Iowa rugby clubs take a beating from spring weather - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa rugby clubs take a beating from spring weather

The Gentlemen of Dubuque took on the Northeast Iowa Barbarians Saturday in Calmar The Gentlemen of Dubuque took on the Northeast Iowa Barbarians Saturday in Calmar

It's been a tough spring for one of the roughest sports around. Rugby is in the midst of its spring season, yet frozen and soggy conditions have put a stop to some play.

"Spring's not been kind to us," Aaron Burbach with the Gentlemen of Dubuque Rugby Club said. "We missed a tournament in February, which was probably good. We ended up having to play in the snow in March and then had to reschedule this match to come up here. If it's not snow, it's rain. It's been an interesting spring so far."

On Saturday, the Gentlemen of Dubuque took on the new Northeast Iowa Barbarians Rugby Club in Calmar.

"This isn't expected for a rugby game in April," devoted rugby fan Melissa Simon said, standing on the sideline Saturday and holding her bundled-up young son. "It's supposed to be much warmer than this, not snow suit weather!"

Simon would know. Her husband Matt Simon has been playing rugby since 1998, and he says this is the worst spring weather he's ever seen for the sport.

"Rough spring to get a club started," Melissa Simon said.

Just this year, Matt Simon formed the new Northeast Iowa Barbarians Rugby Club in the Decorah area.

Bad weather forced the Saturday match to move locations.

"We were supposed to play in Dubuque, and at the last minute they said their field was basically under water," Barbarians member Kevin Hoeltzle said.

He works at Northeast Iowa Community College's Calmar campus as a wind turbine instructor and asked the college whether the match could take place on one of the school's fields.

"They had a last-minute meeting of the president, the provost, the board, and allowed us to be here," Hoeltzle said. "They looked over the insurance. They just said, 'No beer!'"

However, this weather has not had a chilling effect on rugby's growing popularity. Despite the low temperatures and last-minute changes Saturday, the dedicated players and fans turned out.

"I think rugby's popularity in general in the United States is growing, and I think, definitely, in Iowa as well," Matt Simon said.

Since rugby isn't a sport most high schools offer, a lot of players' first experience with the game is as an adult.

"Numbers is probably the biggest challenge," Simon said of starting the new club, "getting enough guys that are willing to think outside the box and say, 'God, that looks like fun!' or, 'I saw it on TV,' or, 'I knew this guy once that played,' and they're not afraid to come out and give us a try."

In Saturday's match, Dubuque beat the Northeast Iowa club 7 to 5.

In a game between Gentlemen and Barbarians, however, overcoming the weather and growing the sport in Iowa is a win for everyone.

The Iowa Rugby Union website lists more than 20 rugby clubs in the state, including a handful of women's clubs.

The All-Iowa Rugby Tournament is Saturday, May 4 in Iowa Falls.

For more information on rugby in Iowa, click HERE.

The Gentlemen of Dubuque's website is HERE. The Northeast Iowa Barbarians' Facebook page is HERE.

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