As a life long East Coaster turned Austinite, rugby’s been a mystery. Outside of catching a match at a British pub at 11:00 AM or the rare highlight on TV, this punishing yet fascinating sport has been lost on me. And I think if I took an informal poll, most locals would feel the same way.
If so, y’all are missing out! Last week, my wife and I had the chance to check out Austin Gilgronis (AG) Rugby’s home opener at Bold Stadium. We found a sport well suited for our Longhorn loving city. Hard nosed, aggressive, and exciting, the lads of AG Rugby are bringing good times and great play to Circuit of the Americas.
What’s This…Rugby You Speak Of?
As a complete rugby newbie, my knowledge of the sport is limited. From my newfound experience, rugby is a combination of American football, soccer, and – wrestling? If you know college football, you know the basics. The goal is to get the ball into the opponent’s end zone but instead of a forward pass, the ball must be advanced either on foot or kicking it downfield. Any player with the ball can pass it to a teammate so long as they are behind them. The opposing team gets the ball through tackling, recovering wayward kicks, and general ass-kickerey.
And then there’s the famous scrum. This occurs when play is stopped due to a penalty and is the equivalent to a jump ball in basketball. Only instead of two guys leaping for a tip off, a gang of burly men engage in a battle of inches. The goal is to move the ball back to your teammates while pushing the opposing team forward. Pretty amazing.
From a sporting perspective, rugby has the push/pull energy of soccer with the pure visceral adrenaline of football. Game tactics are hidden behind a wall of pure athleticism, making matches fun to watch for complete newbs like me. Players wear zero protection, making open field hits sting. But to overemphasize rugby’s “violent” nature would underemphasize the skill required to play the game well. Player positioning, timing, and pure speed looks to be essential in winning a match. All that learned in two 40 minute halves of AG Rugby.
Austin Gilgronis Gametime Experience
My first AG Rugby game was also my first time at Bold Stadium. Constructed in the middle of COTA’s main promenade, the stadium bears the name of its first tenant, the Austin Bold FC soccer team. The pre-game scene was fun and lively, full of things to do and see. Armadillo races kept the kids entertained and chicken – erm – poop bingo drew a solid crowd.
Tables and chairs dot the outside area adjacent to the field and was a great place for pre-game eats and drinks. The food at COTA is surprisingly solid. While my wife and I only tried one dish, our order of bacon queso fries was tasty. It hit all the requirements – crispy fries, gooey, flavorful cheese, and sweet, salty bacon. Add to the experience giant screens, good music (much of it local), and great weather, our pre-game experience was top notch.
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In-game, AG Rugby’s presentation is loose and laid back, just like Austin sports should be. While some may consider it amateurish, I found it charming. In a town where we take our sports hyper seriously, it was nice to check out a game where it was fine to mess up intermission times or admit they didn’t master the rule book. AG Rugby takes their fans seriously and did everything they could to keep the fun times rolling.
And on the field, our hometown heroes battled back and forth with the Utah Warriors. AG spent most of the game trailing yet had a chance to win it in penalty time via a free kick. The try was on target but lacked distance, giving the Warriors the win. It’s clear Austin Gilgronis has got talent and athleticism so I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow throughout the season.
Fun Time For Any Fan
After the final whistle blew, Grammy winning DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold performed an hour set of classic house and dance tunes to a barrage of lights and fireworks. While the home team lost a nail biter, we were more than happy to hang out and dance the evening away.
And that’s the whole point of an Austin Gilgronis experience. Good times for a reasonable price watching a sport I guarantee 98% of Austinites have never seen. It’s fun, frenetic, and I truly can’t wait to bring my 4 year old to another game this season and let him join in on the good times.
For tickets, schedule, and general information on AG Rugby, go to gilgronis.com.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Ever been to AG Rugby match? Tell us about your experience!