Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy, Editor, Rugby America
Just as expected, the games that took place in the USA Rugby Super League during Week 5 have separated the playoff races with four teams now leading the charge towards the playoffs.
Old Puget Sound Beach in the Red Conference and Boston in the Blue Conference both decidedly improved their playoff chances this past weekend with important wins over playoff challengers.
Boston traveled to New York and departed with a crucial victory in the East conference, defeating NYAC by a score of 35-24. Perfect game day conditions contributed to a wide open entertaining game, with Boston (3-1) getting the better of the opening exchanges. A try by wing Kyle Marshall opened the scoring, converted by Nick Elrich.
The win vaults Boston into second place and gives them the inside track on the playoffs.
Elrich added a penalty to stretch the lead, before NYAC (2-2) opened their account with a try by Tim Lenevez. Brendan Moore stretched Boston’s lead with another try, before NYAC scored back to back converted tries to reclaim the 19-15 halftime lead. Lenevez with his second and Steve Annunziato were the NYAC scorers, with Pete O’Brien converting two of them.
In the second half, two crucial moments in the game resulted in tries for Boston’s Glenn MacKenzie and Duran Vota and stretched the lead for the visitors.
“We were put under a lot of pressure by NYAC early, especially in the second twenty minutes of the first half, but we responded well to the pressure” says Boston’s Mike Diamantopoulos says, adding that “the team was really happy to beat the champions, a major accomplishment for the team”, and is eager to get right back to it, facing the Griffins next week.
In Georgia, Life University (4-0) stayed undefeated with a 47-17 win over the Chicago Lions (2-2) at home. Although the weather felt like mid-summer in Georgia, both sides played through the heat and battled to the end.
Tui Osborne scored two first half tries (three in the game) and Jason Bloom and Phil Thiel each added tries to put Life ahead 34-5 going into the half. The Lion’s lone score in the first half came via a Nate Ellis try late in the half.
“During halftime I told our boys that we can’t make mistakes because Life will capitalize on every one of them. We had a slow start and lacked a sense of urgency,” said Lion’s Head Coach Marty Wiggins. “We came out much stronger in the second half.”
Chicago immediately pushed back at the start of the second half with a try from John Vitale just four minutes in. A good conversion from Jordan Highberger narrowed the gap, 34-12.
With 25 minutes remaining, Paul Emerick made his debut as a Running Eagle. “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Emerick after the game. “I haven’t played domestic rugby since ’03, but I felt very welcomed on the field.”
“I was highly frustrated because we switched off in the second half, and today’s effort is not the team we aspire to be,” said Life Head Coach James Isaacson. “The Lions are a dogged side and coming off spring break helped us prepare for this match, but we didn’t play as well as we should have.”
In the battle for the Wooden Spoon in the Blue Conference, the Chicago Griffins (1-3)came away with a 22-16 victory over Old Blue New York (0-4). Old Blue had the upper hand at the half 9-7 behind three Eliot Rechtin penalty goals, but the Griffins took over in the second half.
Andrew Suniula paced the Griffins’ attack with two tries, two conversions, and a penalty goal. Chicago wing Pat Marek also added a try in the winning effort.
“It was a little untidy on both sides, with the tackle contest providing turnover after turnover ” says Griffins’ Head Coach Wez Parkes, indicating an area both teams can improve on.
Another highly anticipated match of the weekend in the RSL was marred by an inch of snow on the ground and blowing winds. The weather helped keep things tight in Utah, between high flying Old Puget Sound Beach and the new Utah Warriors. Both team that are fully capable of putting points on the scoreboard.
OPSB (3-1) showed that they could adapt to the conditions and came away with an important 18-17 win over the Warriors (2-2). The win vaults OPSB into sole possession of second place in the Red Conference and greatly improves their chances of reaching the playoffs.
A big effort from OPSB’s forwards set the basis for the win. OPSB wing Filimoni Botitu hit the first try for the visitors, which was converted by Evan Haigh. Haigh added two more penalties in the half while Utah posted two unconverted tries to leave the halftime score at 13-10 in favor of OPSB.
In the second half, Bobby Fitzpatrick added another try to extend the lead to 18-10 for OPSB. In the dying minutes, Utah scored a converted try to narrow the gap to a single point, but that was to be the extent of the scoring for the day.
San Francisco Golden Gate (4-0) continued their stranglehold on first place in the Red Conference by rolling over the Denver Barbarians (1-3) by a score of 52-24.
With just a few weeks remaining in the season, San Francisco Golden Gate and Old Puget Sound Beach are in great shape in the Red Conference and Life and Boston share the same honor in the Blue Conference. While nothing is set in stone, the race in the Red Conference looks like it may be over. However, with as competitive as the Blue Conference has been this season, the race may go to the final week of the season.
2011 Super League Standings
|SF Golden Gate||4||0||0||191||58||133||4||0||20|
|Old Puget Sound Beach||3||1||0||132||93||39||2||0||14|
|New York Athletic Club||2||2||0||95||101||-6||3||0||11|
|Old Blue New York||0||4||0||71||121||-50||0||2||2|