UA alumni help rugby team prepare for opener

By Craig Degel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but that's because they already know enough to beat you anyway.

On Saturday, the UA club rugby alumni were in town for reunion festivities and for exhibition matches against the 1994-95 squad.

The day started off with the rookies splitting into teams for controlled scrimmaging. The rookies will field four teams this year, and will see their first real action of the year this weekend at the Camelback Invitational.

"As Napoleon looked down on Waterloo he said, 'It's magnificent, but it's not war.' Well this was magnificent but it wasn't rugby," said rookies coach Mike Veth jokingly. "They tackle well and they're showing a real effort to play well."

The rookies then gave way for the alumni to take the field. The first half of the Red-Blue match featured the Red team versus UA Alumni. The alumni featured the likes of George Stephanopoulus, first cousin of President Clinton's senior advisor of the same name, and David Ball, a fullback on the 1983-84 Sweet 16 team, one that the coaches call "the greatest of all-time". The alumni were also helped by an on-field appearance by Coach Dave Sitton, an alumnus from the 1974-77 seasons.

Things started off well for the Red because of the work of George Hajipalou who scored two trys, the second being a 50 yard run from scrummage, as the Red jumped out to 10-0 lead. Two missed conversions cost the Red a chance for victory over the alumni. At the end of the first half, Ball scored a try and nailed the conversion to close the halftime score to 10-7. The Red added a penalty goal for a 13-7 lead but they couldn't hold on as Pat Teague, 1984-87, bulled his way to a try with just seconds left in the match. The conversion sealed a 14-13 victory for the alumni.

After the match, the both sides were tired, but in good spirits, "It was a lot of fun to get out and play these guys," said veteran Scott Friebaum.

"I haven't played in seven years, it was fun, but I'll feel it in the morning," said Ball, now an architect in San Diego.

"Without rugby my time at the UA would not have been fullfilling. People don't realize how tough this is, if you don't stick with it, you're in trouble," said Stephanopoulus, now a New York attorney with Lorne Michaels' (Saturday Night Live) production company "Broadway Productions".

The second half of the day featured the Blue team versus the Old Pueblo Lions, a Tucson rugby club.

The Blue team jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead on Tom May's penalty goal. But from then on, scoring did not come as easy for the Blue team, who struggled a bit against the Lions. Another penalty goal from May was the only scoring for the Blue as they dropped the match 22-6.

"We did good work against some very formidable teams," Sitton said. "I could tell that we were moving at about 50 percent. We hustled to the ball, but then we walked through what we had to do. But we were out here to see who executed their fundamentals well to help set our lineups for next week."

The team will practice this week and iron out the kinks to prepare for the Hi-Desert Classic in Albuquerque, N.M. on Saturday. The team is one of eight playing for the title. Also in the Classic are, Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, New Mexico, New Mexico St., and New Mexico Tech.

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