A First for Roxbury: Big Rugby Tournament Next Month at Horseshoe Lake

Alie Ramage on the rugby field Credits: Diane Ramage
Roxbury's Jess Nagie, left, playing rugby Credits: Diane Ramage

ROXBURY, NJ - A rugby tournament that could bring 1,500 people to Roxbury is taking place next month, for the first time, at the Horseshoe Lake recreation fields in Succasunna.

Morristown-based Morris Rugby’s “Blazing 7s Rugby Tournament” will take place July 22, according to several people involved in the event including Roxbury resident Diane Ramage, whose daughters play rugby. “It’s the fourth year of Morris Rugby’s tournament and this year, for the first time, it is moving from Central Park of Morris County (in Morris Plains) to Horseshoe Lake,” she said.

Tournament director Omar Rivera said he expects 1,000 to 1,500 people to attend the tournament, but stressed that they all won’t be at the site simultaneously. “Throughout the day, we expect 1,000, but the schedule will have the high school tournament in the morning and the men/women in the afternoon, so (we’re) estimating about 500 at one time,” said Rivera in an email.

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Rivera, who is head coach of Drew University’s men’s rugby program, said rugby games have been played close to Roxbury - at the Westinghouse complex in Randolph off of Sussex Turnpike. He said he’s been trying to get them moved to Horseshoe Lake for several years and discussed the idea with former Roxbury Recreation Department Director Dave Stierli.

“Roxbury’s current recreation director, Keith Knudsen, was very enthusiastic about bringing rugby to Roxbury,’ Ramage said. “Since our tournament is held during a quiet time for Horseshoe Lake fields (not during soccer, football or lacrosse seasons) it was easy to accommodate Morris Rugby’s request to bring Blazing 7s into town.”

The tournament will take place rain or shine, Rivera said. Both he and Ramage said it would be great if Roxbury people came to see the games. “We highly encourage Roxbury residents to come out to watch and enjoy this fast-growing sport,” Rivera said. He noted rugby is “the fastest growing college sport for women.”

Ramage said rugby 7s is “a very fast-paced game” with 7-minute halves and half-time breaks lasting only two minutes. “The action is non-stop, and one great run or missed tackle can really be a game changer,” she said. “Rugby 7s is the version of rugby that was introduced to many at the 2016 Rio Olympics and is played by many around the world.”

About 50 teams played in last year’s tournament, according to Ramage. She said they came from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maryland and Canada. “This year, those same teams are coming as well as a men’s team from Barbados,” Ramage said.

Morris Rugby President Craig Chapman said it made a lot of sense to move the tournament to Horseshoe Lake.

“Blazing 7s has become an extremely popular summer 7s rugby tournament on the East Coast and gets bigger every year,” Chapman said. “Morris Rugby is very excited to be moving to Roxbury’s Horseshoe Lake facility. It offers a central location for many of the participating teams, has great grass fields and an existing base of rugby fans.”

Chapman noted that Roxbury “already has produced some incredible rugby players in the past few years and we’re hoping to spark the interest of other young athletes in the community and get them out on a rugby pitch.”

One of those Roxbury players is Ramage’s daughter, Alie, a Roxbury High School student who will be playing in France at the Paris World Games next month as part of the Atlantis Rugby U18 girls team composed of girls from across the United States, according to her mother.

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