Saturday, October 16, 2021

Rugby teams honor alumni

Teams across New York gathered for the annual TnT Memorial Tournament Saturday for a day of memorial, reflection and rugby. Paul Smith’s College, Clarkson University, the Saranac Lake Mountaineers and SUNY Potsdam sent both men’s and women’s teams, along with SUNY Oswego’s men’s team.

The tournament got off to a rocky start when Clarkson University arrived with only seven men—eight short of a full team. The tournament switched from a bracket to pool play at the last moment, according to tournament director Chuck Gordon.

“There were some hiccups,” Gordon said. “After that, it went pretty well. All the teams seemed to have a good time.”

Ahead of the anticipated Plattsburgh State vs. Alumni contest, the teams and fans all gathered around the three pine trees at the far end of the rugby pitch for a moment of silence for fallen rugby players. The tournament, held every spring to remember deceased former ruggers Trevor Santandrea, Trevor Green and Billy Erwin, raised nearly $300 through food and bracelet donations for the Tony Santandrea Memorial Scholarship.
Additional donations, gathered through team entry fees, merchandise sales and jacket raffles, will go to the scholarship, which is awarded annually to an environmental student.

For the current team, there were many familiar faces on the alumni side—recent graduates who returned. Experience won out in the end as the alumni defeated the current roster three tries to two.

Halfway through the tournament, men’s head coach Sean Morgan gathered the team and alumni for a ceremony to dedicate the team’s new scrum sled, a product of several weeks of fundraising by the team, alumni and the SUNY Plattsburgh Alumni Association.

Morgan and the team named the sled “Jaybird” after the younger brother of alumnus Joe Spilka. Jaybird, the team’s proclaimed “number one fan”, was too ill to attend the tournament but goes to all the games in western New York.

“Sorry I couldn’t make it but, my brother showed me a video and it made me so happy and proud to have my name on your scrum sled,” he said to the team through his brother on Facebook after the tournament.

At the end of the day, with the pitch long turned to a muddy mess despite a sunny outing, both the Saranac Lake men’s and women’s teams hoisted championship plaques. Forrest Morgan, one of several Mountaineers to have also played rugby at Plattsburgh State, took home tournament MVP.

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