UK/UL rivalry stretches beyond hardwood, onto paddock

A University of Kentucky player is hit during the UK vs UL rugby match in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday, October 4, 2012. Photo by Matt Burns | Staff

By Robert Hatchett
sports@kykernel.com

The atmosphere around the rugby match between the Cats and the Louisville Cardinals held its own in comparison with the fierce basketball and football rivalry.

Players talked about how much this match against Louisville meant to them and how they were motivated after losing the match last season. All of the players referred to this match as the match of the year.

“This game means so much because it’s like our cross-town rival; we can’t lose to those guys,” said first year player Jerald Choi. “My action will do all the talking out there, I’m going to rock somebody.”

Head coach Tony Vince confirmed Choi’s feelings about what the Louisville game meant to his team.

“It’s the most important game we play,” he said.

And it isn’t even a game that affects UK’s record.

Vince explained that this was a pre-season match that in essence didn’t go in the win/loss column for their season. This was only a pre-season match, yet it felt like a late season match for a championship.

This game against Louisville means so much to the UK rugby team for the simple reason of this match against the Cardinals is used in measuring success for not only where they are as a team but also the overall state of the program, Vince said.

After the match, Vince talked about the overall state of the rugby program. He expressed a desire to not only develop good rugby players but more importantly wanting to develop good young men.

He likened rugby to the real world where every day in practice he challenges his players to define limitations and to develop discipline, which are helpful tools for the game of life. Vince went onto describe the desire for young men at UK to come out, regardless of rugby knowledge, to give the sport a try.

In fact, the “man of the match,” or player of the game, was a player who was seeing his first rugby action.

Lastly, Vince detailed three objectives for his team and all future players in the team’s mission statement: “Grades, Rugby, and Graduate.”

As for the final score of this monumental match, it was a defensive battle that ended in a 0-0 tie, and as Vince addressed his team afterwards, he applauded his team’s effort.

“[This is] the best thing y’all have ever done, and I couldn’t be prouder.”