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Silverbacks Win Inaugural RIL RugbyX


YORKVILLE, IL – This December, Rugby Illinois launched a new Winter initiative to give high school athletes a new opportunity to engage in rugby: the RIL RugbyX Series. Outside of normal competition and select side windows, Silverbacks Elite Rugby jumped at the opportunity to facilitate more rugby for it's Pathway Athletes.


The competition consisted of three weekends with four fast-paced, five-a-side matches each Saturday. Straight Win-Loss would determine a Champion.


The Barbarian-esque Silverbacks squad consisted of eight athletes representing five clubs:

Silverback 001 | Konrad Kulat (Captain) | West Suburban Bulls

Silverback 002 | Charlie Black | West Suburban Bulls

Silverback 003 | Frankie Krembs | Mt. Carmel High School

Silverback 004 | Reuben Kruger | New Trier RFC

Silverback 005 | Jaden Buettner | New Trier RFC

Silverback 006 | Robert Downey | Illinois Valley Rugby Club

Silverback 007 | Hugo Hourihane | New Trier RFC

Silverback 008 | Alexander Carter | West Suburban Bulls


"We were so excited to get our boys a chance to play some competitive, full-contact rugby," commented Director of Rugby, Joey Rasmus. "These lads are hungry for game-time but some haven't had much since the pandemic. For instance, Robert Downey hasn't had the opportunity to play a match since the (May) 2019 Middle School State Championship final. We could have gone 0-12 in the series and I still would have been thrilled just for the opportunity to get these boys playing rugby."


The team of course did not go 0-12. The Silverbacks managed seven wins from eight matches over the first two weeks. Konrad Kulat captained the side and earned the distinction as Silverback 001. The skipper credited the squad's success to week-over-week growth. "“I think we improved on communication and holding a better pace both on defense and offense. Overall, I think as a team we have worked out a lot of kinks and begun to recognize each other’s strengths and weakness. That understanding is especially important going from having 14 other teammates on the pitch to only 4.”


While the Silverbacks entered the final weekend relatively unscathed, the rest of the field with tremendous parity had eviscerated each others win-loss record. "We were fortunate to have that cushion going into week three," commented Rasmus. Jaden Buettner was unavailable for the final leg. In addition to losing the continuity built through eight matches together, Buettner had proved a spark plug of energy with the ability to provide game-breaking impacts at key moments. "We knew some other guys would have to step-up to get us over the line. Alexander Carter deserves full marks for stepping into big shoes: his impactful defense was important to getting us over the line the final weekend."


During the final Saturday, Silverbacks only won their first two matches but that was enough to put them out of reach in the series standings. Down to six players and with the Championship in-hand, Silverbacks lost by a try to the Stallions and Chiefs in their final matches to finish 9-3.

Rasmus said of the Series performance, "I really like the saying 'the point of difference for high-performance isn't that their ceiling isn't higher than everyone else, it's that the distance between their ceiling and floor is smaller than everyone else's.' I think we showed that kind of consistency which kept above the back-and-forth results for teams down the table. All our boys deserve a lot of credit for their focus and growth-mindset that enabled them to play so consistently at a high-level in the volatile brand of rugby that is RugbyX."


Reuben Kruger earned Series MVP Honors. No small part of that was his game-winning defense in two separate overtime shootouts. But Kruger was not content to be the sole recipient of credit for the team's stellar performance, "We have a group of MVPs. You don't rely on one guy. You have to get contributions from everyone."


With the RIL RugbyX Series Trophy now in hand, all that remains is for the first eight Silverbacks to receive their caps; expect them to be awarded early in the new year. While there are plans in the works to get girls on the field, Silverbacks have not officially announced their next playing assembly. Stay tuned for future match plans!


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