Amid big arena deals, league applications and investor hunts, Seattle has slowly begun to re-solidify itself as a sports town. But while the Seahawks season has come to a close and the Mariners make their way to Arizona for spring training, Seattle turns its attention back to another sport kicking up anticipation in the south end.
The Seattle Seawolves, Seattle’s Major League Rugby team who call Starfire Sports Arena in Tukwila home, are back for their third year, ready to reclaim the championship title. The Seawolves won the league in its inaugural year back in 2018, claiming a second straight championship the following year. But with each season, new obstacles arise.
JP Smith, a scrumhalf from South Africa who helped the Seawolves to a championship in his first season with the team last year, explains the challenges that await with the addition of three new teams into the league this year. “[The league is] more challenging, it’s going to be tougher,” he says. “A lot of people are saying that it’s taking a little bit of a step up, but it’s taking a big step up.”
Having dominated the league in its first two years, the Seawolves look to expand the dynasty, and show Major League Rugby that their wins weren’t just beginner’s luck. “I don’t think there’s a team that’s not going to be a difficult match, especially for us, for the Seawolves, because we’ve got a target on our back. Everyone wants to come for us, everyone wants to beat the champions, so it just makes things so much more difficult,” Smith says.
With the regular season opener set for February 9 against the San Diego Legion, the very team the Seawolves defended the championship from in 2019, Smith sees the team as being ready to rise to the occasion. “I think the boys are ready for it. We’re ready to hit the ground running.”
For those unfamiliar with rugby, here are a few basics:
The object of the game is to score a try, which is similar to a touchdown, and is completed when a player touches the ball to the ground inside their opponent’s goal line. A try is worth five points.
If given a try, teams can go for a conversion, which is worth two points and consists of a player dropkicking the ball between the two goalposts and above the crossbar.
Players may only pass the ball backwards, even a lateral pass is illegal. Players can however kick the ball forward to their teammates, who can catch it in the air or play it off the ground.
When a player is tackled, the game does not stop. The tackled player must immediately let go of the ball and place it on the ground. Both teams then have a chance to gain possession of the ball.
The game consists of two, 40-minute halves, for which the time runs continuously.