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The New Haven Old Black Rugby Football Club began its first season in the spring of 1986. Robert Chester, along with other graduates of Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), petitioned the New England Rugby Union (NERFU) for membership. At the time there was a Division I club in Hartford, a Division II club in Fairfield County, and a Division III club in Danbury, but nothing available for "ruggers" in the Greater New Haven area looking to further their athletic careers. It was Chester's idea that set the wheels in motion for the only men's rugby club in the New Haven area.


The petition was accepted and NERFU allowed the Old Black to play on a probationary basis. The premiere season initiated an uphill climb. Although a taxing two-game minimum each week took a toll on the founding members, the Old Black finished its first season with a major tournament victory, through an upset, to put the young club on the rugby map. Played on SCSU's fields, the Old Black seized the Connecticut Cup from Division I powerhouse Providence.

That fall, New Haven was accepted as a full NERFU member, and has never looked back. Over the early years, the Old Black has won the Division III title, merged with the Berlin Strollers R.F.C., and embarked on a successful tour of Scotland and Ireland. After promotion to Division II, the Old Black immediately won the Division II title in New England, and subsequently the Eastern United States Division II title.

 

After conquering Div. II, the Old Black earned the right to move up to Div. I play. The initial years showed a very competitive side playing against the best clubs in the country where New Haven retained a more than respectable record. In 1993 as competition remained intense, New Haven began to see a restructuring in the club as a number of early members began to retire. Eventually the Old Black returned to Division II and began the re-building phase.

 

New Haven remained in Div. II for 10 years, and the step down proved to be the proper choice. Three years after returning to Div. II, the Old Black won the Division II title in the NERFU Championships in May of 1996. The team remained extremely competitive heading into the new millennium and finally burst onto the national scene with an Elite 8 appearance in 2000, a Sweet 16 appearance in 2001, and most notably, a DII National Title in 2002. Once again, the Old Black received an invitation to move up to Div. I play.

 

Since moving up to Div. I, the Old Black have become a recognized powerhouse on the National scene. The club has been privileged enough to see many talented international players on its roster. Andrew Tui Osborne (USA Eagles 15's & 7's), Jacko Ahoy (USA Eagles 7's) and Kahn Fotuali'I (Canterbury Crusaders – Super XIV) have all donned the black & gold at one point. New Haven has made four DI Sweet 16 appearances (2004, 2006, 2007 & 2009).

 

The large, tight knit squad that comprises today's Old Black, is a team that plays with pride and embodies the camaraderie and dedication that can be found in rugby. The club also remains in contact with its very supportive "Old Boys" social membership.

 

The Old Black is now looking to invest in its future. We have set our sights for the best that competitive rugby has to offer. We believe that we have the athletic talent and organizational structure that will continue to flourish and take the Old Black well into the future.

 


Executive Board

 

Board of Directors:

Bob Chester, Marc Castellucci, Craig Johnson, Justin Lindahl, Matt Callan, Mark Firla, Grayson Gregory, Burt Hale, Bob Huscher, Steve Sax, Nikki Richardson, Ramey Fritzler, Mark Myers

30 for 30 Donors

Bob Chester, Bob Huscher, Carl Casper, Grayson Gregory, Justin Lindahl, Matt Reynolds, David Cooke, Pete Suits, Steve Sax, Burt Hale, Rob Spino, Mark Firla, Matt Callan, Craig Johnson, Jared Morrison, Mark Myers, Cantrece Adams, Pablo Perez, Ramey Fritzler, Gregory King, Louis Petruzzello, Jeffrey Job, Leo Connors, Victor Milani, Michael Garofalo.

 

 

NEW HAVEN - Throw away the glove, toss aside the pigskin and forget about a slam-dunk. Rather than the traditional, high profile sports of baseball, football and basketball, rugby has been introduced to youngsters at the Urban Youth Elementary School.

 

A total of 20 kids from the elementary school participated in the first Rugby Camp for inner city kids. Because of safety concerns, the kids played a touch version of the rough and tumble sport. The pilot program is a partnership between the New Haven Public Education Fund, New Haven Rugby and Urban Youth Elementary School.

 

Pablo Perez, a New Haven rugby player and youth director of the camp said the goal was to enhance teamwork, respect and discipline. The program seeks to improve both academic achievements and classroom behavior of students at the transitional school.

 

After three days of practice, the students got a chance to show folks what they learned during a half-time scrimmage at a New Haven rugby game on April 20. On April 27, the teams squared off once again with the help and assistance of New Haven rugby players. Since the children knew little about rugby, Perez said he decided to focus on teaching them the basics.

 

Lydia Bornick, executive director of New Haven Education Fund, said Perez and other New Haven rugby players approached them with the idea for the touch rugby camp. "You could really see how they were willing to work with the kids and the school in a meaningful way," said Bornick about Perez and the other players. Bornick hopes the relationships formed between the players and the kids will continue beyond this month. She said companies and corporations are always welcome to create or take part in a program that benefits the children.

 

As for the game, it was the green team walking away with a 7-5 victory, although official scoring wasn't kept. Ten-year-olds Benji Alexander and William Winfrey of the green team had the score slightly more in their favor. "We won 10-4," they both said arm and arm. After the game, some friendly roughhousing occurred, but both teams lined up and shook hands. Then they proceeded to run through a tunnel created by the New Haven rugby team to cheers and applause from the crowd.

 

Benji and William both said they enjoy scoring points the best. "When I would make a touchdown, everyone was cheering for me," said Benji.

©New Haven Register 2003

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