The silver-platter season

The silver-platter season

In the spring of 1974, I was new to both MIT and rugby football. As a Course 2 graduate student, I shared a basement office with several other students, including two players on the Tech rugby club who encouraged me to join them. Being both an Anglophile and a beer drinker, I was pretty easily talked into participating in this sport, with its British roots and after-match parties.

I played mainly on the squad’s B side that season but was among those asked to join the A side players in the annual tournament of the New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU), held at UMass Amherst. We needed extra men for the exhausting tournament schedule, in which players from both the A and B sides would be combined in various ways for different matches. Today NERFU has many more teams and several divisions of competition. But in 1974 it had just one division and held a single annual tournament.  

Institute records show rugby being played as early as 1882, making the Tech club the oldest in NERFU and one of the oldest in the nation. In 1974, it fielded two 15-man sides that practiced twice a week and played every Saturday during the spring and fall seasons. (There was no women’s side then.) Our school-supplied uniforms were classics of a bygone era—striped long-sleeve jerseys with collars and rubber buttons.

Rugby matches are grueling affairs involving continuous running and tackling and (for forwards like me, who make up half the team) pushing in organized scrums and ad hoc rucks. (In both scrums and rucks, players grab teammates’ shirts, binding together to push against the opposing team while attempting to gain possession of a ball on the ground with their feet.) In 1974, substitution was allowed only in cases of injury. Usually, one match per week was all a player would play. Making it to the tournament’s championship match would require play

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