Founded as a Youth Rugby side in the spring of 1988, North Penn RFC is one of the few rugby organizations to have emerged from a Youth rugby side into a full-fledged athletic fraternity offering rugby to players of all ages. The club was founded on the premise that rugby can and should be built “from the ground up”.
The first team ever to take the field for North Penn RFC earned a berth in the USA National High School tournament in 1988, finishing eighth overall in the USA. Mini and Junior rugby sides also flourished during that first year.
The club became a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation in 1991, and began to conduct organized fundraising and recruiting activities. NPRFC has since been successful in recruiting athletes from all local high schools – North Penn, Lansdale Catholic, LaSalle, Methacton and Souderton High schools. The club is affiliated with the Hatfield American Legion, thereby gaining access to a practice pitch, a match field and permanent clubhouse facilities. North Penn RFC’s reputation as a competitive, organized, and well-funded club is well established. NPRFC has worked diligently to solidify its reputation as being among the most organized and best-administered rugby organizations in the region.
Our Guest Player Program has hosted players from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Spain and the UK.
Thanks to the generosity of the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, the club broke ground for a new match pitch on land adjacent to the Legion property. The club has hosted many rugby related events such as EPRU Referees clinics, USA Rugby coaching clinics.
In 2001 Rich L’Ecuyer established the first ever North Penn High School Girls rugby team. The following years coaches Ron Ziegler and Brian Pickersgill (founding member of NPRFC) joined the coaching squad. In 2004 the team took on the moniker of the Rucking Ducks, an homage to the old Men’s team, in an attempt to create their own identity and story. From 2004-2009 the girls reached the knock-out stages of the EPRU playoffs each year and all but two years saw the girls in the championship game, establishing themselves as a premier team in the East Penn Union.
In 2010-2011, men’s team members Jesse Richter and Chris Bancroft along with Rob Grassi, took over coaching duties for the girls and along with a strong core of family support and volunteers established the newly named Valkyries as a premier high school girl’s program. The girl’s have shown their worth at national tournaments in D.C. and Nashville against tough competition. All the hard work during the formative years had resulted in The Valkyries bringing home TWO Rugby PA State Championships to the club in 2015 & 2017. As an organization we have seen our young women go on to play at elite rugby colleges & universities such as: Life, Penn State, and Lindenwood. Six players who started their rugby career at North Penn RFC during 2001-2010 had invitations to tryout for the USA National teams; three of those six players were selected for the national team.
The boys high school organization took on the moniker of Iron Lions in the year 2006, this helped to create its own brand and identity separate from the men’s organization and garner more recruits from the surrounding school districts. Over the past decade the Iron Lions have been lead by Head Coach Sean Covelens and Assistant Coach Steve Wolf as well as a number of Men’s team players looking to help out their younger brothers. The boys have competed in Division 1 of the ever-changing Rugby PA landscape and saw themselves become kings of the mountain in 2011, with a strong core of teammates that played together for the most of their high school careers, the Iron Lions brought home the Rugby PA State Championship after a stacked playoff run that would see them dethrone cross-town rival Doylestown in the Semis and perennial favorite Downingtown RFC in the finals in a fiercely fought match at Unionville HS.
The boys continue to feed the men’s team and their future colleges with prospects who have a knowledge and passion for the game that do nothing short of bringing the name of their alma mater up into the ranks of the PA high school elite.
Every June the Men’s team holds a 7s tournament at John Clemens field in Hatfield, Pa. This event is crucial to the financial stability of the Men’s program as this is the most profitable fundraiser. North Penn has seen the success of the tournament grow in the past few years. Going from 18 Men’s & Women’s clubs, to 32 clubs being represented from 2016 onward, the tournament has become a staple in the Eastern Penn geographic region with clubs using the day to hone skills and test each other going into the Summer Seven’s season. The aim for the tournament is to keep growing and improving with the goal to make it a National Qualifier.
In the Spring of 2002, bolstered by returning collegiate players and guest players, North Penn welcomed acclaimed USA Coach George Betzler to the Head Coach position. With Coach Betzler at the helm North Penn would climb the ranks of Division 2 and eventually ending the 2002 season undefeated. The men remained in the highly competitive Division 2 until Fall of 2005 where they dropped down to D3 where they would remain for the next ten years. Alternate former men’s players took up the vacancy at Head Coach, Stuart Marjoram (2007-2010), Dan & Adam Pickersgill (2010-2013) with the goal of rebuilding a fledgling club, and making strides towards playoff contention.
Under Marjoram, the club packed their bags and toured. First was a trip to Las Vegas Midnight 7’s in 2008 which the team took 2nd place only losing in the final to a highly skilled English club & again in 2009 the club bus’d up to Toronto, Canada where the men went undefeated in their matches. The touring during this era helped to establish a culture and cemented bonds that would serve to form the core of players that would help North Penn climb the ladder of success again.
Founding member Dan Pickersgill took over where Marjoram left off and along with younger brother Adam Pickersgill at Forwards Coach took the established core and made a push towards Division 3 playoffs. In 2011 the Men hosted Washington Renegades at home in the first round of the playoffs and came away victorious only to lose to perennial D3 favorite Old Gaelic in the semis down in Richmond, VA. The following Spring saw North Penn again reach Division 3 playoffs but were stopped short by a strong Philly-Whitemarsh club at home.
After the 2013 playoff run the men’s club saw the core of their resurging team dwindle away and in the seasons that follow relegated the team down to Division 4 after losing a relegation match to the NE Irish.
Early on in the Fall season the Men’s team was contacted to play a match against the All Deaf Rugby Football Club (ADRFC) from Washington D.C. ADRFC is a team deaf and hard of hearing rugby player. The Men’s team agreed to the match to be played on November 9, 2013. ADRFC would be in the Philadelphia area for the USA Eagles vs. New Zealand Maori All Blacks game that was taking place at PPL Park (Union Soccer Stadium). On a sunny but brisk November Saturday morning the current North Penn Men’s team along with many previous North Penn players combined to take on ADRFC. The match was very exciting with North Penn taking an early lead, but ADRFC would not go down without a fight. ADRFC touched down a couple of tries late in the second half to close the gap. North Penn held off ADRFC with a final score of 24 – 19. This match was important to NP in that it took a lot cooperation from all on the field that day to play. Specialized rules and signals were used that took some getting used to, and truly showed how inclusive and important the game of rugby is to us all.
In the Spring 2013 season, the Men’s team added two new faces to the coaching staff. Head Coach Steve Green and Assistant Coach (forwards) Tim Bucher. Both coaches bring decades worth of rugby knowledge to the team and prior to joining NPRFC they coached for the West Chester University Men’s program. The next few seasons North Penn found itself rebuilding again, with the EPRU landscape always changing, Division 4 was folded back into Division 3 and the Men found themselves in the unenviable position of climbing through the ranks of a division that comprised 16 teams. The club at the time consisted of a few remaining players during the competitive D3 campaigns and a lot of new faces, a good amount of which came up through the high school program. Some returning players came back into the fold and found themselves in key leadership positions to help the team on it’s rise back to the top of D3.
Spring of 2016 the team decided to attend one of the nation’s top destination tournaments, Savannah, Georgia’s St. Patty’s Day Tournament. Once again, taking the team on tour was a huge success in that it laid the groundwork for the bonds that would carry them through the following season. 2017 the Men were back in the playoff hunt against a tough South Jersey side, although coming up short in that game, the ‘16-’17 season proved to the Mid-Atlantic Conference board enough that North Penn was able to compete in Division 2 again.
Fall of 2017 proved to be a monumental year for North Penn. After a strong showing through the 2016-2017 campaign North Penn was one of three clubs to be promoted to the strong Division 2 from D3. North Penn took this challenge knowing that they would be putting them up against much stronger competition featuring powerhouse such as: Lancaster Roses, Brandywine RFC, and cross-town juggernaut Doylestown RFC.
The club lost Coaches Green & Bucher at the end of the season after bringing the program back from the depths of D4, and the search began in the offseason for a new Head Coach. Stepping onto the scene, Christian Lewis came to North Penn RFC by way of the highly successful D1 program NOVA and began by helping to run practices and taking small steps in club involvement. He was officially voted as the Head Coach following the Fall season and looks to build upon a solid foundation and take the team to the next level. The club took it’s inaugural lumps in the Fall of ‘17 but on the last game of the season during North Penn’s first Family Day, at home against Brandywine RFC, the club won its first D2 match in more than 10 years.
2018 brings a new level of excited for the club. Recent promotion to a high level of play, new coaches and a core of veteran players surrounded by a young athletic squad things are looking bright for the future. 2018 also marks the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the club and to celebrate North Penn are going overseas to London, England. This trip will field 50 plus members of North Penn Rugby, current and former players will make the trip that more eventful as we forge new bonds and connect our young players with those that came before.