St Hilda's College
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Beyond the Try Line: USA Rugby Tour

2 January 2024

Hildabeasts George Fowler, Edward Blake, Luke Wyllie and Zenden Rozenbroek toured the USA with OURFC. Here's a snapshot of what they got up to.

The Rugby Experience

The rugby played during our tour proved immensely valuable, both for the four Hilda’s players and for the team as a whole. Following some training on the second day, we faced off against UCLA the next. Known as the ‘Bruins’, UCLA had heavily promoted the game, resulting in a match played in front of a boisterous, partisan crowd. Despite the spirited support (particularly from Will Feasey, a former Hildabeast now studying at Caltech), the match didn't go our way, ending 20-12 in UCLA's favor. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable experience for all involved.

After UCLA, we journeyed further south to Chula Vista, just a stone's throw from the Mexican border, where we lodged at the Olympic Training Centre. Two 40-minute training fixtures against Major League Rugby sides San Diego Legion and Chicago Hounds provided yet another challenging test in hot, dry conditions—a stark contrast to the wintry Iffley Road. Our final game was against the local team Santa Monica RFC. Played on a blue artificial high school American football field, it showcased some expansive rugby and resulted in a comfortable victory for Oxford, ending the tour on a high note.

Overall, these games provided the squad with a diverse array of opponents and conditions, revealing our key strengths and weaknesses as a team, which we addressed upon returning to the UK.

Social and Cultural Experiences

Off the field, the tour presented us with eye-opening opportunities to do remarkable things, witness breathtaking views, and meet diverse people. Post-match functions with the opposition, such as the one after our game with UCLA, allowed us to forge connections over chicken wings and beers. This camaraderie continued through our subsequent matches, where we learned about the lifestyles and routines of Californian rugby players, enriching our understanding beyond the sport.

We stayed in touch with our UCLA counterparts, meeting them again at a family-hosted barbecue and for tours of the UCLA campus, among other outings. These interactions provided insight into the social life and culture of other universities, leaving us with unforgettable memories.

Additionally, we were fortunate to partake in invaluable experiences, from a beach run under a starry sky in Santa Monica to a visit to San Diego Zoo, and culminating in the highlight of attending an NBA game. These experiences not only enriched us individually but also brought our squad closer together, enhancing our on-field chemistry and cohesion.

Pride in College Representation

Representing our college abroad is a privilege, and this year, with St. Hilda’s College boasting the most rugby players in the varsity and touring squad, it's a testament to our culture of excellence in both academics and sports. The experience gained by the four Hildabeasts in the US will undoubtedly prove invaluable as we approach the latter rounds of the intercollegiate rugby tournament. With the core of our squad forged during the tour, we aim to carry forward the chemistry and cohesion, aiming for victory in the upcoming matches and bringing further pride to our college.

The Significance of Tours for Team Cohesion

During a Varsity Match campaign, the strength of the team's bond often dictates success on the pitch. The USA tour was pivotal for the Blues’ campaign this season, as the memories and experiences shared over the two weeks helped us form strong relationships crucial for our success. Whether enduring grueling fitness sessions on the beach or bonding over shared experiences like watching an NBA game, the tour deepened our connections and provided unforgettable moments that will resonate with us for years to come. As Hilda’s students, we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to participate in this tour, which not only created lifelong memories but also strengthened our bonds as a team.

In conclusion, this tour was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all four of us, made possible by generous funding from the college. We eagerly anticipate representing our college in the annual Varsity Match and bringing home even more pride for St. Hilda’s.