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Record crowds in Mesa for another record breaking day of rugby.

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

It definitely is a great time to be a rugby fan in Arizona. Every weekend you can find friendly rugby games all over the place from youth to college, elite, and old boys. Rugby in Arizona is flourishing. More and more fans and families are coming out to enjoy the games and enjoy the great rugby culture we are building in the state. This past weekend all eyes were on the Fiesta Sports Complex in Mesa. The Fiesta Sports Complex, is the home field of the Red Mountain Warthogs, the premiere rugby team in Arizona. They started their off-season in a big way by inviting the two most promising rugby clubs in the state Camelback RFC from Phoenix and the Scottsdale Blues for a two-game exhibition that attracted a large crowd and gave spectators a show to remember.

The First game of the night was between Camelback and the Warthogs. The last time the two teams saw each other was in the regional playoffs earlier this year. A game that went in the favor of the Warthogs who eventually went on to represent Arizona in the USA Rugby Final-Four Weekend. The Final Four weekend is the USA RUGBY competition that decides the USA RUGBY national champion.

Camelback Rugby Club had huge summer this year. They spent time restructuring their management team, put the effort into recruiting new and young talent, and spent all summer training to improve their rugby. It all showed on Saturday.

The Warthogs knew they will not have an easy game. They lined up a very young team especially in the pack as they continue to scout the new potential players that will represent the club's colors in the upcoming year. The young prospects were ready for a physical day.

The game was one of the best games we have ever seen Camelback play. The improvement they made over the summer was apparent from the 1st whistle. They were able to control the ball and connect with a faster more skilled backline than we have seen in the past and were able to keep up with a very well-coached and very precise Warthogs team. Their discipline and improved team fitness helped them avoid the silly penalties that we have seen in the past. Camelback were able to build on attacks that marched them down the field at times in spectacular fashion.

The Warthogs played calmly for the whole game. Great defensive plays from the forward forced turnovers and pressured Camelback into mistakes under pressure. The young players that were under the spotlight were able to display good rugby skills and composure against a very physical Camelback team. They were able to craft attacks with multiple phases and keep the ball alive and moving forward most of the game.

Both teams had a great day on the rugby pitch. It looks like both teams picked up right where they left off at the end of last season. Warthogs will definitely continue to entertain us with quality rugby and Camelback will definitely be the team to watch this upcoming season. If they keep playing and building from what we saw on Saturday this team will display some spectacular rugby and will be really hard to beat.

The second game of the night and, the main event, was between Scottsdale Blues and Red Mountains' second team The Old Red.

Old Red is the social team that compliments the Warthogs as part of the Red Mountain Rugby Club. It is comprised of Old boys and young, up-and-coming talent. It was designed to improve the level of play of young athletes and give old boys a chance to stay active and participate in the sport they love.

Scottsdale Blues is by far one of the best comeback stories in Arizona Rugby in the past few years. This club overcame some great challenges. Last year everybody wrote them off as a has-been great club. Last season they won very few games if any and the future looked dark for the Scottsdale club. Where there is a will there is a way. Over the summer The blues never stopped working. They spent the time developing existing players and did a great job at recruiting young new talent with D1 college experience to elevate their standard of play. As a club in general the Blues restructured, regrouped and on Saturday they looked better than ever before. So there is no surprise they were the main attraction for Saturday's competition since everybody was curious to see if the rumors about their improvement is true.

The game was one of the best games anyone could hope for. Old Red a very experienced team came out swinging with huge backline runs quick-ball from the ruck and very controlled attacks. They gave away very few penalties and played the overwhelming type of rugby that they are well known for. Sure hands quick-ball and big runs were the norms for Old Red and the crowd loved it,

Scottsdale blues, despite being smaller in size were able to keep up with the avalanche of attacks from Old Red. On offense, they were able to spread the ball wide every chance they had to utilize their very skilled back line and create holes in the outside channels. Good defense from the Blues and fast passing allowed them to have entertaining line breaks and great runs from the young athletes.

Both games of the night were extremely entertaining and the Red Mountain Rugby Club was able to achieve winning results for both the Warthogs and Old Red. The visiting clubs showed great rugby and helped entertain an enthusiastic and cheerful crowd.

The man of the evening by far and without contest goes to the one who was in the middle of those games. Making sure the crowd got a good spectacle and all four teams were able to display their talents in a safe environment. We are talking about the man behind the whistle Mr. Stephen Gushue. Stephen like a few other referees in our great Arizona Rugby Community spent his summer helping to close the gap between players and referees. From participating in touch rugby events as a player to participating in social events and social settings, Stephen gained players' respect outside the rugby field by having conversations with players, explaining views, and answering players' questions. The second he stepped on the field all players were happy to see him and wished him a good game. He not only delivered but succeeded at helping all involved keep a level head and play the best rugby they can. He was precise with the calls and all players showed a high level of respect. This is what Stephen had to say at the end of the long successful night of rugby,

"The games were violent and very fast-paced. but all parties did their job in helping me referee a great game and as a result, we had great rugby. I am very pleased with how the players reacted. It was a great night of rugby. I am tired,"

Stephen also allowed one of the young local referees to shadow him in the 1st game to help with his development. Hats off to you Stephen and thank you for all you do for our Arizona Rugby Community. The rugby around the state is growing in numbers and quality.

Clubs always welcome new players of all experience and skill levels. If you or somebody you know would like to join a rugby club and do not know where to start, send us a message and let us help you find a rugby club close to you.

Below are a few pictures from Saturday night. All pictures are free to download for use by players, fans, and families only.