Club Rugby Recap: Weekend Of September 21/22
The second full week of fall club rugby had its sixth geographic region join the competition as the South began its fall schedule. Along with the Atlantic North, Frontier, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest, there were nearly 150 matches this past weekend.
The third week of action in the American Rugby Premiership saw the red and white “Winged Foot” nab its second win and the mean green Running Eagles dispatch Old Blue in a low-scoring affair. With a flurry of yellow cards showing a need for better discipline from both clubs, NYAC handled Mystic River with a converted score at the final whistle to push the scoreline to 27-3. As for Life’s 15-8 victory over Old Blue, Zander Van Schalkwyk and Sam Cowley combined for a 10-0 lead in the first ten minutes and the defense held back the New York attack until the last minutes for its second win.
In men’s DII in New England, the Mystic Barbarians avenged last year’s playoff loss to Newport, beating them 38-20 to maintain sole possession of first and South Shore dominated a struggling Portland club, 89-7, to hold onto second place in the standings. Last year’s top-finisher in DIII, the Boston Maccabi, made a statement by eclipsing the century mark against Burlington, 114-0, while previously winless Old Gold showed some parity in the middle of the division as it bested the previously-undefeated Charles River in a close match, 24-21.
Finally in DIV, Monadnock continued on its winning ways by blasting the Boston Ironsides, 75-7, and dedicated the game to a fan of Wolfpack Nation, Jariah, who is battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. With the league’s #1 and #2 point-scorers on their club, Freedom rebounded from last week’s close loss, to double up Black River, 61-26, and “drawing a line in the sand” halfway through the season of NERFU’s DIV contenders and pretenders.
In the Empire, Buffalo Rugby Club and the Fairfield Yankees remained undefeated and tied atop of the men’s DII table as both won on the road. In a showdown with New Haven, Buffalo dominated the Old Black, 49-3, and was led by a 24-point effort from flyhalf Simon Honig (try, five conversions, and three penalties). Fairfield’s match against the New York Rugby Club was neck and neck for most of the test until the Yankees locked up the 33-18 win as Matt Leonard scored his second try and impact sub, Filimoni Botitu, added one of his own.
In the DIII Atlantic, Greenwich moved to the top of the group with a comprehensive 64-14 win over White Plains and Morris continued to dominate in New Jersey as they are rebuilding after an off year in 2018 with a 70-5 drubbing of Princeton AC. In NYC, Brooklyn stayed undefeated defeating the Village Lions, 46-7, and with a 27-27 tie against Lansdowne, Old Blue DIII remained in hot pursuit of Brooklyn. Finally, in Upstate, Rochester Aardvarks slipped by Buffalo, 15-5, and KenTon was relentless running in 11 tries in a 73-12 win over Southtowns. This coming Saturday, the Aardvarks travel to KenTon in an intriguing match-up for first place.
Monmouth (3-0) is the only undefeated team in the DII Empire GU, but Brooklyn (52-7 vs. Union), Morris (66-0 vs. Long Island), Uticuse (28-0 vs. Danbury) and Village Lions (31-5 vs. New Haven) picked up bonus-point wins on the weekend. Leading scorers included Morris inside center Emma Ferraro and Brooklyn wing Margaret Ewen, who scored four and five tries apiece.
In DII New England, attention focused on Worcester vs. Portland, a match that featured several lead changes and a single-digit decision. The Shamrocks went up early through Ashley Walker and then Portland responded with three-straight tries. Worcester matched the output with consecutive scores from Walker, Laura Hetherman and Laurin Harvey, before Portland surged again. A final converted try afforded the 31-24 win to the Shamrocks. In other results, Albany beat Charles River 50-5, and Providence forfeited to Burlington due to numbers.
In New England’s Division III, South Shore won its first-ever league match: 40-29 over Seacoast.
“The girls are tough,” South Shore coach Paul Lenaghan said. “We went ahead two tries and then allowed them to score three tries in a row. We spent most of the second half trying to regain the lead and with 11 minutes to go, we were ahead by two and then won by 11.
“Oh my goodness,” Lenaghan laughed as he recalled the team’s reaction to its first league win. “For those 6-7 players who have been showing up to practice for years, in the rain, in the winter, with no team – for them to experience playing in a jersey with 15 players, to experience winning, to score and have 14 other players congratulate you – you can’t buy that. They were absolutely hyper.”
While the Rocky Mountains were idle for the Aspen Ruggerfest, Mid-America GU kicked off the fall with three DIII men’s matches. The results included a blowout, and draw, and a shutout. In its first game after the merger of the St. Louis Royals and the St. Louis Ramblers, the Royal Ramblers took out the Kansas City Blues, 43-15. The last two matches saw the long rivalry between St. Louis Hornets and Columbia Outlaws end in a 20-20 hard-fought draw and Springfield score 11 tries by nine players for a dominating 69-0 victory against the St. Louis Mercenaries.
After a last second victory over Rocky Gorge last Saturday, Schuylkill River kept up the momentum a 77-5 win over Pittsburgh to retain the Pelly Cup. Cesar Da Fonseca and John Ramirez each logged hat tricks and last weekend’s hero, Brian Keown, notched 18 points. Rebounding from week one’s loss, Rocky Gorge took out its frustrations on Baltimore-Chesapeake, 42-28, and NOVA fell into a 0-2 hole after 32-31 loss to the Washington Irish. Lastly, the Potomac Exiles joined Schuylkill in the unbeaten ranks with a 29-10 triumph over the Norfolk Blues.
Men’s DII opened its first weekend of play with five games in the Capital and EPRU. The Richmond Lions began its season with a 33-31 defeat of Washington in the South division while in the North, Doylestown, Old Gaelic, and Philadelphia-Whitemarsh, scored over thirty points in victory. Lastly, South Jersey celebrated its 50th club anniversary with a 35-21 win versus Phoenixville White Horse.
The much-anticipated men’s DIII clash between the Northeast Philadelphia Irish and Media lived up to the hype and ultimately ended in a 22-22 draw. Media trailed 22-10 with less than ten minutes after the Irish’s Raekwon Caswell scored in the 70th minute. Media responded with barrage of forward play resulting in a Drew Butkus try. The conversion failed, but Media was right back on attack with the man advantage after an Irish player was binned. The forwards took control and Butkus scored a second try at the horn, but the tie would depend on the subsequent kick from the corner. Ryan Gregory redeemed himself by slotting the conversion for the draw.
Elsewhere in DIII, Reading upset Wilkes-Barre, 31-24, in the North; Severn River, the Washington Irish, and West Potomac remained undefeated in the Central; and Virginia Beach kept its foot on the gas with a 26-5 win over Norfolk in the South. In DIV, North Bay’s slim 36-24 victory over West Potomac sent its record to 2-0 and the Washington Renegades and Loudoun improved to 1-1 with wins.
Division II produced three lopsided victories, while Division III saw more parity. Severn River improved to 2-0 with a 65-12 win over Northeast Philadelphia. Of the nine players who scored tries, only outside center Alyson McCarty doubled up. Flyhalf Katharine Walston was influential in undefeated Doylestown’s 41-5 win over Norfolk, logging three tries, while scrumhalf Samantha Tretter led Phoenixville in its 66-21 win over Chesapeake with four tries. See full results.
“We have a lot of returning players but we also have been playing around with positions and versatility, so there is a bit of a learning curve out there for some of us,” Doylestown captain Grayce Fjeld explained. “Our defense looked fairly good overall and our fullback, Cait Rycek, was able to stop just about everyone that broke the line.”
DIII Wilmington trailed York & Lancaster by only four points with seven minutes left in regulation, but then a scoring spree produced a 48-27 win to the Pennsylvania squad. Flanker Kelsey Miller and wing Colleen Herbert had multi-try days. Philadelphia led South Jersey until the 30th minute, and then a Jamie Lynn Fortuna penalty kick changed the lead for good. Outside center Jenelle Fuller scored four tries in the 34-21 win, while Philly’s Rebecca Silver accounted for 16 points. See full North results. In the South pool, Frederick and NOVA were tied 17-all at halftime, but the former pulled away with second-half tries from Morgan Howell, Alicia Wojcik and Lacy Ames, who also kicked the extras: 36-17 the final. See full South results.
Culminating a monumental effort that began in 2015, the Chicago Lions christened the new Jay “Tyke” Nollman Field at the Lions for Hope Sports Complex with three games on Saturday. The men’s DI side started the day by tripling cross-town rival, the Chicago Griffins, 39-13, and was followed by the women’s DI club tying Metropolis, 12-12. The DII squad finished the party with an unfortunate loss to Wisconsin on a penalty with no time left, 25-22.
The Lions’ victory moves them into second place of the men’s DI East division behind the Detroit Tradesmen, who crushed Columbus 54-12. In the West division, Metropolis and the Kansas City Blues stayed perfect with decisive wins over Columbus and Palmer. The match to watch this Saturday is battle for first as the Blues host Metropolis. The Minneapolis side has not lost to Kansas City since 2016 and the Blues are itching to prove themselves against the best of the division.
Wisconsin’s DII victory over the Lions keeps the Madison club undefeated joining Green Bay at the top of the West division. In the East, the Chicago Blaze is in first with a 32-24 win over Lincoln Park, the Cleveland Crusaders are in second with a forfeit against the South Side Irish, and the Pittsburgh Forge land in third after tying Indianapolis, 26-26.
Like last Saturday, the Midwest DIII was extremely busy with 22 games across five divisions. The highlights of the weekend were the Peoria Pigs’ and Fox Valley Maoris’ blowouts in the Chicago Area to stay undefeated; the Cleveland Crusaders, Cleveland Rovers, and Presque Isle Scallywags each scoring over 40 points in the East; the Omaha Goats defeating Des Moines 19-13 in Iowa; the St. Cloud Bottom Feeders and the St. Paul Jazz Pigs remain unbeaten with a pair of shutouts in Minnesota; Fort Wayne beating Michigan 100-0 in the North; the Columbus Castaways and Queen City win to stay perfect in the South; and Oconowomoc, Fond du Lac Wolfpac, and the Milwaukee Barbarians emerging victorious in Wisconsin.
Metropolis and Chicago Lions are both 2-0-1 in Division I, playing to a 12-12 draw last Saturday. Defense featured in the first half, which nearly evolved without a score, until Stephanie Alliev broke free for a Valkyries try right before the half. Whitney Swenson converted for the 7-0 lead, and then approximately 10 minutes after the break, No. 8 Katherine Weber scored for a 12-0 edge. In the final 15 minutes, Devon Gold set up Rachel Grecky for a score and No. 8 Aurora Macek picked from the scrum for the second try. Kelley Hirt’s conversion was good, and there the game ended. On the other side of the bracket, Detroit beat Wisconsin 24-3.
Division II was all lopsided results. The three East Gold victors – Buffalo, North Buffalo and Pittsburgh Forge – outscored their opponents 185-10. East Green’s Fort Wayne beat Grand Rapids 38-7, while Columbus beat Dayton 74-5. In the West, Palmer College and Twin Cities combined to outscore the Chicago Sirens and Minneapolis Menagerie, respectively, 132-7. The closest game across the region occurred between Oconomowoc and County Will Morrigans: 29-5 to the Wisconsin side.
“We were very excited to come out of it with our first league match win in team history,” enthused Oconomowoc captain Katie McNeil. “We have been building all year for our first opportunity to play in the D2 league this season. … We are so proud of the way our ladies worked together as a team, and we are having a lot of fun playing rugby together.”
The Pacific Northwest men’s DII began its season on Saturday. The Boise United crushed the ValleY Kangaroos, 95-7; however, the match between the Portland Pigs and the Eastside Tsunami was cancelled. DIII entered its third week of play and the Budd Bay Buffaloes, the Portland Pigs, the Eugene Stags and Boise United led the way this weekend with victories.
In the Pacific Northwest GU, Bend picked up another win, defeating South Sound 29-10, and Eugene downed Boise United 60-3. Portland held ORSU to one score in its 29-5 win. See full results.
With the other regions of the South not starting until next week, the True South men’s DIII began its fall season on Saturday. Chattanooga got the ball rolling with a 42-17 road win against the Nashville Grizzlies. The only other test was a rematch of last spring’s True South Championship Semifinal between Huntsville and the Memphis Blues. The Blues failed to defend its home turf as Huntsville exacted its revenge winning the opening match.
For much of this DII Carolinas/Georgia GU game, Augusta and Charleston stayed win a single digit of each other. Augusta scrumhalf Owen Crosland was lethal for Augusta, accounting for 18 points (2T, 4C), and helping the Georgia side to a 33-27 win.