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Full Tanks. No Brakes. Can't Lose: The Vanimals Ride Out of the NY7s as Winners.

by Warren Rosenberg and Clark Thompson, MetroSports Magazine December 3, 2022

Founded just 16 months ago, the local New York City based men’s rugby team known as the Vanimals captured the Cup Championship in the Men's Club Division at the prestigious 2022 New York Sevens Rugby Tournament this past Thanksgiving weekend on the pitch at Randalls Island Park in NYC.

The team was founded by Kyle White, Aengus Nelson and Connor Buck of the New York Athletic Club after coming together to play for the first time, unofficially, as the Vanimals at the Saratoga 7s Rugby Tournament in July of last year.

When MetroSports asked about the unique team name and the iconic logo looking like to old first-generation Volkswagen bus, co-founder Connor Buck told us that, “from our time traveling to and from games, we always hailed the Van. We’d get one or two large vans to transport our teams in games past and saw it as a sort of paradise on wheels for ruggers to let loose, be themselves, and bond. It slowly became an almighty deity that we worshipped. So when the time came to pick the name, I wanted to incorporate the Van in some way because that’s what united us as a team if you removed our original club patch. With my knack for puns, the team name Vanimals was born. The pink VW bus embodied the fun, cohesive nature of Rugby, so we took that and changed the VW to NY on the logo since the team is based out of NYC.”

From that early start, the team has grown in strength, sophistication, reputation in the close knit rugby community, perhaps best stated by team captain, Joe Lopinto. "New York 7's was a special outing for the Vanimals because it really demonstrated our growth as a club. Last year was my first outing as a Vanimal, and the team was a motley crew pulled together to play some tournament rugby. At that time there was no merchandise or big Instagram following, just some guys wanting to ball out and have fun; we rode that energy through the tournament but ultimately fell short in the final. With each tournament since, we have grown exponentially in all of our key rugby metrics: headcount, social media presence, trophy cabinet, and total beers consumed. This time around, we held a jersey presentation the evening prior, comfortably fielded two teams in sponsored kit, won the club tournament in stunning fashion, and celebrated till we couldn't anymore. The change over the last year has been driven by the simple yet binding belief that rugby is best enjoyed with good friends. We'll let that belief continue to drive us wherever it may lead. Full Tanks, No Brakes, Can't Lose."

While the team is locally based in New York City, its members hail from as close by a Westchester County, New Jersey, Connecticut and from as far away as California, England, Ireland, France, the Republic of Georgia, Honk Kong, and New Zealand. In their short history, the Vanimals have captured the 2021 and 2022 Saratoga 7s Social Championship, the 2022 Mallorca Beach 5s Shield Championship, the 2022 Hollywood Beach 5s Plate Championship and the recent 2022 New York 7s Club Championship.

In reflecting on the experience of the New York Sevens, Connor noted that, “with all the attention and notoriety that New York 7s gets, we understood the importance of making a statement in our first showing.”

He went on to congratulate the tournament hosts, sponsors, competitors and fans stating, “NY7s puts on a fantastic tournament with an immaculate social atmosphere that really exemplifies what Vanimal rugby is all about. We are honored to win here and can’t wait for next year.”

On the roster for the Vanimals Club and Social Teams at the New York Sevens were:

Leon Abhiva, Bronx, NY Stephen Ambrosino, Howard Beach, NY Jack Argast, New York, NY Lasha Asanidze, Tblisi Georgia Valentin Balande, Bordeaux France Josh Berman, Royale Bar, NY Connor Buck, New Canaan, CT Salvatore Carosa, Florence Italy Hubert Chan, British Hong Kong Aidan Costelloe, Port Chester, NY Declan Costelloe, Port Chester, NY Rob Cleere, Kilkenny Ireland Conor Curley, Dublin Ireland John Golden, Huntington, NY Oran James, Greystones Ireland Jordan Gamu Gomez, London UK Bryan Herbert, Manhasset, NY Gabe Hererra, Irvington, NY Joe Lopinto, New York, NY Aleki’ Lui, Riverhead, NY PJ Mahler, Philadelphia, PA Myles McQuone, Fairfield CT Risteard Mulcahy, Youhghal Ireland Aengus Nelson, Sacramento, CA JT Perez, Pelham Manor, NY Phil Sweeney, East Northport, NY James Tweedy, Floral Park, NY Ryan Tooley, Sacramento, CA Kyle White, Pompton Plains, NJ Greg Zovas, Cheshire, CT

Luca Allison – Head Coach, Auckland New Zealand

Look for more coverage of the NY7s and the Vanimals in the upcoming Nov-Dec 2022 Issue of MetroSports Magazine.


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