-text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
design Florin-Alexandru Stancu-

In the beginning of October 2012
I passed near the national rugby stadium in Bucharest
and I saw the Sun piercing the clouds over the Triumph Arch.

This made me remind that, soon after,
the super-club of the Romanian rugby championship,
Bucharest Wolves,
had to begin a new campaign for the Amlin Challenge Cup.

The denomination of “wolves”
was decided by the Romanian Rugby Federation in 2011
and inspired by the antique Dacian traditions.

Thus, the Romanians’ ancestors adored the Sun
and chose the wolves as their favourite animals,
admiring their spirit of pack.
(It seems that the Dacians had even a “city of wolves”,
placed in the south of the Danube River, in current Bulgaria,
where the Dacian King Dromichaites was buried in the 3rd century BC.)
As a consequence,
the Dacians’ frightening war standard consisted of
a wolf head with a snake body.

It is interesting that after the partial conquest of Dacia,
the Romans overtook the Dacian standard for their next battles,
so this model of flag arrived in Britannia,
were it was also adopted by the local leaders…

In the city of Bucharest I saw a reproduction of the Dacian standard
on a statue in front of the History Museum.

However the artist Vasile Gorduz
(who had made similar works in Sevilla and Montreal before)
did not follow a loyal reproduction,
but a cultural vision on the Romanian people’s genesis
through a symbolic fusion between the she-wolf
that had given to suck to Romulus and Remus before they founded Rome,
and the wolf of the Dacian standard,
kept in hands by Dacia’s conqueror,
the Roman Emperor Trajan.

The national rugby stadium is placed
right near two important historical monuments:
the Triumph Arch
and the Casin Church.

At a few metres distance of the stadium,
a new building hosts the Romanian Rugby Federation,
the Romanian Olympic Committee and the Sport Museum.
(It is to note that the first Romanian medal at the Olympic Games
was obtained by the rugby national team in 1924,
and then Romania conquered a total of 302 medals:
88 gold medals, 94 silver medals and 120 bronze medals,
that means the 17th all-time place in the world,
with an extraordinary performance at the Olympic Games 1984,
when Romania was classified the 2nd in the ranking of medalist countries.)

The Triumph Arch was created by a Romanian elite team in 1921-22
with the personal involvement of King Ferdinand I and Queen Maria,
to honor the sacrifices of the Romanian heroes in World War I,
who made possible Greater Romania.

The Casin Church,
dedicated to the archangels Michael and Gabriel,
was created in 1935-38 also by a Romanian elite team,
under the authority of King Carol II,
to represent an architectural combination between
the Byzantine style and the Romanian style,
it is very rich in solar-stellar symbols,
and now it is nicknamed “the church of Romanian rugby”.

And about Bucharest Wolves…
I think we have a longer story here.

The first match between two Romanian rugby XV clubs
took place in 1913 in Bucharest.

59 years later (in 1962),
the first final of the European Champions Cup
(a competition initiated by France,
with the participation of the national champions of the best rugby nations
in Continental Europe and North Africa)
took place in the same city
between the Romanian champion club and the French champion club.
Score: Grivita Rosie Bucharest-Beziers 3-14.

In 1964, the second final, also in Bucharest
and between the champions of Romania and France:
Grivita Rosie-Mont de Marsan 10-0!

And in 1967, the last final,
this time in a Romanian-French double match:
Agen- Dinamo Bucharest 12-0 and Dinamo Bucharest-Agen 18-0!

So, two Romanian final victories
against much better classified adversaries!

In 1986,
France organized another international competition for clubs,
entitled Rugby World Club Championship or Masters,
which included 8 clubs from the best 7 countries
(except for the British Isles and South Africa).
The Romanian champion, Farul Constanta,
made one of the biggest surprise in rugby history,
defeating in quarter-finals the champion of New Zealand,
Ponsonby (18-15),
and in semi-finals the French vice-champion,
Agen (10-3),
before losing the final with the champion of France,
Stade Toulousain (3-47).
So the 2nd place in the world, before the champions of
Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Italy and Fiji!
Probably the best result in Romanian rugby history!

In 1988,
celebrating the national rugby jubilee of 75 years,
Romania organized an East-European competition in Bucharest
with the participation of the champion clubs of Romania and Poland,
the national teams of East Germany and Bulgaria, a Soviet republic,
and 3 other Romanian teams.
The score of the final:
Steaua Bucharest-Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic 37-6.

But in 1995,
the introduction of professionalism in rugby
made a categorical difference between
the traditional nations and the newer nations
and also brought another form of organization
of the international matches.
after in its first 172 years
rugby history was extremely poor in international official club competitions
(but rich in friendly matches),
in 1995 the 6 powers in the northern hemisphere
(England, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy)
created the annual (Heineken) Champions Cup
and in 1996 the (Amlin) Challenge Cup.
They reserved a place for the Romanian champion
in memory of the past Romanian glorious times,
but the first Romanian participation (1995/96) in the Heineken Cup
was rather disastrous,
so since 1996/97 the Romanian champion
was moved to the Challenge Cup.

In these conditions
(taking in consideration that the investments and the interest in rugby
were minor in Romania in comparison with the 6 European powers,
where the clubs in the first leagues became multinational teams
while the best Romanian players used to leave their national championship
to play in France, UK, Italy and even Australia),
all the wins of the Romanian champions in this competition
became “historical”.
And it is important that they existed!

In 1996/97
Dinamo Bucharest defeated the Welsh club Treorchy (38-31)
and the English club Bristol (19-18),
obtaining the 3rd place (of 6) in its series (9-12 in the entire competition).
In 1998/99
also Dinamo defeated the Welsh club Bridgend (45-43),
plus another special guest, the Portuguese national team (23-18).
In 1999/2000
Steaua Bucharest defeated the Irish team Conacht (30-20).
In 2001/02
Dinamo Bucharest defeated the Italian club Bologna (49-17).
In 2002/03
Dinamo was eliminated from the Amlin Challenge Cup
and participated in the 3rd European competition,
(Pen Parker) Shield Cup (which existed only for 3 editions),
where it obtained a dramatic qualification in the quarter-finals after a double victory
against the Italian club L’Aquila (26-14 and 27-24).
But the losses to French and English clubs were so categorical
that the Romanian Federation decided to rethink
the next Romanian participations.

So in 2004 a new Romanian team appeared for the European competitions,
Bucharest Rugby,
as an invitational club consisting of the best Romanian players
selected from the Romanian championship.
And along with it
a few other Romanian wins in the next editions
(Shield Cup 2004/05 and Challenge Cup 2005-2008),
2 of them against the Italian clubs
Leonessa (18-15) and Gran Parma (21-20),
and 3 of them (quite amazing!) against the French clubs
Toulon (23-17), Bayonne (32-27) and Montauban (19-17).
It is interesting that in the same period
Bucharest Rugby
made a close match with an English club, Worcester Warriors (8-18),
and met for the first time one of the four Welsh franchises,
Newport Gween Dragons (29-38).

For the next 3 editions of the Amlin Challenge Cup (2008-2011)
Bucharest Rugby became Bucharest Oaks,
and defeated only Italian clubs:
Petrarca Padova (17-15), Rugby Parma (21-9) and Crociati Rugby (21-20).
The closest match with an English club was against Leeds Carnegie (6-10),
and the best match of those times was against one of the most famous French clubs,
Stade Francais Paris (20-29).

Coincidentally, in the same years
Romanian clubs participated in a new competition,
the Central Europe Cup,
categorically winning all 3 editions
through Timisoara and Baia Mare (two times)
against adversaries from Hungary, Austria and Czechia.
More, in 2010 there was the final of
a unique Supercup of Central and East Europe,
between the winners of the Central Europe Cup
and the Regional Rugby Championship
(clubs from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece),
in which the Romanian champion, Baia Mare,
defeated Nada Split two times:
22-3 in Croatia and 53-5 in Romania.

Anyway, in rugby union one of the morals is special:
it is better to bravely play against the best far adversaries
than to easily win numerous neighbors…

In 2011 Bucharest Oaks became Bucharest Wolves,
and in their first season they obtained a double victory
against an Italian club, Banca Monte Crociati (34-7 and 24-13).

But the season 2012/13 seemed to be the last one for them
in the Amlin Challenge Cup
because since 2013/14 the Romanian champion, RCM Universitatea Timisoara,
strengthened by more foreign players,
announced its intention of participation.

So, in a space dominated by the Triumph Arch,
I had the occasion to see for the last time
the sportive followers of the brave Dacians
and of the Romanian heroic soldiers,
Bucharest Wolves
(representing a rugby movement with players much fewer
and much poorer than those from the west).

That’s why on a morning in the week of their new start,
I watched the sunrise and I asked the Dacian god of sun, Zamolxis,
for helping them to make good matches.

But the first adversary in 13 October on a cloudy weather
was even Bath, a terrible multinational team,
multiple champion of England and former winner
of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The Wolves did their best,
contributed to a great show and marked two tries,
but they finally lost, 17-40.

In the next week
I chose another sunrise.

Then, on 20 October I was to see the Wolves
against the recent champion of Italy,
Cami Calvisano (also a multinational team,
who had won a unique edition of the Intercontinental Cup in 2006
against the champion of Argentina).
This time, under a strong sun,
the Romanians obtained
a brilliant victory, 42-27.

After the match I was so happy
that I walked a few kilometres in the Herastrau Park,
then I came back to salute the Moon
near the Triumph Arch and the Casin Church.

I continued to enjoy that victory till the last day of October,
when I saw a fine sunset over the ROMEXPO
(a building with a cupola seeming like a rugby half-ball),
then the twilight near the Triumph Arch,
and finally a lunar corona near Jupiter.

But November was the month of the year’s challenge,
the match with the rugby national team of the strongest nation in the world,
USA (who had been the Olympic champion in 1920 and 1924).
For this,
17 Wolves (9 of them chosen as titulars in the Romanian national team)
and 6 Romanian players from foreign championships became
(the oak leaf being chosen the symbol of Romanian rugby
because these trees have been very spread in Romanian territory,
sheltering the Romanian people during the foreign invasions
and signifying force and fidelity),
the prime representatives of Romania.

I also began early preparations for that match
through a small pilgrimage
from the seat of the Romanian Rugby Federation
to the most famous tree in the Herastrau Park,
Rabindranath Tagore’s Oak,
planted in the 1960s in honor of the great Indian poet.

Then I watched the Sun
among the oaks orientated to the Triumph Arch
and I saw an illusory rugby ball.

I also chose a new sunrise…

But in 24 November the Americans caught a grace day
and Romania suffered a shocking 3-34 loss.

Now I was so desperate
that for the last match of the Wolves in Bucharest
I asked for the help
of the Dacian goddess of moon, Bendis,
near the Culture Ministry, near the rugby stadium,
near the Casin Church, near the Triumph Arch…
till I saw the Moon as a star.

And I watched the sunrise
right on the day of the match
(8 December).

But what could the chances for a favourable result be
against a multinational team from the super-league of France,
the world vice-champion since 2011?

Certainly, minuscule…

However this time the Wolves made a magnificent match
against Agen (former winner of a few French championships)
and won in the last minute, 25-22!

After that match I felt myself happy again,
and I peacefully accepted the coming of the winter
among artificial stars made by people to honor the Holidays,
with Jupiter appearing among them
as a real heavenly body of hope
for a beautiful year 2013.


© 2014 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)