Reflection: From Greenville to Charleston
The past two weekends have seen a change in the performance of Charlotte's men. On February 9th, CRFC took two men's teams to Greenville, SC. The men clashed with a determined Greenville side, but on the day, emerged with a draw. Frustrated, yet not dismayed, the men went into the February 16th weekend hungry as ever. Welcoming a clever Charleston RFC, the lads of CRFC were able to amass a win with no points conceded, a feat they had not accomplished for quite a while. So what could have happened in one week's time from Greenville to Charleston?
The trek to South Carolina was like that of any other away match. The men traveled with impressive personnel. A full two squads with plenty of depth in the reserve pool, ate their pre-match meals, stretched, taped, kitted, laced, and took the pitch. The weather was clear but brisk, and the wind, though unexpectedly chilling, was immediately to Charlotte's back as they drew first blood with an early try to set the tone. Greenville proved that they were not to be denied, and would go on to score a few tries of their own, on the large going toe to toe with CRFC on the scoreboard. The closing whistle cemented a 22-22 draw, but the final belies the true drama of the match.
Charlotte’s flow of play was painstakingly slow because, though handling errors were relatively low, penalties against the visiting side brought momentum to an agonizing halt. In the moment, the men in green and orange were frustrated; foiled, not unlike a track runner attempting to run the 100 meter dash barefoot on a track covered in Lego bricks. Some time after the more successful campaign by Charlotte Men's 2nd XV, the boys were able to come together and recognize that adversity doesn't determine result, but rather that the story told is in how great teams respond to that adversity. Onward to training; next week they were to face Charleston.
Charlotte's All-Star weekend arrived, yet it was business as usual at Skillbeck Athletic Grounds. On Saturday, February 16th CRFC would field only one side, as there was no 2nd match to be played against Charleston RFC. This meant there was only one opportunity to make a statement for the boys in green and orange. Though the skies were relatively placid, the earth was near saturated from earlier rains. The grass gave way to mud, leaving many to wonder if the far-side swamp that the club had once drained years ago was experiencing a renaissance. Despite this, neither team were to be fazed by the attempted dampening of their game play, nor of their spirits. Ball runners on both sides were sure footed, and the effort in ball handling was stepped up to compensate for conditions.
Charlotte had put in a lot of work early in the match to keep ball in hand, and managed to earn a bonus point by the 48th minute of play. As with the Greenville match, the scoreline told only a small part of the story. Those in attendance would herald the brave and disciplined defensive work put in as the tide of possession had shifted more and more in favor of the Charleston Outlaws. Charleston played like men on a mission, pressing relentlessly on the offensive front with tireless runs from powerful ball carriers. Charleston play-makers also unveiled several cheeky kicks from the Outlaw arsenal as part of their effort to disconcert the Charlotte line. Unfortunately for the visiting team, time would run out, and despite the increasing threat put against them, Charlotte's defensive prowess would prove impregnable.
So what happened in one week's time? As always, the men of Charlotte Rugby Club stand in appreciation of their brilliant coaching staff for the diligence in recognizing errors, faults, and areas of improvement. Training this week was direct, and effectiveness was the theme. But what of the players themselves? How could they turn one Saturday's frustration into the next Saturday's fortitude? There are many possible theories in response to this surprisingly open-ended question, however rather than getting bogged down in the could-be's, there are many factors worth considering. The men traveled to sunny Greenville strong, in good spirits, and in near-ideal conditions. They then went on to experience home-pitch advantage on marsh-like turf, though still in good spirits, still just as strong. The competition brought comparable amounts of fire with their respective challenges, and both made CRFC work hard for every visit over the goal line. If there was any difference in the stories told by both weekends, it was certainly brought on by Charlotte men's main motivating mantra; Passion.
Passion is expressed in innumerable ways. Passion manifested itself as frustration in the match vs Greenville. Passion was embodied as fortitude in the face of the Outlaws. What this shows is that passion is an applied ideal that is as amorphous as water's surface; constant in its need for direction. Shaped by the wisdom and guidance of their coaches, and exercised by the will of the players, passion permeated the week's training sessions, was channeled into a defensive victory for Charlotte Rugby.
Passion isn't exclusive to the men of CRFC, as the women have been on full tilt in their training leading up to next week's season opening match vs Nashville WRFC. In addition, the Charlotte Legends have committed their undeniable passion towards readying themselves to face off against Raleigh RFC. Three CRFC teams ready to bear the Charlotte Rugby crest against whatever their opponents will bring. Skillbeck will be alive this weekend for sure!