Club History


Corning Rugby Club was founded in 2016. The club competed in the RugbyNY Western Division II division for its inaugural season.

With the help of Jack Kahabka ’18 seeking to create a rugby team for a school project and the determination of Head Coach Bob McGee, Corning Rugby hit the ground running. Coach McGee assembled a group of former rugby players including some with international experience both as a player and coach. With limited space in Corning during the Spring months, the team practiced at Denison Park and played its home matches at Golden Glow Park in Big Flats.

For the inaugural season, Coach McGee would not be alone guiding this new team onto the pitch. Anne Barford, who is a Women’s Rugby World Cup Champion and Hall of Fame inductee, was the first to sign on. Her husband and United States Rugby coaching staple, Paule Barford, joined until duties called him to lead the first professional team in Ohio in PRO Rugby North America. With Paule’s departure came coaches Scott Bankaitis, Michael Larrabee, and Craig Johnson. To find this many rugby players/minds in Southern Tier New York was remarkable.

The players worked hard and competed in six matches with growing success in each match. After taking lumps in their first scrimmage against Fairport Rugby, the athletes rose to the occasion and took on the task to become rugby players.


Physicality was never an issue with these young men. They went into each match fearless and results started to follow with their pure athleticism. Their drive to be successful resulted in a birth in the RugbyNY Division II State Playoffs. For a team that was mere months old, these young men put Corning Rugby on the map and let the state know we would be a force in the years to come. Ultimately lack of experience in high level matches resulted in a fourth place finish, but that experience would catapult us into the following season with a hunger to take home a medal at the State Playoffs.


2017 was another year of first for the club. The club began the season with a goal to close the gap between them and the top contenders in the state. The club also expanded its profile with the inclusion of a U-19 Girls team.

The girls, some who were attending practices in the inaugural season, banded together to be the first group of girls to wear the Corning kit in a match. With the help from our friends at South Buffalo Rugby, the girls were able to play against some of the best girls in the state and the nation. Watching the girls team grow was a goal of Coach McGee and that growth saw Coach Cat and Coach Rachel join the club, leading the girls to a successful campaign. The girls would earn their first victory in the final game of the season over Fairport Rugby. Wins may not have come often in the first season but it laid a foundation for the future to provide opportunities for girls to play the greatest game on earth, rugby.

For the boys, 2017 saw them take huge steps in making a name for themselves. Thirty plus boys showed up to practice the first week and the coaching staff had a problem on their hands, do we form a second side? With athletes ranging from freshman to seniors and uncertainty in a league schedule, it was decided that Corning Rugby would have two sides for matches that allowed it to get players the maximum amount of playing time. Coach McGee with the other coaches contacts created a tough schedule for the boys that included some of the toughest teams in WNY.

Due to issues with other teams in the league, Corning was faced with a three game league schedule. With so many athletes, Coach McGee scheduled a tough non-league schedule with the likes of Syracuse, Kenmore, Fairport, McQuaid, and Foothills rugby clubs.


The boys came out of the gate and let other teams know what Corning Rugby was about on the pitch. The first match/scrimmage against McQuaid gave the boys the confidence they needed to compete with any team that was on the schedule. A private All-Boys school from Rochester, they were a club that competed at the highest level. The boys rose to the challenge and came out victorious, setting the tone for the 2017 campaign.

With a tough non-league schedule, the boys were competitive in every match and saw both victory and defeat. The lessons learned in those games would culminate in a league match-up against Grand Island Rugby club with a bid to the RugbyNY Division II State Championships on the line.

The game against Grand Island could be summed up as organized chaos. The match was physical and close until the very end. Every time one team would score or make a play, the other would counter and match. Corning would end up coming out victorious on Senior Day 33-27, earning a bid to the championship tournament.


With a second straight trip to the championship tournament, the boys made it more of a business trip rather than a vacation to Binghamton, NY.

Day 1 saw the boys match up once again with Keio/FASNY, this time in the semi-finals. The coaching staff and team leaders scouted Keio, a fast paced team, and came up with a game plan that was well executed. The match remained close until a five minute stretch late in the second half which saw Keio open up the margin and put away the match 43-19. The boys didn’t hang their heads as they came with the goal of being the first WNY team to leave the Division II Championship with a medal.

Day 2 was a complete contrast of the previous days match. Mother Nature decided to open up the skies and rain made conditions on the field less than ideal against a very physical Saratoga Rugby Club. The game was back and forth and it seemed with every minute that ticked away the intensity and physicality increased. The second half saw the Lions come alive and take the game over. Saratoga was issued a red card for a dangerous play against our Inside Centre Josh Naylor. Naylor would be fine but Saratoga would have the finish the match a man down. The Lions capitalized and sealed the victory to earn Third Place!




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