Mumbai

Rugby matches in the virtual field, polls the decider

Clear favourite: Kerala Rugby Warriors emerged winners with 10,531 votes, beating Young Rugby Club.

Clear favourite: Kerala Rugby Warriors emerged winners with 10,531 votes, beating Young Rugby Club.  

With competitive sporting activity in pause mode since March, Rugby India pulled off a nationwide tournament — the TRY Series Cup — from its Mumbai headquarters without a single player stepping on the rugby pitch.

There were no lung-bursting runs through the opposition ranks, no flying tackles, nor any injuries as 32 teams, affiliated to the national body, engaged in an online competition for the first time. For two weeks in May, @Rugbyindia buzzed with excitement as players, coaches, followers and fans got involved in voting online.

Popularity votes determined the winning side. Kerala Rugby Warriors emerged winners with 10,531 votes, beating Young Rugby Club who polled 7,994 votes. Black Dot Rugby came third.

2 Mumbai squads in fray

Two Mumbai-based squads — Bombay Gymkhana and Magicians Foundation — were also in the fray. Other participants were State units from across the country, institutional teams like Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences from Odisha, and popular clubs like Kolkata Jungle Crows. Competitive rugby is played between 15-a-side or seven-a-side teams, featuring male or female players separately. TRY Series was kept neutral with no format or gender restriction.

Nasser Hussain, ex-India rugby player and CEO, Rugby India, said, “The aim of this initiative was to keep the rugby community engaged and inter-club rivalries alive, while building a fan base and following for the sport. No player names, gender or format is mentioned. The focus is solely on teams and empowering them to engage with their players, fans, supporters and followers.”

In all, 80 voting matches were played over 14 days with aggregate votes polled touching 6,09,860. Mr. Hussain said, “With no on-field rugby possible, we need to utilise online platforms effectively to keep people engaged with the game. The opportunities in the digital space are limitless.”

Similarity to reality

Mr. Hussain said, “Even though this tournament is not the real deal, there is similarity to an actual match day... there is anxiety, excitement, the team that turns up with their game face on match day and performs [gets the share of votes] comes out on top. There are no favourites!”

Kerala Rugby Warriors won on the strength of mobilising votes by supporters and players, leaving teams from Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, and Karnataka in the shade.

Mr. Hussain said, “With just off-field bragging rights on offer, the potential fan base and following outside the big powerhouses of rugby in India is visible and can be tapped.”

Enthused by the interest for virtual rugby, the organisers are game for a second edition.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 7:58:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/matches-in-the-virtual-field-polls-the-decider/article31775019.ece

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