Gentlemen’s gesture

Men’s rugby hosts visiting teams as part of sporting tradition

After a hard-fought game, visiting rugby teams are treated to a meal by their hosts.
After a hard-fought game, visiting rugby teams are treated to a meal by their hosts.
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“What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch.”

This rugby philosophy-turned-reality was reiterated by fourth-year men’s rugby player Matt Kelly.

He’s been playing the sport, otherwise known as “the gentleman’s game,” for eight years and running.

Two teams duke it out on the field, with the intention of inflicting pain — not injury. After the game, win or lose, both teams socialize over a meal and sometimes a few pints.

At Queen’s, the rugby tradition takes place at The Brass Pub on Princess St., where the Gaels play host to their visiting opposition.

“It’s an unwritten rule in rugby,” Kelly said. “The same type of thing happens across the board.”

The gentlemen’s game, born in Warwickshire, England, in the mid-nineteenth century, is in no way a gentle game. It’s better described as a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.

Post-game socials happen at all levels, including international play, which provide the sport’s fiercest battles.

On Sunday, the Gaels third-string team beat the York Lions first squad 70-0 in an exhibition game, as neither team is registered in an official league. The final whistle blew and both squads hit the Brass.

Kelly was there, playing with the thirds team as a tune-up for the upcoming varsity game versus Western on Saturday.

“From my experience, after 80 minutes of just beating each other up and you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is continue it afterwards,” he said.

Queen’s players buy the customary lasagna, Caesar salad and garlic bread dinners at the Brass for members of the York team. Sometimes a player offers a pint to the opposing player who plays the same position.

In most rugby circles, each team selects a player of the game from the opposing team. The two MVP’s then have a chug-off, face-to-face, in front of both teams.

Kelly said most drinking traditions are more common in recreational club rugby than at the university level.

“The beer part isn’t mandatory by any means. There’s a lot of guys who’d rather not even drink.”

All those under-age and other non-drinkers chosen as players of the game will choose to pass on the position to someone else.

For the Queen’s varsity team, Kelly said the main goal is getting the meal and replenishing their systems.

“The drinking part is in no way a foundation of what we do after the game,” Kelly said. “We might buy the guy a pint or something, but for us it’s right back to work once the game ends.”

Rugby games are played on Saturday, and the varsity follows up with a yoga session the next morning, a Monday fitness session and on-field work up until Friday.

The post-game social might as well be penciled in the schedule along with weight training and team practice.

Mark Charette was one of several players attending the Brass after the Sunday win over York.

“It’s something every Queen’s team does,” Charette said, referring to the slew of rugby players which collectively form seven rugby teams.

Charette added that beer-ups happen just about everywhere else, whenever Queen’s teams are on the road.

Opposing rugby teams share the same space on the field and at the pub, and their attitudes shift from one setting to the next. Unlike other contact sports such as hockey or football, the post-game tradition is unique to the sport itself.

The gentlemen’s game, indeed.

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