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Maybe Next Year
March 23, 2010 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Every year for the past 26 years, the United States has faced off against New Zealand in rugby ... on the ice sheets of McMurdo Sound. [Pages 2, 3, 4]

And every year for the past 26 years, the residents of New Zealand's Scott Base have failed to allow the team from McMurdo Station to score a single point.

But given the Americans' somewhat promising performance in the 2010 match, there's still hope. Says their flanker: "The fact that the Kiwis have to practice now shows how far we’ve come."

A few more first-hand accounts of previous matches, with accompanying photos: 2006, 2009, 2010, 2010.
posted by SpringAquifer (25 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I predict the blockbuster film based on this will hit theaters a year after the Americans end the streak and win.
posted by sallybrown at 9:39 PM on March 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Today’s match is the 26th in the series—which New Zealand leads, 25-0. Zero is also the number of ‘tries’—rugby’s equivalent of touchdowns—the Americans have scored in the history of the rivalry

I hope they have a blast, cause it isn't about the competitiveness.
posted by edgeways at 9:39 PM on March 23, 2010


Thanks for this. I love strange little corners of the universe like this. This makes me want to work out, become really awesome at rugby, and move to Antarctica.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:39 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's cool that they even do a haka before the game. Also, given the massive skill difference between US and New Zealand rugby, the first thing I thought of was the Washington General's claim that they excel on ice.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:57 PM on March 23, 2010


I wonder if they're playing with the ELVs?
posted by wilful at 10:09 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I snapped some shots of the match in 2006.
posted by deadbilly at 11:12 PM on March 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


You have to admire the Americans' persistence and spirit, but I'm surprised they've never scored a try. I would have thought American football skills were sufficiently transferable for players to put in a half-decent rugby performance - but perhaps not?

Or could it be that nearly all the 100 Kiwis have a military background, while 90% of the 1000 US staff at McMurdo are geeky researchers?
posted by Phanx at 2:22 AM on March 24, 2010


Would be interested to know if they are playing uncontested scrums or not, but I didn't see any details mentioned in the article. And it's strange that they are kicking their penalties, I'd have thought that in a match like this they would play Barbarians style and avoid kicking.
posted by theyexpectresults at 2:59 AM on March 24, 2010


At least the playing conditions are better than at Eden Park.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:03 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would have thought American football skills were sufficiently transferable for players to put in a half-decent rugby performance - but perhaps not?

The US Sevens team isn't too bad [Sevens being rugby played at an insanely fast pace, with only 7 (surprisingly enough) players].

Or could it be that nearly all the 100 Kiwis have a military background, while 90% of the 1000 US staff at McMurdo are geeky researchers?

If they did, that would be basically our entire armed forces, there, in Scott Base.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:39 AM on March 24, 2010


I would have thought American football skills were sufficiently transferable for players to put in a half-decent rugby performance - but perhaps not?

Running & tackling, yeah, but basically only the quarterback knows how to pass in American football. And that's mostly throwing the ball way forward.

Offloading to a runningback is the closest to a rugby pass, but in rugby that guy has to know how to pass, and the next...and the next...

And then when they get tackled, the teams don't go off for a five minute pep talk before continuing. All the biggest guys jump into a huge pile and start trying to open up each others' heads with the spikes on their boots. This process can go on for dozens of waves before there's any stoppage in play.

And if the referee does step in to award a penalty or call a scrum, only the most diehard rugby fans would have a clue why he ruled the way he did, and even then, they'd be guessing around 70% of the time.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:06 AM on March 24, 2010


I'm not sure why, but this makes me gloriously happy. Rugby is the only sport aside from hockey that I've gotten into. It has just the right balance of speed, physicality and tactics.

(I enjoyed reading this match more than I enjoyed watching the disappointing conclusion of the Six Nations. Not the result mind, just the game...)
posted by slimepuppy at 4:19 AM on March 24, 2010


I forgot:

- kicking in general play. the americans bring on a specialist kicker, who does nothing else. in contrast, every single backline player in a rugby team needs to be capable of kicking well: for touch (on the full or not, depending on field position), grubbers, chips, bombs, drop goals...

- players need to be skilled in both offence & defence. americans have entire separate teams for these two modes of play.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:23 AM on March 24, 2010


Ubu is pretty much right. The games are pretty distinct. The involve a similarly-shaped ball, and both have tackling, but otherwise the strategy and skillsets are almost completely separate.

altough Ubu was a bit more negative towards American football as was strictly necessary. Different games have different rules and people enjoy both...
posted by This Guy at 4:54 AM on March 24, 2010


didn't mean to convey that tone. that's the fun of sports & any other kind of game...how to adapt to the rules & come up with the right skills & tactics for the situation. got me wondering how effective an american football team would be if they tried passing the ball around amongst themselves like a rugby team, but i think that would be hampered by the way american footballers can tackle anybody - ballholder or not. the passing game presupposes that only the guy with the ball can be tackled.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:15 AM on March 24, 2010


got me wondering how effective an american football team would be if they tried passing the ball around amongst themselves like a rugby team

There was a thread a while ago on a similar topic. The play didn't look that amazing to me, being used to rugby union/league, but all the American football fans told me I was wrong. So I guess I'd say, they wouldn't typically be very effective, for the reason you state (and also because the ball would be dead as soon as the carrier was tackled, whereas a union team could just turn it into 2nd-phase ball).
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:33 AM on March 24, 2010


I liked the way he dived (as if for a try) at the end of that play.

But that was a desperation play - keeping the ball alive at any cost - rather than a deliberate tactic of using "laterals" to put men into gaps in the defence. Reminds me of schoolyard "cosmic football" (aka "kill the dill with the pill")
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:51 AM on March 24, 2010


got me wondering how effective an american football team would be if they tried passing the ball around amongst themselves like a rugby team

Not exactly the same, but look at the triple option, which is currently being used by Georgia Tech to relatively good results in college football. It wouldn't necessarily work in the NFL due to the speed and skill (and the defensive schemes) of the top-line players, but it's fascinating to watch.

Also, for a very rugby-like play in lower-level college football, check out "Lateralpalooza" from the 2007 Trinity vs. Milsaps game.

but i think that would be hampered by the way american footballers can tackle anybody - ballholder or not

I'm not sure if I'm reading this correctly, but in American football, only the guy with the ball can be tackled. There's blocking, which is essentially getting in their way, but you can't actually intentionally take the guy down in most circumstances. That's a penalty called holding.
posted by This Guy at 6:14 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


And every year for the past 26 years, the residents of New Zealand's Scott Base have failed to allow the team from McMurdo Station to score a single point.

They haven't scored a single try, but
...in recent years, the Americans have managed to put some points on the board by scoring a few “penalty goals”—free kicks worth three points each...
posted by zamboni at 6:28 AM on March 24, 2010


Depending on where you grow up in the US, your football experience might have been limited purely to unorganized play in a field or very loosely organized flag football in gym class. So it's not the best expectation that every American has a background in football, much less one where they played at a level where they were actually taught the basic fundamentals.

Though, apparently some might have had some high school experience, I still wouldn't chalk up the group as the best representation of American athletic football prowess. It's also kind of depressing to think that they haven't scored other than kicking the ball. The one time I played rugby in England (granted "flag" rugby), it seemed that there existed the opportunity for breakouts where by sheer speed you can get around the defenders and score.
posted by Atreides at 6:39 AM on March 24, 2010


They haven't scored a single try, but

Ooh. Sorry.
posted by SpringAquifer at 9:35 AM on March 24, 2010


I'd like to dispel the idea that the US team consists of geeky researchers. They are, for the most part, equipment operators, carpenters, firefighters, and garbage men. The years that I was there, not a single geeky researcher played for our team. Although this guy did run out onto the pitch in the middle of the match and get tackled by both teams.
posted by deadbilly at 10:05 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


kicking in general play. the americans bring on a specialist kicker, who does nothing else. in contrast, every single backline player in a rugby team needs to be capable of kicking well: for touch (on the full or not, depending on field position), grubbers, chips, bombs, drop goals...

Yeah I think this is what would really kill a team that didn't play rugby growing up. It's relatively difficult to score a try without getting good field position first (unless you have guys who are both really fast and can break tackles), so if the other team kicks it into your half and you can't kick it back out, you're going to have a hard time ever getting close to the try line.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:52 AM on March 24, 2010


Never mind the ELVs I want to know if the ref is adhering to the new interpretation at the breakdown.
posted by Fence at 1:41 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would expect that if i was off my feet, on a sheet of ice, I would be rolling away and getting out of the play pretty bloody quickly.

Ubu, sadly rucking has basically disappeared in recent times.
posted by wilful at 10:51 PM on March 24, 2010


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