The Hustlers Baa Baas debut at the 7th Bingham Cup in Sydney.

Sydney, Australia

As the start of the tournament quickly approached, the excitement (and just a tad bit of anxiety) was palpable. Given only one day to meet and iron out the kinks, the 15 strong Brisbane Hustlers Baa Baas contingent met teammates from the Sydney Convicts and the Melbourne Chargers. Together, the Hustler Australian Baa Baas were born. Despite the short time the teams’ spirits were high and the boys were anxious to get out on the field.

On the first day of competition the Hustlers Australian Baa Baas ran onto a muddy pitch against the Emerald Valkyries.

Baa Baas captain Dean Vianello passes to hooker Garth before going down against the Valkyrie flyhalf.

Baa Baas captain Dean Vianello passes to hooker Garth before going down against the Valkyrie flyhalf.

The first half of the game was a baptism of fire for many of the boys, not only because it was the first ever rugby game for some, but it was against a tried and tested team in some of the most challenging playing conditions.

Despite the overwhelming odds, the boys put up a valiant effort to stave off a flogging. A heavier forward pack was equally matched by the Hustlers forwards’ determination at every breakdown and both sides showed fierce determination to gain possession of the slippery ball.

The Valkyries fought hard against some solid Hustlers defence and gained the advantage late in the first half. This quickly resulted in a try but remained unconverted. The Hustlers 0; the Valkyries 5.

With the Baa Baas down 0-10 early in the second half the boys mounted an offensive, inching their way closer to the opposition’s try line but found the Valkyrie’s kept the Baa Baas at bay and took the win.

The Baa Baas’ second game was against one of Canada’s two teams: the Ottawa Wolves. As the rain relented, the two teams clashed fiercely against the backdrop of a sunset at Rose Bay.

Scrumhalf Dou Ribu catches the Canadian openside flanker as blindside flanker Simon Copland looks on.

Scrumhalf Dou Ribu catches the Canadian openside flanker as blindside flanker Simon Copland looks on.

The Canadians drew first blood with an unconverted try while the Hustler Baa Baas still hunted for their first. In the second half saw the Baa Baas took it up a notch and managed to break through the advantage line. The Baa Baas’ fly-half almost managed a try but in a controversial decision, it was disallowed as a knock-on.  In the scuffle, the team earned its first injury, with a key player loose forward ruled out for the rest of the tournament.

In the dying minutes, the Wolves managed to score another try against the Hustlers with the final tally at 12 to nil.

Rolling into day two, general soreness and fatigue set in, but morale was high and the hunger for a first try was strong.

The team prepared to play their last pool games against the Melbourne Chargers and the Philadelphia Griffons in yet more wet and miserable weather. The first game against the Melbourne Chargers was guaranteed to be one to watch as both teams were still vying for a win on the field.

It would seem finally, the Hustlers Baa Baas finally found their rhythm, with the forward pack fiercely competing at the breakdowns. However, the limited training time meant the backline were testing moves on the fly which resulted in a number of unfortunate handovers.

Bingham Cup Hustlers Baa Baas 2014

Outside centre Nathan Albeck receives the ball from flyhalf Tom Toro and steels himself as he goes to crash against the Gryphon defense.

The Melbourne Chargers found an opportunity in the last few minutes of the first half and scored their first try. But, the Hustlers Baa Baas dug deep in the second half and began producing some consistent phase play. Again, the Hustlers Baa Baas Flyhalf rallied the pack and the team began punching holes in the opposition’s defence, sending the Charger’s defence scrambling. In the 30th minute the Hustlers Baa Baas finally found the try line and scored their first try.

With a handful of minutes remaining and the score levelled at 5 apiece, the Chargers, drew on their experience and wore the Hustlers down with the final score: 10 Melbourne Chargers B; 5 Hustlers Australian Baa Baas.

That afternoon, the first quarterfinals were played with the Hustlers Baa Baas competing in the inaugural Hoagland Cup, in honour of Mark Bingham’s mother Alice Hoagland. The opponents: the Philadelphia Gryphons. It was the first American side the Baa Baas would encounter and the most intensely physical game the Hustlers would play.

Bingham Cup Baa Baas 2014

Lock Nick Ward plows into the Philadelphia Gryphons defense.

The first game had already taken its toll on the team with critical players injured. Despite injuries and exhaustion, the Hustlers Baa Baas managed to maintain strong defence against the Americans. The Americans scored two tries in the first half, a half which saw further injuries and removal of even more key players – forcing a reshuffle of the Hustlers Baa Baas backline.

Ultimately, the mounting injuries led the Gryphons to a further three tries, with the Hustlers Baa Baas falling scoreless against the Gryphons at 27 to nil.

Day three and the final day of the Bingham Cup finally saw clouds part and let the sun shine on what was going to be an exciting day of competition. The Brisbane Hustlers was playing against the San Francisco Fog for a place in the Bingham Cup Grand Final while the Hustlers Baa Baas were in the semi-finals for the Hoagland Vase. Read about The Brisbane Hustlers Bingham Cup campaign here.

The Hustlers Baa Baas faced off against their second American team: the Boston Ironsides. Despite injuries still plaguing the team, everyone was in high spirits as they kicked off for their fifth game.  The Hustlers Baa Baas started strong against the Ironsides, with the opposition giving away early penalties. But the opposition’s sheer size and physical domination over the Baa Baas ensured they took the first try early in the first half.  Early in the second half the Hustler Baa Baas suffered yet another injury, forcing another reshuffle of the backline.

Flanker Matt Clayton has his eye on the ball against the Boston Ironsides.

Flanker Matt Clayton has his eye on the ball against the Boston Ironsides.

The Hustlers put up a valiant fight for the remainder of the game, rallying to score once in the second half. Effectively running a 14-man side against the big American side, the Hustlers Baa Baas weren’t able to muster enough of an offence to take the win from the Ironsiders.

With the final score at 10 to 5, the Baa Baas ended their Bingham Cup campaign proud of what they’d been able to achieve in 3 days. Their proudest achievement was demonstrating to the world how a team can come together on and off the field, despite some overwhelming odds.

Baa Baas 3_compressed

Ultimately, the Hustlers Baa Baas came away from the Bingham Cup with a stronger sense of camaraderie with the global rugby brethren. With the Bingham Cup organisers unofficially dubbing the Hustlers Baa Baas as the most positive team at the tournament, the Hustlers Baa Baas spirit will live on and will be alive and kicking at the 8th Bingham Cup in 2016 at Nashville, Tennessee.

If you’re interested in joining, or contributing to the Brisbane Hustlers Rugby Club head over to our recruitment or contact us page and let us know. We’re always welcoming new players and supporters into the Club.