With a reputation of rough and rugged play, rugby is alive and forging full speed ahead throughout the fields of Golden Gate Park. While a handful of personal teams gather at Polo Fields to hone their skills, a handful of locations about the park allow players to practice pitching, as well as hold championship games and public events. Accommodating various ranges of division play, Golden Gate Park stands as one of the premier hot spots for competitive rugby.
Who Plays Rugby at Golden Gate Park?
Anyone from the Valley Christian High School Mens Rugby team to Live Oak High School holds practices and games at Golden Gate Park. The Bay Area Baracus Rugby Football Club, which is part of the Division II Northern California Rugby Football Union, also congregates at the park. Started in 2001, a group of Amherst College alumni decided to create a team that quickly proved their worth to move from Division III to Division II play.
There are even barrier-breaking clubs such as the San Francisco Fog, a Division III Northern California Rugby Football Union that promotes the inclusion of historically underrepresented rugby participants, including gay men and women. In the past, the Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields hosted the Mark Bingham Cup including the Fog, which attracted a large corporate following. Today, Kezar Stadium (755 Stanyan Street), Polo Fields (Middle Drive West and Metson Road), and the soccer fields at the Beach Chalet serve as pitch locations for the team.
You may even catch sight of San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club (SFGG) at Golden Gate Park, an organization that started in 2001 when two Northern California clubs combined their efforts to create one superpower. The San Francisco RFC and the Golden Gate Rugby Club joined forces to compete in the Rugby Super League, which is hailed as one of the top divisions of rugby union, making appearances in every RSL postseason play.
With a history of undefeated regular seasons and championship playoff competition under their belt, the SFGG has played against the likes of the Chicago Lions, and Belmont Shore RFC teams. The players are held in such high regard throughout their performances that a handful have gone on to represent the USA National team. In 2003, the SFGG had the pleasure of working with Wallaby World Cup champion, Tony Daly, who served as captain for the RSL team. The achievement was high since he was the most esteemed foreign national to play within the United States.
From December to May, the SFGG season is observed. In June, the RSL playoffs are held, but at any point in the year, new players are encouraged to step up to the challenge. Once accepted, it is important to register with USA Rugby to become a qualified member of the club. To date, SFGG holds the only fieldside clubhouse in California. While the SFGG regular season practice occurs on Tuesdays and Thursdays (6:30 pm sharp) at the Clubhouse Field on the corner of California Avenue and Avenue M, rugby players often take to the fields situated at Golden Gate Park to enjoy a few pick-up games.
Since 1995, the Golden Gate High School Rugby Club has been a fixture in the San Francisco community, serving as the only high school club of its kind in the city. Participants, who are under 19 years of age, come from area schools, such as Archbishop Riordan and Saint Ignatius. The popularity and success of the team has led to season-ending tours in global locations, such as Ireland, New Zealand, and Vancouver. While their main practice facility is found on Treasure Island, many players gather at Golden Gate Park to compete with friends.
What is Rugby?
When it comes to the football game play viewed in the United States, rugby is the closest thing that Canadians and the English have to the sport. When participating in a game, the ball is tossed forward, as players gain ground by running with the ball or kicking it. Scoring is achieved when a player attempts a goal or lands a goal.
A try at a goal deals with the grounding of the ball past the goal line at the opponent’s end of the field. Grounding is just another way of saying that the ball has touched the ground. When a goal is scored, it has been kicked over the crossbar located between two upright goal posts. Varying points are awarded for the three different types of kicks during a game, which includes the drop kick and the penalty kick.
Rugby is a league sport that is played on both a professional and amateur level throughout an assortment of international countries, such as France, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. It even serves as the national sport for Papua New Guinea. Although the game play and rules resemble American football, there is one glaring difference. The players step onto the field looking more like soccer players than footballers; they lack the helmets, bulky protection padding and gear seen in the NFL.