For John McMullen, coach of the gay-friendly Philadelphia Gryphons rugby club, it was a welcome mystery how his boys found their spark in the second half of the semi-finals match against the Charlotte Royals, visiting from North Carolina. His team has a reputation for losing fire in the second half of a match.
Bob Keogh, captain of the Gryphons forwards, says the Gryphons are the definition of a scrappy team. And against the odds they advanced to the finals of the home-grown Colonial Cup tournament on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.
For someone unfamiliar with rugby, a match might look like two packs of burly men chasing a ball and knocking each other down, but the beauty of the game is in its continuous play. Michael Kuriger, an injured team member points out from the sidelines one of the chief differences between rugby football and its American cousin. As long as the ball is in play the game can go on and on. Televised rugby doesn’t stop for commercial interruptions like the NFL.
Kuriger is one of dozens of spectators on hand to cheer amateur teams from Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, New England, New York City, Washington, and Philadelphia competing in the gay-friendly rugby tournament. The matches are played on two converted soccer fields in the park near Strawberry Mansion. Additional poles are simply fastened to the soccer goals to make the needed goal-post extensions.
The Gryphons’ opponent in the championship match is the Gotham Knights from New York City. The two teams look fairly evenly matched, but Gotham proves too strong for the Gryphons. The New York Gotham Knights crown themselves champion with a 26-5 victory.