Georgia rugby vs. South Carolina

Georgia rugby competes in a match against South Carolina in Athens on Sept. 22, 2018. 

The UGA Rugby Football Club stressed one message leading up to their first match of the season: Believe this is the start of something special.

Although Georgia fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 29-10 in their first match of the season, they still have many reasons to believe that is true.

A brutal southern sun beat down on the pitch Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs met their match against a talented South Carolina squad. The Gamecocks entered this fall fifteens season following a Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference Championship semi-final appearance last year.

While South Carolina made it clear they are indeed still one of the best teams in the conference, Georgia kept it close with their defensive prowess highlighted by goal line stands and effective tackling.

“We defended like legends,” Littlejohn said. “I was really, really proud of that.”

Georgia held their own for much of the first half, keeping the score within two points despite South Carolina’s dominant ball retention.

Even when the Gamecocks began to pull away in the second half of the match, the Bulldogs kept it a physical standoff, rarely allowing a South Carolina player to make it down the pitch before being caught by a defender.

Littlejohn said it’s typical for rugby squads to struggle defensively at first, but that this team is unique in that they will need to instead work on an offensive game plan moving forward.

Off the pitch, Georgia’s leaders are looking to improve team discipline and communication when games get tough.

“The best teams are the ones who talk to each other all of the time,” junior rugby president Christian Schoeberl said, mentioning that in the heat and exhaustion of an 80-minute rugby match, communication can often be lost between players.

Schoeberl believes his squad had a strong outing despite their loss on Saturday, noting that many improvements had been made from last season and that the team is still adjusting to their new head coach.

Schoeberl and fellow rugby player senior Obum Imonugo agreed the Bulldogs’ resilience in the face of defeat was an important takeaway from their first match.

“We have a bunch of warriors,” Imonugo said. “We have a lot of guys with big hearts.”

Team leaders agree that Georgia’s perseverance through tough game situations will help them achieve the rest of the season’s goals and win all of the remaining matches on their schedule.

The mood around the team remains optimistic across leadership and coaching staff as Georgia continues to improve and make adjustments.

“One loss doesn’t mean that much,” Littlejohn said. “We’re gonna take the good, make it better, and we’re gonna work on the negatives on Tuesday.”

Georgia will have two weeks to improve their offense and make changes to their game plan before they travel to face the Auburn Tigers on Oct. 6.