In 1971, two local rugby clubs, Peacock Gap and Piedmont Rugby, merged to make one united team. Around the same time, as the lore goes, the coach at nearby St. Mary's College -- a distinguished rugby man named Patrick Vincent who served as a former captain to the world-famous New Zealand All Blacks in 1958-59 -- suggested his graduating seniors join the newly formed club for the best competition in the Bay Area. This new outfit called itself the "Olde Gaels" because, the story holds, "the college athletes joining the club were no longer young Gaels." So be it.Thirty-one years later, the Olde Gaels are still pounding the turf -- and their opponents -- year-round on a pitch in Walnut Creek, despite this country's hesitant embrace of their sport. Consider football without the pads, soccer without the crying, and hockey without the condoned boxing matches. So much happens on a rugby field, watching it becomes exhausting -- but in a thrilling sort of way. The Olde Gaels are currently both young and old (ages vary from 18 to 43), but always on the lookout for a new hooker or prop, as it were. "We're always looking for new members," says Mike Spencer, a team stalwart and utility back.
With the season winding down, the Gaels (2-2-1) are currently jostling for playoff position. On Saturday, March 15 at 1 p.m. at their home field at Contra Costa Christian School, 2721 Larkey Lane, Walnut Creek, the club hosts Sacramento ("It's kind of a culture clash with Sacramento," Spencer says. "They have a lot of Pacific Islanders"), and then on March 22, also at home, the Gael ruggers go up against last year's division champion, Fresno, which arrives as the only undefeated team in the conference. As Spencer notes, "These games are more important than ever."
For more info: 510-466-5106 or www.oldegaels.homestead.com -- Justin Berton
The Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, and New Jersey Devils may be tearing up the NHL, but East Bay amateur ice hockey players and their fans have more than enough action in their own backyard. As the winter season winds down, four games in the Oakland Ice Center's leagues take the ice. Wednesday, March 12, the Nighthawks take on the Brewers in Gold Division B play at 9:45 p.m. Sunday, March 16 brings a day-night triple-header: In the Over-40 league, the Blazers go against the Golden Bears bright and early, at 8:15 a.m. At 6 p.m., the Silver Division B-level Cardinals face off against the Greyhounds at 6 p.m., followed by a 9:35 p.m. contest between the Internationals and Gang Green of the Bronze Division. All this takes place at 519 18th St. in Oakland. Want to try out for a league, or merely watch a game? Phone 510-268-9000. -- Kelly Vance
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