Utah Valley rugby team works hard, serves hard
Rugby is a game of carrying, passing and kicking the ball with constant action and movement. While there are not rugby teams in many of the schools in Utah County, there is a club team that has won the national title two years in a row.
Members of United Girls Rugby, which is comprised of girls ages 15 to 18 years old from various cities around Utah County, have been national club champions for two years and also have several other national tournament wins under their belts.
The club plays a sevens season and a 15s season every year. The sevens games is the sport that is played in the Olympics, according to Carson Mellott, coach. It is a shortened version of the 15s. Teams are made up of seven players and they play seven-minute halves.
Rugby 15s is a game with 15 players on the field, 30 players total. They play 40-minute halves. The United Girls Rugby 15s team has won the National Invitational Tournament in both 2018 and 2017 and will be competing in the tournament again in the spring.
Mellott, who has been coaching for United Girls Rugby for about nine years, said that rugby is gaining popularity in Utah. “It requires the fitness of soccer and has the physicality of football,” he said. “There’s an elevated fitness level. It’s the only sport that I know of that’s a full-contact sport for girls.”
Mellott said there is no variation in the rules for the girls and the boys.
United Girls Rugby has an open policy. Players do not need to try out to be part of the team. They practice at least twice each week, sometimes more when games are coming up.
Practicing and playing is not all that the girls do. They also perform service for the community, according to Trish Griffee, mother to one of the players.
“They hiked the Timpanogos Trail to the summit and we picked up trash we saw along the way,” she said. Soon, they will also be helping a local foundation pack food for needy children to take home to eat during the weekends, when they are not in school.
“The biggest thing with these girls is that even though they are No. 1 in the nation for club rugby two years in a row, they are a humble and sweet group of amazing young women,” Griffee said. “They are all family-centered, school-focused, hard-working girls.”
Griffee said the coaches, Colin Puriri and Mellott, volunteer their time to train these girls. The players fund their participation on the team themselves, but do get sponsorships from businesses. They also hold fundraisers periodically.
Those interested in learning more about the girls’ games can check out the team on Facebook at United Girls Rugby.