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Army Claims Rugby Title; Air Force Doesn't Come Close in 38-12 Rout

By Larry W. Kachelhofer
Special to American Forces Press Service

NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, FLA., Nov. 1, 2000 – Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day for the Army rugby team as they conquered Air Force 38-12 and won the first Armed Forces Rugby Championship here.

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A hard-charging Navy squad captured third place 36-14 over the Marine Corps in the first Armed Forces Rugby Championship at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

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Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard teams faced off in three days of games that began on Oct. 11.

"It was an outstanding job all around," said Navy head coach Lt. Cmdr. Don Sheehan of Naval Air Facility Washington, D.C. "It was good armed forces rugby. Everybody played hard on the field and the camaraderie was still there between the services." He laughed and added, "We'll win next year."

The Navy and Marine Corps squared off on the field Friday. Navy punished the Corps 36-14 and won third place.

"The base (NAS Pensacola) did a great job of hosting the championship," said Lt. Bobby Linder of Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, Calif. "We're from all over the world and it's good to come together." With a big grin, he added, "I don't like any of the other services for three days, and then we're all friends again. It's just good competition."

In years past, the teams played under the Interterritorial Tournament, which was not funded by the Department of Defense. Basically, players had to pay their own way. Unfortunately, this eliminated good players if they couldn't afford the trips and sometimes created hardships for those who were able to attend.

The 2000 rugby championship was the first to be funded, according to Army Maj. Mike Legg, congressional liaison for Special Operations Command, in Washington, D.C.

"The Army was able to bring their players out and it showed," he said.

"This is the first year that the Armed Forces has put this on and they did an awesome job. Good support," said Army coach Lt. Col. Mike Stephenson of Fort Bragg, N.C. "Rugby is a warrior sport. These guys have played five games in three days and you can see the effort they put out up and down the field."

"My hat's off to the Army. They made us play hard and they played off our mistakes," said Air Force head coach Lt. Col. Larry Grant of Central Command headquarters, down the panhandle at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. "It's been a great tournament. All five teams have improved here over these past three days."

(Larry W. Kachelhofer is a staff writer for the "Gosport" of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAt 6-foot-8, Army Capt. Derek Brown of Fort Hood, Texas, had little trouble taking the ball from the Air Force in the first Armed Forces Rugby Championship at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.   
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