Strutting across the turf to the beat of house music blasting from his headphones, Occidental men’s rugby captain Barnaby Audsley (senior) mentally prepared for the final game of the rugby 7s National Championship qualifying round against Sonoma State. At the sound of the referee’s whistle, Audsley positioned himself among his six teammates and surveyed the field and his opponents.
Audsley said that it is hard to plan ahead for any given game, especially in the playoffs, due to the fast-paced nature of the 7s game.
“It’s about thinking on my feet and being creative,” Audsley said.
As the flyhalf — the quarterback of the unit — Audsley called the shots for his team in the qualifying match. But, with injured starters and little depth on the bench, Audsley and his teammates struggled against the deep Seawolves roster. According to his teammates — sophomores Anthony Zepponi and Phillip Grove and Nathan Bolton (freshman) — Audsley continued to motivate his team with his trademark phrases, despite the adversity.
“Sort it out,” Audsley shouted in his signature British accent. “It’s not rocket science!”
According to teammate David Weightman (senior), Audsley often gets heckled by opponents due to his accent. But the flyhalf — often among the smallest players on the field — plays much bigger than his stature.
“[He handles it] the way he handles everything,” Weightman said. “He drops his shoulder and runs somebody over. He’ll just run through guys who underestimate him.”
However, Occidental’s team as a whole was by no means an underdog in the qualifying match. Looking to defend last season’s 7s National Championship title, the Tigers dominated the opening rounds of the Stockton Qualifying Tournament. But Sonoma State — the team they beat in the West Region Finals last year — stole a victory out from underneath the black and orange.
Despite ending his collegiate rugby career with a disappointing loss, Audsley has a lot to be proud of in his four years on the team.
Audsley has lost only a total of eight games throughout his career. Spanning four 7s and four 15s seasons, Audsley has boosted his squads to a cumulative 65-8 record. He helped the team win the Dougherty Cup four years in a row and was once recognized as an All-American by USA Rugby.
Audsley played rugby in England as a youngster, but after moving to the United States when he was 17, gave up the sport to focus on football. However, after just one season as a punter at the collegiate level, he realized his heart was truly in rugby.
“I decided to focus on rugby, and I haven’t looked back since,” Audsley said.
Tiger assistant Jeremy Castro began coaching in the 2010–11 season when Audsley was just a first-year.
“We heard rumor that the punter for the football team was English, played rugby before and had an amazing boot,” Castro said.
According to Castro, Audsley and several first-year football players would stick around after practice to watch the rugby team play.
“I saw a spark ignite in his eyes that, in some ways, summoned something he’d been living with but did not know how to channel properly,” Castro said.
Audsley joined the team after the football season along with a few of his teammates. According to Weightman, Audsley immediately helped turn the team into a powerhouse. The squad finished second in the national bracket that year.
Audsley said that he had briefly considered transferring to St. Mary’s College (Moraga, California) — one of the strongest programs in the nation — but realized that Occidental’s program and coaching staff was special.
Graduating with a degree in economics in May, Audsley hopes to pursue a career in investment management. He said that both teammates and alumni have been instrumental in helping him get a jumpstart in the industry.
“[Rugby] has opened a lot of doors for me,” Audsley said.
With a few job options on the table, Audsley has decided to make rugby a second priority to building his career. He does, however, hope to play at the elite level for the Santa Monica Rugby Club, a top club in the U.S.
“I hope to eventually get noticed by the U.S. and play for their 15s team,” Audsley said. “But my number one focus right now is probably my career and establishing that first.”