flags. It was the first ever meeting between the teams, but it quickly became clear that it was an equitable matching.

Although Minnesota scored first via Robert Licari, Kansas would take advantage of the Gophers’ mistakes and put their mark on the game, running to a 25-point lead with a quarter of the game left to play. However, Minnesota’s nerve held true as the team clawed its way back, ultimately winning the match 31 points to 28.

Click to View University of Kansas Match Photos

With their first match under their belt, the team turned their attention to the upcoming All Minnesota Tournament, of which the Gophers are returning champions. Practice was high-intensity all week, and on Friday morning’s 6 AM practice nearly 40 athletes were on hand with one goal in mind: being the best team in Minnesota.

Day 1 of the tournament went as planned: victories against Bemidji State University (28-7), Moorhead (31-5) and Saint Cloud (22-8) meant that Minnesota would advance to the semi-final match on Sunday. More importantly, every single player was given substantial playing time as the Gophers rolled their reserve bench at half time of each game.

Day 2 brought together the best collegiate teams and would provide a sterner test for the Gophers. Minnesota began the day with a semi-final match against Winona State, handily winning 19-7 while providing new players an opportunity to test themselves against strong competition. North Dakota State University would be the opponent for the weekend’s final match, and provided the most challenging test of the Gophers’ abilities. Tied 0-0 at half, both teams engaged in a war of attrition as massive tackles were made and rucks were competed for aggressively. Ultimately, Minnesota would score two tries to NDSU’s 1, winning by a score of 12-5 and earning their 2nd consecutive All Minnesota title.

Click to View All Minnesota Tournament Photos

The Gophers will now enjoy a bye-week before their first league match of the season, followed by hosting Wisconsin on September 30th.

View Fall Schedule         

Gophers Look to SNAFU Rugby Tournament

This Saturday, April 8th, the Golden Gophers will head to North Dakota State University for the annual SNAFU Rugby 7's Tournament. This will be Minnesota's 2nd 7's tournament of the season, following on the heels of the Heart of America Rugby Tournament. 

The Gophers' match schedule is as follows: 

Minnesota vs. U of MN - Morris: 9:50 AM
Minnesota vs. UND B: 11:30 AM
Minnesota vs. NDSU: 1:20 PM
Semi Finals: 2:40 PM
Championchip Match: 3:20 PM

Please visit Gopher Rugby on Facebook for live updates


Alumni Organization Releases Year in Review

To all alumni, boosters and fans:

2016 saw measurable improvements against each of the goals we aimed to accomplish.

The year began with the nomination of three new members to the Alumni Board: Chris Babiash, Jack Butterfield and Andrew Makredes, in addition to Brendan Bark and Walter Kaplan who were re-nominated.

The state of the program then was poor: we had no coach, Alumni Organization taxes had not been filed in 2 years, the board had no substantial funding (less than $2,000 on hand) and no plan of action for forward progress.

On Day 1 as a new board, goals for 2016 were set:

•           Hire and be able to pay a coach

•           Establish recurring / primary Alumni Organization events

•           Establish a budget

•           Launch a monthly membership program (The Excellence Fund) and enroll 30 members

•           Be able to afford making the annual banquet free for current players.


We have accomplished every goal we set out for ourselves, with one small exception:

•           Jimmy Hanson was hired, and his PAID contract has been extended for 3 years. 

•           Key events established: Winter Alumni Game + Banquet, and Golf Tournament

•           Established a budget

•           Launched a membership program, although we have NOT hit our goal of 30 members.

•           Banquet is free for current players.

•           New website launched

•           Photo archive launched

•           We have begun advertising on Google, targeting potential athletes / recruits

In 2017, the Alumni Organization's operating budget will be over $15,000

Our goals for this new year are simple: grow. The structures for success are in place - now we must work together to build upon them.

In 2017, we will

•           Increase communication with the U of MN Sports Clubs Department

•           Identify volunteers to serve on sub-committees

•           Continue to improve communication with alumni and grow database

•           Increase alumni attendance at alumni game and banquet

•           Grow monthly giving program to 50 members.

During the Annual General Meeting (AGM) held this past January, these topics and more were discussed. Additionally, Walter Kaplan was nominated to the position of Communications Chair, leaving the Events Coordinator position open. If you have interest in being nominated, or if you have interest in assisting in any capacity, please let us know immediately.

Get Involved, Get Engaged

There is far too much work for our Alumni Board alone to accomplish – we need your help! 

If you can give, give. Whether its $5, $25, $50 or more, your monthly tax-deductible membership is necessary for our program to grow. Set it and forget about it – until your yearly gift arrives.

And if you want to help, help.

We need volunteers to help manage events, collect product donations for the golf tournament, fund-raise, solicit sponsors, re-engage alumni and more. Do you have a skill? LET US KNOW! Look to Stephen “Beck” Sundquist, who has volunteered his web development skills to help improve our website, advertising and analytics. Everything helps, no matter how much (or little) time you’re able to commit.

Our next alumni meeting is Thursday, February 16th at 7 PM at Insight Brewery in Minneapolis and is open to all.

On behalf of your University of Minnesota Men’s Rugby Alumni Association, thank you for reading and as always: Ski U Mah

  • President: Chris Babiash
  • Vice President: Jack Butterfield
  • Treasurer: Andrew Makredes
  • Communications: Walter Kaplan
  • At Large: Brendan Bark




Old Gold Attend Aspen Ruggerfest Tournament

This piece was written by Tom White, who worked with Tom Matkovits to organize this event

Good friends and good rugby always make for a great weekend.  The 49th Annual Ruggerfest, held the second week-end in September in Aspen, was no exception.   To add to the fun, a group of mid-eighties Rugby alums decided to enter as a team in the over-50 bracket.   

Although the level of competition was several large steps beyond an old boys’ game – with two teams that recruit nationally and a Boulder team consisting of mostly 40 year olds also taking part in the over-50 bracket – the Minnesota Old Gold had their work cut out for them.  Going 1-3, with their sole victory coming the old-fashioned way – via forfeit – the alums enjoyed their chance to play high level rugby with their college teammates one more time. 

Playing for the team were Rob Mickelson, Tom White, Dan Dougherty, Kully Hauser, Bob Cote, Gregg Zike, Johnny Awe, Rich Meaux, John Glanton, Tod Storm, Dan Zimmer, Tom Foley, Derek Gordon and Pete Bronsted. 

Wisely sitting out and cheering from the sideline were Jim Anderson, Mike Biwer, Dan Holehouse, Johnny Langmack, Bradd Olson, Bob Rykken and Tom Matkovits. 

It’s hard to pick one or two players from among the crew for special recognition as everyone played so well, considering their advanced age and many infirmities.  Let’s just say that Cote, Awe and Meaux brought their usual grittiness.  Hauser and Tone were shockingly good.  Zike, Mickelson and Dougherty were tough when it mattered. Stormy, Zimmer, Foley, Gordon and Bronsted ran like the wind, and Tom White had a great time.  

The best part of the week-end was seeing old friends and hanging out with teammates that hadn’t been together for 30 or more years.  Aspen is a fantastic tournament, and none of this group had ever been to this event.  We highly recommend it, and are planning on returning next year if anyone is interested in joining us. 

Match Report: Michigan State University

Gopher Rugby Starting 15 for Michigan State University

  1. Jay Kim
  2. Zack Henslee
  3. Sam Kimball
  4. Quinn Williams
  5. Luka Pavlakis
  6. Max Enxing
  7. Robert Licari
  8. Gabe Cesarini
  9. Darin Richardson
  10. Robert Nguru
  11. Ty Leech
  12. Ryan Wolfe
  13. Troy Gotch
  14. Isaiah Nichols-Floyd
  15. Shad Anderson

On Saturday, October 1st the University of Minnesota Gophers began a 3-game home-stand with a win over the Spartans of Michigan State University (MSU).

Both teams came into the match seeking their first conference win of the season, but for the Gophers the game had a special significance: last year, MSU dismantled Minnesota with a final score of 65-5. 

The match started with MSU kicking deep to Minnesota. The Gophers successfully gathered and retained possession,  challenging the Spartan defense for multiple phases until a poor pass led to a knock-on. MSU could not capitalize, though - heavy defense from the Minnesota forwards turned the ball over and the Gophers cleared their own lines. 

Minnesota's defensive line holds true

Minnesota's defensive line holds true

 Minutes later, a series of tactical kicks and probing runs-especially by center Ryan Wolfe- allowed phases to compile until 8-Man Gabe Cesarini took a tight pass and charged over the line for the match's first points. With the kick, the score was 7-0 Minnesota. 

A riled-up MSU came charging back, forcing Minnesota to play long stretches of defense that ultimately led to 2 penalties against the Gophers in short succession. Both were easily slotted by MSU's talented flyhalf Ryan Britain, for a score of 7-6. 

As the half wound down, the Spartans continued their attack and slowly moved into Gopher territory. Britain, a major spoke in the Spartan's attack, recognized space behind the Gopher's defensive line and was able to deliver a well placed kick for his outside center to run onto and collect, dotting down in the corner. The kick after was good, putting the halftime score at 7-13, MSU. 

The 2nd half began with a bang - MSU was able to string together phase after phase, challenging the Minnesota defense until the referee awarded the Spartans a penalty, which they used to extend their lead by an additional three points: 7-16 to Michigan. 

Minutes later, after a period of sustained attack by the Gophers, the referee judged a Michigan State player to have illegally entered a breakdown and penalized the Spartans with a yellow card.

The Gophers quickly took advantage. An attack, starting on their own 22 meter line, saw the Gophers swift the ball from one side of the field to another and back again - forwards used to batter the middle of the field while outside backs utilized their pace to make quick dabs through defensive gaps. The move culminated in a hard nosed barrage led by center Isiah Floyd, who crashed through multiple defenders to score in the corner of the try zone. The kick was not made, putting the score 12-16 Michigan. 

Isiah on the charge

Isiah on the charge

With both teams searching for a much needed first win, the pressure began to build. Minnesota looked to its systems and structure, slowly marching down field in search of a penalty or try to see them home. The Gopher's forwards went to work, throwing their bodies on the line as they challenged the Spartan defense. Cesarini, the Gopher 8-Man who scored Minnesota's opening try, spotted an opening near the Spartan breakdown and ran a tight line inwards, dotting down for another 5. 17-16 Minnesota

In the final seconds of the match, the Spartans were awarded a penalty perhaps 40 meters out from the Minnesotan uprights - giving MSU an opportunity to pull ahead. However, the kick would stray right and the referee blew his whistle, signalling the end of the match and a Gopher victory at 17-16 Minnesota