21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Air Force rugby team pounded opponents in this year’s Armed Forces Rugby Championship Nov. 13 at Fort Benning, Ga., and earned their sixth consecutive gold medal in the annual round-robin tournament.
In five tournament games over three days, Air Force outscored the opposition 226-3. Only Navy managed to get three points on Air Force in the first day of play.
“It was exciting and it was a challenge not to let them score at all,” said Marc Ward, Space Force Enhancement test analyst for Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Det. 4 here on Peterson. Ward, known to his teammates as Wardo, is a second-year member of the Air Force rugby team. He played rugby for the U.S. Air Force Academy and was asked last year to join the Air Force team.
Airmen — active duty, Air National Guard and Reserve of all ranks — stationed around the globe unite annually for the rugby tournament, which pits them against the Coast Guard, Army, Navy and Marines. The game moves fast, Ward said, and that’s what he loves about it.
“It’s a continuous game, you have to think on your feet and anticipate the opponent’s movements to defeat their plan and impose on them your plan,” said Ward, who is also coaching rugby at the Academy.
On the pitch, inside center Ward is the go-to guy for points, whether it is the conversion kick or slotting a penalty kick after the opposition commits a rules infraction. He was leading scorer in the tournament with 54 points.
In the title match of the tournament, Air Force soundly beat Army 34-0.
“It feels great; our sixth consecutive Armed Forces Championship,” said Dan Lockert, Air Force Rugby Team coach, stationed at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. “Every match we played during the tournament was a tough physical battle that isn’t reflected in the scoring line.”
For the first time, Air Force did not allow a single try to be scored against them, Coach Lockert said.
“It was truly an honor to be around these Airmen — players — and watch them gel, not only in our preparations, but also during the tournament.”
Air Force was just moments into its victory celebration when they were challenged by the Royal Australian Air Force rugby team to bring it. On the heels of five games, they couldn’t resist and went into their sixth game on day four. The Aussies put up more of a fight, said Thomas Beers, 721st Mission Support Group operations officer at Cheyenne Mountain, a second-year member of the Air Force rugby team.
“(The Australians) ended up tying it up 10-10 at the half,” said Beers, who also played on the USAFA team. “Then, they came out and scored and it was 18-10. I was a little worried.”
It was the first time in four days of play that Air Force was down.
“It was a great turnaround,” Beers said. “The guys dug deep and we started scoring.”
Beers, a flanker, scored the last try of the game, putting the final score at 34-18.
“This is the best defensive team I’ve ever played with,” Beers said. “It was a great time, a great experience and most important, it was a lot of fun.”
The Aussies want a rematch, Beers said.
“Afterward, we traded jerseys with the Australians,” Beers said. “We hope to make it an annual event.”
· The Air Force rugby team will host primary trial camp in March. Anyone interested in playing rugby with the Air Force team should visit http://www.usafsports.com.