New Season, New Challenges for Buffalo Rugby Club

Buffalo Rugby Club’s (BRC) quest for a third straight Empire Geographic Union (EGU) men’s Division 2 title in the upcoming 2023-2024 season will take the club down a slightly different path from the previous two campaigns. 

Unlike the previous two seasons where Buffalo logged hundreds of travel hours and thousands of miles on the road going back and forth to the greater New York City/Tri-State area just for weekly conference matches, BRC will face old familiar foes in Rochester and Syracuse area teams in league play this season. 

“I think it’s great for the competition level in our area, in upstate New York,” said BRC captain Mike Lang on Buffalo’s new schedule. “It’ll push these other teams and it’ll push us to have to really cross our T’s and dot our I’s and take every game seriously as we try to accomplish what we set our goals to.”

“It’s definitely an advantage when you can get a good night’s sleep in your own home…it helps guys’ mentality going into the next day,” said Lang on how the reduced travel this fall can benefit the team. “I will definitely miss the road trips, but we plan on making those trips in the spring for regional and national playoffs.”

Despite the challenges of traveling downstate multiple times a season, Buffalo captured the Empire GU Division 2 men’s title in both fall 2021 and fall 2022. Buffalo went on to capture the USA Club Rugby Atlantic Super Regional title in spring 2022 to advance to the national ‘final four’ for the first time in club history. The 2022-2023 squad fell just short of defending the Atlantic title, falling in the regional championships this past April in Richmond, VA. 

In the time since the end of the spring 2023 championship season, it was decided that the EGU’s regular season competition schedule would revert back to a more geographically oriented format for 2023-2024 season.  

For BRC, this will mean playing Rochester Aardvarks and Colonials and Syracuse Chargers again and reducing both travel time and related expense which are a huge part of the club’s annual budget. And for the downstate D2 teams, this would mean no hosting or traveling to Buffalo this fall (prior to potential post season matches). 

After a disappointing end to the 2022-2023 season in Richmond, BRC leadership says the club is refocused from top to bottom on the upcoming campaign and a chance to win a third straight Empire crown and opportunity to get back to the national championships. In parallel with success at the D2 level, Buffalo’s D3 side will look to maintain a strong foothold in Empire competition this fall. 

“For our D2 team, our goal is another Empire GU title. For D3, we had a little bit of a downswing last season so it’s time for us to get back to our winning culture and getting back to playing Buffalo Rugby,” said Lang on the team’s goals for the new season.

Given the similar competition infrastructure at both levels, Buffalo’s D2 and D3 teams could each host multiple playoff matches in November where both sides would have an opportunity to win their respective Empire GU crowns and advance to the spring 2024 Atlantic Super Regional. 

“Two years ago, when we made the final four, it was definitely a new feeling for everyone involved in the club through the years – players, coaches, alumni. Last year, it was a little bit humbling. I think everyone is very refocused on getting back to the top of the mountain. As always, our goal is to win a national championship,” said Lang. 

Current BRC head coach and 2017 club Hall of Fame inductee Steve Caruana will lead the club again in the 2023-2024 season. Fellow BRC alumni Ernie Scales returns to serve as an assistant coach while past players Chris Wells and John Neiss have joined the coaching staff for the upcoming season. Matt Webber was also elected to be the team’s vice captain for the second time in his Buffalo career. 

Wells, a native of Hanworth, Middlesex, England and a member of BRC since 2013, is 20th all-time in club history in points scored (219). Neiss was a part of the very first Kenmore boys’ rugby club team in 2003 and joined Buffalo Rugby in 2006 before coaching at the collegiate level and refereeing professionally for ten years. 

“Alumni are excited, the Board of Directors are excited in the direction of the club, especially with the addition of some new, knowledgeable coaching staff members,” said BRC President Jeff Qualey. 

Buffalo Rugby’s biggest strength in recent seasons has been with its forwards group; seven of the top eight matches-played active players are forwards accounting for 940 total Buffalo Rugby Club tests between them. 

Buffalo Rugby Club top 10 active leaders – matches played (and year joined BRC):

Mike Lang (2012) – 189

Jjamil Luciano (2008) – 168

Scott Chown (2013) – 150

Mike Dean (2013) – 123

Andrew Philipps (2012) – 121

Collin deGuehery (2011) – 108

Josh Bennett (2015) – 108

Mark Boswell (2005) – 94

Max Grundy (2011) – 92

Chris Wier (2016) – 77

Matt Webber (2015) – 69

Joseph Philipps (2016) – 69 

Buffalo Rugby Club top 10 active leaders – total points scored:

Simon Honig (joined 2019) – 468

Collin deGuehery – 425

Mike Lang – 400

Mark Boswell – 257

Max Grundy – 243

Chris Wier – 232

Matt Webber – 148

Scott Chown – 135

Nate Moore (joined 2017) – 132

Josh Bennett – 130

Buffalo Rugby Club active leaders – tries scored (min. 20): 

Mike Lang – 80

Mark Boswell – 36

Max Grundy – 35

Scott Chown – 27

Collin deGuehery – 27

Josh Bennett – 26

Simon Honig – 25

Chris Wier – 24

Nate Moore – 24 

Richard Weiss – 20

Joseph Philips – 20 

Evan Castellani (joined 2012) – 20 

Buffalo Rugby practices are already underway at the team’s home pitch on Meadow Drive in Delaware Park near the zoo. Both BRC D2 and D3 sides travel to Olean for a preseason friendly against the powerful St. Bonaventure Bonnies collegiate team on September 1st before opening Empire play at home with a pair of matches on September 9th. The home double header will also serve as Alumni Day to celebrate past Buffalo Rugby Club players. 

2023-2024 Buffalo Rugby Club fall schedule:

Fri. Sept. 1 

D2 and D3 Away at St. Bonaventure University

Sat. Sept. 9

Alumni Day

D2 Home vs Rochester Colonials

D3 Home vs. Ken-Ton Misfits

Sat. Sept. 16

D2 Away at Rochester Aardvarks

D3 Away at South Buffalo RFC

Sat. Sept. 23

D2 Home vs. Syracuse Chargers

D3 Home vs. Saratoga (friendly)

Sat. Sept. 30

D3 Away at Barracks Rangers RFC


Sat. Oct. 7

D2 Away at Rochester Colonials


Sat. Oct. 14

D2 Home vs. Rochester Aardvarks

D3 Away at Ken-Ton Misfits

Sat. Oct. 21

D2 Away at Syracuse Chargers

D3 Home vs. South Buffalo RFC 

Playoffs (opponents, locations TBD)

Sat. Oct. 28 – D2 playoffs, D3 bye

Sat. Nov. 4 – D2 playoffs, D3 playoffs

Sat. Nov. 11 – D3 playoffs 

The post New Season, New Challenges for Buffalo Rugby Club appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

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