Providence Rugby Brings Home Rhode Island Cup After a Decade
After a decade, the Rhode Island Cup is back in the hands of the Providence men's rugby team.
On April 15, 30 players took the field to engage in an annual epic battle to secure the Rhode Island Cup, a prestigious trophy that's been passed down for years, granting bragging rights to the best rugby team in the state.
After a long time coming, the trophy is back home.
The final score was 51-12.
"It was a game we wanted the intensity to be high," captain Alex Meimarides told Fun 107. "We went in with some nerves for the first 5 to 10 minutes, but the goal was to penetrate their territory and get some points early and after that first initial try, we knew that the confidence was there for us. That's when the floodgates opened."
One try (score) at a time, Providence advanced and kept marching forward: 5-0, 8-0, 15-0, 22-0, 22-7, and that was just the first half. It quickly became apparent to Providence that Saturday was going to be a day of victory as the team was up 22-7 at the half and continued to drop the hammer throughout the remaining 40 minutes of the match.
Onward they marched: 34-7, 34-12, 39-12, 44-12, and, finally, 51-12 to solidify the "W" for Providence.
“It was our last test before going out to Richmond," vice captain Keith Raum said. "The expectations were to go out and hopefully resolve and work out the kinks that we noticed over the last few weeks in matches and practices. I'm proud to say that we did well and eliminated a lot of those errors."
The men's coach, Christian Palombo, has been a valuable asset and weapon for Providence, leading them into battle one victory at a time with his sharp knowledge and background in the sport. He's been nothing less than a visionary with one focus: to continue to play the game the men have practiced over and over again.
"During the game, we accomplished two things: We took another step forward as a team and successfully ran our system well simply by playing our game," Palombo said. "Executing in a rivalry where there's so much emotional investment in the win gives a team a comparable environment in a playoff atmosphere, emotionally invested at the highest level."
The last time Meimarides held the cup was back in 2011 during his very first game for Providence. The final score was 50-0 with a TKO for Providence and he's been waiting ever since to raise that trophy high above his head.
"It was great to get over that hump finally, but more importantly, a great way to get us ready for nationals," Meimarides said. "Thank you to everyone who showed up at the game. You could hear and tell that the crowd was large and supportive and we appreciate that. We're on to Virginia."
Providence became the regional D3 NERFU champs back in November 2022 with an undefeated 9-0 season, landing them a spot in the national championships down in Virginia on April 29.
The team has made a recipe for success over the last four months that will carry them forward on the pitch.
"We know what we're good at and what our strengths are," Meimarides said. "We need to keep the game simple, focus on our success and not overdo it. Let the game play itself out and simply follow our structure. We have the players and experience to take this all the way."
Raum influences his teammates by getting his mind right, eating and sleeping right and focusing on homework.
"We have a job to do," Raum said. "I have the tapes to study and research our opponent and as long as I focus on the mentality of the game, the rest will fall into place.
"We need to go out there and understand we belong there. It’s intermediate at this level, but there’s no room for doubt and we’re going to come out on top. We’ve been talking about it for the last month that there’s a championship in sight and we have the tools to make it work."
Since December, Providence has been taking advantage of their off-season with organized team workouts at a fellow teammate's CrossFit gym in Cranston. Keeping in shape was key to breaking through the fitness plateaus athletes encounter between seasons. This year, the team showed no mercy on and off the field with plenty of momentum left in the tank.
"We've had a team that's worked exceptionally hard dating back to last August with no real breaks throughout the off-season," Palombo said. "We have a team that overcame obstacles that they were unable to accomplish before. We united and gelled together off-season through vigorous workouts and had a solid plan that was collaborated and agreed on.
Right down to starting practice early in the year during freezing temperatures and pushing through March, rugby in New England was a challenge, but the progression has been phenomenal and the team could not be more prepared to enter playoffs.
The men of Providence Rugby are "comprised of local, regional, national and international members, who strive to embody the club spirit in all they do".
It's a brotherhood and, with the championship secured, a force to be reckoned with.
With a handful of practices remaining before the big game, Meimarides has only one thing left to say to his teammates:
"Fire it up."