Former coach returns to play Sierra Foothills

Rugby interest continues to grow
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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The Woodlands Rugby Club from Woodlands, Texas traveled to Northern California to play an exhibition match against Sierra Foothills to get a better flavor of how the game is played on the West Coast.

However, the Texas team was no stranger to California rugby, as one of its coaches was also a coach with Sierra Foothills a couple of years ago.

Doug Mooneyham led his Sierra Foothills’ junior varsity squad to a state championship a couple of years ago, before relocating to Texas.

“Work came and I had to leave these boys, right after we won a state championship,” Mooneyham said. “So it was tough to go; it was really tough to go.”

The coach re-entered rugby in Woodlands, where he found the game comparable to Northern California. He said the biggest problem in Texas was how far the teams have to travel to play because of the size of the state. He said some trips take up to four hours one-way.

Mooneyham said Woodlands was one of the better rugby teams in Texas and they wanted the experience of playing California clubs, because teams in this area are considered some of the best in the country.

Woodlands found that out the hard way, as Sierra Foothills beat them 41-15.

“We were somewhat prepared mentally,” Mooneyham said with a smile, “but physically, I think we were overmatched.”

Sierra Foothills varsity head coach Tim Russo said he wasn’t surprised by the style of play by the Texas club because of Mooneyham’s influence on that program. Russo is now coaching players from Mooneyham’s championship team.

Sierra Foothills is leading its division with two matches left to play. Russo said the team’s goal is to earn a home game to begin the Northern California playoffs and eventually win a Nor Cal title and then a state title. The club has already been invited to the national championships.

“Nationals is kind of like NCAA basketball,” Russo said. “There’s a committee that picks the top 12 teams in the country. We found out three weeks ago that we were one of the top 12 teams picked.”

The national championships are May 15-17 in Elkhart, Ind.

Russo said he was pleased Woodlands made the trip to Northern California to play. He said they helped give his club a chance to go up against an unfamiliar opponent.

Although Sierra Foothills’ dominated the match with Woodlands, Russo said his team let down in the late going. He said that won’t hold up on the state and national stage.

“Our guys still need to work on concentrating on dominating the game, putting their stamp on it physically and not just doing enough to get the job done,” said Russo. “As we move forward in the season, through Nor Cal playoffs, state playoffs and go to national championships – good enough or just enough to get the job done just isn’t going to cut it.

“It’s nice getting national exposure, national recognition, but we’ve got to go prove it now,” he added.

This is Sierra Foothills first invitation to nationals. Should the team do well it will certainly be a tribute to Russo, his players and his coaching staff.

Mooneyham will likely be watching too, as many of Sierra Foothills’ players were those who took him to a state championship just a couple of years ago.