It's basically a playoff game. The two top teams in the conference. Neither team has been seriously tested until this match. Both sides are anxious, athletic, and amped up. They go at it, back and forth. One side gets up; the other claws back.
This was the scene of the Northshore - Menomonee Falls match at the end of the regular season. Amidst this all, there's the background too: of Northshore losing their back captain, Sydney Tabakin, to a tragic car crash earlier in the year. And of Falls being a first-year team to conference play and finidng itself loaded with athleticism and potential, making a remarkable run at the playoffs.
Like many smaller teams, Northshore struggled with numbers in the teens. Their captain kept getting dinged up, taking an injury minute on two occassions. Finally, nearing the end of the half she comes off the pitch for a subsitute. At the second-half kickoff, she asks to be subbed back on, having gotten herself back together, along with some tape. The referee, knowing this is a conference match, follows the laws and won't let her back on. Confusion. Tears. From Northshore's point of view, they'd had some earlier blowouts, and as frequently happens these teams suspended the subsitution laws, in the best interest of getting kids to play more.
But this was different. Right?
Then the Menomonee Falls captain stepped up to the ref, "It's okay sir. Just let her play." A quick confirmation from the sir, "You sure?" And the reply comes immediately, "Yep."
A knowing glance and nod is briefly exchanged between oppossing captains; a quiet recognition of mutual respect that most everyone else misses.
There are a lot of great plays and moves over the course of a season. Then there are the gestures that make coaches, teammates, and yes, even opponents, proud to play rugby.