Rugby at Elings Park.
Ryan Grau

On Saturday, January 19, Elings Park in Santa Barbara, two mighty rugby teams took the field to do battle. Armed with my camera, a few lawn chairs, and a fist full of cash, two friends and I bore witness to a clash of titans as the Santa Barbara Grunion Rugby Football Club squared off with rival Los Angeles Rugby Club.

There were two 80-minute matches that day, one between the semi-pro teams, one between teams called “Fossils” (for their older players). But both games featured equal brutality. With 30 players on the field, the action was non-stop. Game play was seldom interrupted, even when a player lay injured on the field and in the immediate line of a play. As the players wear close to zero protection, such as padding or a helmet, while on the field, the sound of flesh on flesh smacking into each other rang out over the cheering fans.

Though they’re the ones actually cracking L.A. skulls, the players don’t get to have all the fun. One of the greatest aspects common to rugby matches is the inexpensive, cold beer and the hot sausage and bratwurst dogs located close to the action. The beers were only $2 each and food plates ranged between $3-5. With free admission, Saturday’s match proved to be a cheap and successful day, despite Santa Barbara’s 19 (13) loss to L.A.’s 32 (8).

For more information regarding upcoming Santa Barbara Grunion Rugby Football Club, see


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