BOZEMAN – Montana State’s fall sports season is well under way, but one of its most successful programs is overlooked and hosting its home opener on Sunday: the men’s club rugby team.
Last year, MSU didn’t lose a single regular-season game, then headed to nationals in 15s and finished eighth in the country.
“After an undefeated season last year and a conference championship, making it to the Sweet 16, I think this team could do it again,” said MSU head rugby coach Joe Williams. “You know, it’s fresh, we have some new faces, so this week will be a real big test, and we will see how it comes out.”
That test is Sunday at home against Western Colorado, which the Bobcats defeated to take the conference crown last season.
“They’re a tough team, they’re looking good. They had a couple graduations that are tough, their 8-man and their inside-center-left,” said Williams. “So we will see how they look, but I think we should roll.”
This team also went to nationals last year in 7s, as well. They have a lot of experience and they are ready to prove they are an elite club in the rugby world.
“Our ultimate goal is to make it in the top four (in nationals). You can be happy with eighth but never satisfied. We want to push further. Top four is where we deserve to be and where we want to be,” said Austin Llewellyn, a senior inside-center for the Cats.
And Montana State is getting a huge boost of motivation. That’s because the university is building a brand-new turf stadium for all their club teams.
“We’re all Bobcats, we want to do good things for this school. And I think sometimes we don’t get the recognition in town or anything for what we are doing. We’re Bobcats, we have pride. We’re out there making it to nationals, we’re spreading the Bobcat team name around and logo, so it’s just great to see a little bit of support coming back finally to the clubs,” said Williams.
“The school is behind us now. I just think that rugby in Montana is growing, in general, so I think that it’s only up for Montana State,” added Llewellyn.
The Cats spread their name off the field doing a lot of charity work in the community, like helping out at soup kitchens doing raffles to benefit cancer research. And on the field, they want to keep that name on the rise.
“I would say after this year, there’s a good chance we are going to step into (Division I) conference. We are going to be with (Colorado, Colorado State), Wyoming, Air Force, New Mexico would be our new conference. I think we do really well this year and that’s going to happen,” Williams said.
Montana State has its home opener against Western Colorado Sunday at 11 a.m.