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The Narberth Otters won the Frostbite 15s Tournament in Lancaster over the weekend with victories over Unionville, Hempfield, and Chambersburg. Traveling with only 17 players, a few of whom were rookies, meant that Narberth had their work cut out for them on the day.
Things started off with a 20-12 victory over Unionville featuring tries by George, Ifeyan, Nick and Cameron. With a game under their belts the guys started getting the hang of it and won their second match against Hempfield by the score of 15-0. Try scorers for that match were Antonio, Evan and Cameron.
For the final match of the day Chambersburg were down a few players so the Otters agreed to play 10s which allowed them to take advantage of their speed and run in tries from Cameron, Nick, Mason, Nate, George, and Evan. After dealing with ludicrously strong winds throughout the day Nate was able to go 5/6 on drop goals to put the squad at 40 points.
After the tournament I spoke with Head Coach Gabe Gliwa who told me that he was “incredibly surprised and happy with the performance this weekend. To travel up there with so many question marks, so many new players, so much inexperience, and to see within a single game, everyone click and find their rhythm was just awesome. We travelled with only 17 bodies and everyone pushed through a long day to win convincingly in our first two games. To still go the extra mile and give a team struggling for a numbers a friendly game of 10 v 10 even though we had their forfeit made me proud. Seeing the talent we have on the field together has me pumped for the season.”
I also caught up with Captain Cameron who said “we are super excited to have won the tournament for the second year in a row. We had a lot of new players and inexperience in the lineup, but everyone stepped their game up and had fun while winning. Even from the first game into the second the growth and play on the field was measurable. We were thrilled with how well our new players took to the game, specifically Freddy, Antonio, Ryan, and Ifeyan. Additionally, we had some great plays from our sophomores Wyatt, Phil, James, and Henry, and we look forward to having them play for Narberth for two more years. Coach Gabe did a great job preparing us through preseason and leading us on Sunday.”
It’s a good start for the Otters but it’s a long season so let’s hope they’re ready to keep rolling into May!
Tries: Cam (3) George (2) Evan (2) Nick (2) Ifeyan (1) Antonio (1) Mason (1)
Cons: Nate (5)
1. Geoff, you promised to bring me Chegg (Chicken or the Egg) from LBI approximately 6 months ago. Where is my food?
Really your first Chegg experience should not be take-out that takes 2 hours to get to you but I’ll bring some to a practice this Spring. I just want you to experience it in all its glory, so you may have to visit.
2. How many years have you played rugby?
This is my 5th year playing.
3. What other Clubs have you played for?
I played for Vassar College for two years, University of Nottingham for a year, and now two years with Schuylkill River.
4. We’ve previously stated that John “Cat Stevens” Vizzachero is the best dressed man in American rugby. Would you like to advocate on behalf of former menswear blogger Tom Weishaupt for that distinction?
Look as much as I love Tom, and he is an incredibly fashionable man, Cat is the best dressed man not just in American rugby but probably in America outright. I think it is because it’s just harder to find fashionable clothes in Tom’s size so Cat gets the advantage in selection, but really there is no doubt that Cat is and always will be a fashion icon.
5. Who doesn’t know how to spell their name correctly, Jeff Hall or Geoff Matthes?
According to Wikipedia the name Geoffrey is derived from Godfrey, meaning God of Peace. Jeffrey is derived from Geoffrey. In a sense we’re both wrong, but the important point is that he’s much more wrong than I am.
6. What is your proudest rugby moment in your career so far?
My proudest moment is being selected for the University of Nottingham’s Varsity squad at the end of my season in England. It’s an incredible honor and one that surprised myself and most of my teammates, so I feel proud that the coaches had the confidence to select me for the biggest game of the year.
7. What do you hope to accomplish in rugby going forward?
Rugby has been pretty much my biggest passion in life and in addition to playing I enjoy watching and talking about it too. I think at some point in my life I’d like to get involved in refereeing, coaching, and helping the game grow in the States, but for now I am just trying to have fun and play to the highest level I can.
8. You’re coming with us to South Africa in a couple of weeks. What are you most looking forward to on that trip?
I relish the opportunity to soak up different cultures and life experiences so as much as the rugby in South Africa excites me I’m most looking forward to all the great activities off the pitch that I’ll get to experience with my teammates. And Biltong. Definitely Biltong.
9. This isn’t your first international rugby experience, tell us about your time in England.
I was lucky enough to do a Masters program in Oncology at the University of Nottingham and got to play for their university team while there. In my first game there I started at loosehead for the 1st XV against Bath, and got absolutely rocked in the scrum by a 5’9’’ 18 year old. Needless to say, I spent most of the year being a solid 2nd XV starting prop and occasionally cracked into the 1st XV bench. I got to experience teammates that played professionally for Belgium, Scotland U20, Samurai 7’s, and in the Greene King IPA Championship, as well as coaches with years of international experience for England and Wales. It was a great source of information and growth in my understanding of the game.
10. My sources tell me that you used to be a drummer in a band, what was your band’s name and how terrible were you guys?
I played in a showcase with some guys while I was taking lessons but I was never good enough to be in a band. Mostly because all of my musician friends are incredibly gifted and I am really, really bad at drums. I play with enthusiasm not skill.
11. What made you decide to join Schuylkill River?
Well I was recruited by former player and coach Tom Weishaupt because we both went to Vassar College. He talked to me about the club during my senior year when he was at our alumni game. After doing a little research I realized that it was without a doubt the best club in area, so the hour and a half commute is worth it to play at the highest level I can.
12. Now that you’ve been around Philadelphia for a couple of years have you started using the word jawn at all or are we still building up to that?
I actually grew up right over the river in Marlton, New Jersey, so I’ve been familiar with jawn since high school. So much so that I’ve begun mispronouncing my father’s name, John, as Jawn.
13. Are there any official Geoff Matthes cheesesteak recommendations?
Not living in Philly really handicaps me in answering this question but I’ll always be partial to my first ever authentic cheesesteak at Jim’s Steaks.
14. What was your impression of Philadelphia rugby before you joined our Club and do you think that impression has changed at all since you’ve been with us?
My impression of not just rugby but all Philadelphia sports was gritty and hard-nosed. It’s about being angrier than your opponent, working harder, grinding them down. You’d think that would be accentuated in rugby but personally I haven’t felt that way about my experience with Schuylkill. Yes, this team works incredibly hard, but there’s a lot of intelligence and finesse in the way we play against our opponents. I think we’ve got the best of both worlds here.
15. What is on your pre-match playlist?
Lots of pop-punk. Mostly The Wonder Years, A Day to Remember, The Story So Far, and always ending with Four Year Strong – Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die.
16. As a second row/prop you have to do a lot of the dirty work on the field. What sort of mentality do you take onto the pitch with you and what’s your goal heading into each match?
Most people that know me think I’m a teddy bear and that the aggression shown in rugby really does not fit my personality at all. But I view the sport as my outlet so I definitely love the dirty work. I honestly approach each game as if the opposing team is trying to kill me so I can rationalize hitting them harder as self-defense. As for my goal, it’s to make guys regret having to tackle me or being tackled by me.
17. Besides the trip to South Africa what are you most looking forward to this spring season?
After missing most of the fall through injury I really just want to get back on the pitch. Besides that, winning our league matches and making it to nationals would be great.
18. The fact that you can play two tight five positions gives us a lot of flexibility. Which position do you prefer and which do you think plays better to your skill set?
I had never played lock before getting to Schuylkill and I am absolutely loving it. If I worked on my scrummaging more I’m probably better suited for the prop life, simply because I’m not a lineout jumper and that’s absurd for a second row playing at a high level. I just wasn’t meant to leave the ground. It’s why my basketball career never took off.
19. Of all the guys coming with us to South Africa who are you most hoping to avoid having as a roommate?
I’m gonna go with Austin on this one. I’m not a big drinker and that dude knows how to party. I would not be able to keep up. Plus, he’s carrying an injury so he doesn’t have to worry about playing against the locals slowing down his drinking. I’m expecting him to carry a week-long buzz starting the moment we step foot on the plane.
20. You seem to really enjoy watching our second side play and being a strong supporter of our Club from top to bottom. What advantages have you seen in our structure which features two sides in league play and allows everyone to get meaningful minutes?
As I said before I really just enjoy watching rugby in general and it’s even better when you know the guys playing personally. I think the change this year that allows D2 to have the same schedule as D1 and keep our club together on game day is huge for building everyone’s comfort in the system and each other. It’s clearly worked because due to other commitments and injury we’ve missed some incredible players this season and yet a lot of D2 guys slotted right in and kept the quality up. It’s probably creating some selection headaches for the coaches but it’s great for the club as a whole and for guys to know they can play their way into the minutes.
The elite Atlantis 7s program has chosen four Schuylkill River Exiles to compete for their U-23 team at the Las Vegas Invitational this weekend in the men’s Aces division. This division features some of the country’s top programs as well as some international competition. As usual, the Schuylkill guys are homegrown Philadelphia rugby players competing at a high level and you can find former U-23 Academy players in their ranks as well as guys who have represented our Club at Nationals on the premier stage. We are proud to see these guys take the next step in their development as players and participate in big events like this.
The aforementioned players are:
John McCurdy – Malvern Prep, University of Delaware
Paul Diorio – Bishop Shanahan, West Chester University
Cody Bukowski – Nanticoke High School/Wilkes-Barre Breakers, Drexel University
Brian Keown – St. Joe’s Prep, University of South Carolina
You can follow their progress at: https://www.usasevens.com/las-vegas/las-vegas-invitational/
1. How long have you been playing rugby?
I started out pretty late for a South African kid, around 9 years old, but I started to take it seriously at around the age of 15.
2. What other clubs have you played for?
I played for Piet Retief Rugby Club for about 10 years. We will be playing against them on the tour to South Africa. I also played for Northern Natal U/21 and the Northern Natal Senior Team.
3. What’s your proudest accomplishment/moment in rugby so far?
I would say it is a tie between 2:
• My old club won the Cup in our league. We went through to play against some big teams in SA rugby. We were the underdogs and made it all the way to the playoffs in that league. Driving to the game the radio announcer referred to us as “The Giant Slayers”.
• When I played for Northern Natal, we played the opening game for the Sharks and the Crusaders on the Kings Park Stadium in Durban.
4. What do you hope to accomplish in your rugby career going forward?
Right now, I am just hoping to get a few more fun years of playing in. I am also starting to focus more on coaching as I recently started at La Salle University. It feels great to be able to coach again as it is something that I loved doing in SA.
5. Is it true that seeing Takudzwa Ngenya roast Brian Habana in the Rugby World Cup in 2007 is what inspired you to come play rugby here in the US?
As soon as I saw that I packed my bags, but then I promptly unpacked when SA won 64-15. Ha-ha, nevertheless what a great moment in world rugby.
6. What are some of your favorite cheesesteak places that you’ve discovered around the city?
Sonny’s and Steve’s. Sonny’s because it was my 1st cheesesteak and Steve’s because nothing tastes as good after 2 in the morning.
7. At my wedding, we numbered the tables and assigned each table to a pro rugby player based on position. We’ve discussed this previously and you’ve contemplated stealing the idea. What’s your top 15 looking like right now?
1. Os du Randt 2. Keven Mealamu 3. Gethin Jenkins 4. Martin Johnson 5. Victor Matfield 6. Schalk Burger 7. Richie McCaw 8. David Pocock 9. George Gregan 10. Dan Carter 11. Brian Habana 12. Jean De Villiers 13. Brian O’Driscoll 14. Shane Williams 15. Andre Joubert.
8. What made you decide to join Schuylkill River?
I initially wanted to play just one game on American soil when I came to visit in June 2016. I called up USA Rugby and asked for a D1 club and they recommend Schuylkill River. I kept the number for if I ever came back. Well here I am…
9. Did you have any impressions of Philadelphia rugby before you joined our Club?
Before I joined the club, I did not expect much because everyone that I asked about rugby knew little to nothing about it. It was a welcome surprise when I joined and the team had some serious players.
10. How has your opinion of what Philadelphia rugby means developed since you’ve joined us and how do you personally try to embody those ideals?
I have come to learn that the guys are tough as nails and they have a strong family-like bond (as rugby should have). I try and promote our club as much as possible and I try to help wherever I can.
11. What is an interesting fact about you that your teammates would be surprised to hear?
It’s about a foot, foot and a half. Ha-ha on the serious side probably just African stuff, I have swum with sharks, I have been kissed by an elephant in the face – and I have played with Cheetahs and Tigers. (Like most of you will be doing on the tour.)
12. If my interviewees are involved in some sort of business I usually give them an opportunity to promote themselves a little bit. Can you tell us about the beef jerky (sorry if that’s not entirely accurate) business that you’re in the process of starting up?
Biltong is a Traditional South African beef snack. It is meat (sirloin steak) that is cured and dried, not cooked or heated. On top of it being delicious, it is high in protein, at 16g per ounce. It has low levels of carbohydrates and sugars (less than 1g per ounce). Biltong has no MSG, no sodium nitrate and no artificial preservatives, colorings or flavorings. I recently started making it on my own in the US and I must admit that I do a damn good job. I am still working on the business part. More to come soon.
13. When you first joined our Club you quickly became friends with James Teti and Brad Selman, do you think hanging out with these maniacs helped prepare you for life in Philadelphia?
I have no affiliation with these degenerates. Ha-ha yeah, Thor taught me how to enjoy a good beer and I taught him what he knows about brandy.
14. Were you a fan of American football before coming to Philadelphia and what was it like being around to experience the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl and the euphoria that came along with it?
I was always fascinated by the sport, but did not watch it as much. I played a lot of Madden growing up so I knew most of the rules. I followed this season and what a season it was, GO BIRDS!! The excitement was very similar to South Africa winning the world cup. I love sport and how it brings people together.
15. Our Club features multiple men’s sides in league play for 15s, several 7s sides including a dedicated U-23 team and involvement with multiple local high school programs. As a player with international experience and perspective how do you think this structure benefits us and does it remind you of the clubs you grew up with?
The setup of the rugby here is very impressive, I was surprised at how well the 7’s program does too. All the clubs in SA mostly have a D1 and D2 team. D2 plays first on game day, the best players on the day get chosen to be on the bench for D1. This gives D2 some experienced players in their game and it ensures that everyone on the D1 side do not get too comfortable with someone gunning for their position. Most of the rugby I played in SA was 15’s, we played 7’s tournaments for fun every now and again.
16. As someone who was new to the area how did our Club culture help you settle in, make friends, and find a place in this city where you could be comfortable knowing you had a good support group around you?
I have made a lot of good friends through Schuylkill Rugby and it feels great to have people you can count on. It is hard to get to know people, but through rugby it was very easy.
17. There are all sorts of rumors that back in South Africa you were a total wild man, how nervous are you right now about what we’re going to dig up when we go there next month?
Ha-ha, I will let everyone judge for themselves when they meet the people I grew up with.
18. You are more or less the reason that our Club is taking that trip to South Africa. How does it feel to get to bring 30 guys to your homeland for an experience that you personally put together?
I have put a lot of time and effort into this trip and just want the guys to have the time of their lives. I hope it brings the club closer together and makes us an even stronger group. A strong group off the field is a force to be reckoned with on the field.
19. What are you most looking forward to on that trip?
I am looking forward to a bunch of stuff like teaching everyone to drink a brandy, but I would say mostly I am looking forward to the game against my old club.
20. Last question, are you jealous of the fact that in 2011 I went to USA 7s in Las Vegas and got to take photos with the South African team after they won the tournament and I got to hold the trophy?
This interview is over.
1. How many years have you been playing rugby?
I started playing spring semester my senior year in college, so about 7 years on and off with eligibility issues sprinkled in.
2. What other Clubs have you played for?
Old Dominion, Villanova, Schuylkill River and a summer with South Jersey.
3. What’s your proudest rugby moment so far?
Probably when Villanova was in the 2013 CRC’s (much to the chagrin of our Drexel teammates). I had a try-saving tackle against UCLA’s Grant Penney followed shortly by busting my eye, my bloody face up on the jumbotron, and getting stiches between matches.
4. What do you hope to accomplish in your rugby career moving forward?
Right now all I want to do is get back to playing after this ACL injury. I loved playing with D1 and feeling like I was playing my best rugby so I just want to get back to 100%.
5. You went to Ireland with Schuylkill in 2016 and are set to go to South Africa with us next month. What was your favorite part of the last trip and what are you most looking forward to for this trip?
My favorite part was probably Ben Rivell offering to marry a girl working at a club and bring her to America. Close second would be Cat Stevens’s vocals on the bus. For South Africa, I am just excited to experience another culture and watch the rest of you practice while hungover.
6. You played a big role in helping to establish “Friendship Rugby” a couple years ago at our match against Happy Valley, tell everyone what that was all about.
Right before our match that day was a women’s game and when they huddled up, they chanted “1, 2, 3, Friendship!” and we thought it was a very interesting way to get hyped for a match. So it became an ironic chant for D3 after that. We wouldn’t do it pre-game but it was a great thing to say after winning and heading to a drink-up. Then after our end-of-year meeting and we realized we needed to improve our social front as a club, I decided a “Friendship Rugby” facebook group was the solution. It has really taken on a life of its own at this point and kind of represents anything fun we do off the pitch.
7. Since that time you’ve taken on the role of Social Chair and done a lot to make sure that guys have opportunities to spend time together off the field. How do you feel that relationship-building amongst the players helps us develop a stronger Club culture?
Having Friendship Rugby really helps all the players get to know each other, new and old. That obviously has an impact for when you are training and playing together. Also, it simply makes rugby an even bigger part of your life. When you are not dedicating time to practice or games, you still find yourself spending your free time with teammates. I honestly do not understand how normal people make friends at all if they aren’t on a rugby club together.
8. When you first joined Schuylkill you started out playing for the second side (Troop) before moving up to the D1 side (Exiles). How did our Club’s structure, with multiple sides in league play, help you refine your game and prepare you to make the jump?
Training with guys with various degrees of skill and knowledge is crucial to improving your own game. Our club has multiple divisions but we do everything as one team so you’re getting great experience competing with the best and learning the game. Also, for me, I feel the coaches are always open to giving a player a chance and testing them at the higher level, so I tried to make the best of my opportunities.
9. Speaking of making the jump to D1, and I’m only mentioning this because you’ve gone on to become a regular D1 starter, on your first play as a D1 player you jumped up to contest a kickoff and the referee yellow carded you for taking an opponent out of the air. There was under 10 minutes left in the match so that was it as far as your debut went. How does it feel to almost certainly hold the record for quickest yellow card, and shortest debut, in our history?
I am the Moonlight Graham of Schuylkill River. It also sucked a bit more that it was a road game. Luckily I can laugh at it now since I had a 2nd chance.
10. You provide a lot of positional flexibility for us by being able to play flanker or hooker. Which position do you prefer to play and how do you use your athleticism to your advantage as a somewhat undersized front row?
No one would ever choose hooker over flanker. No one. But once the scrum breaks, we’re all just playing rugby so I just love being out there. Somewhat undersized? That’s a nice way of putting it. But being hoisted up besides players like Lucas, Sweetheart, Pond, etc. really allows me to just fully commit at any chance to steal a feed, knowing they are doing all the hard work.
11. What’s on your pregame playlist?
I hate pregame. Just nerves and tension waiting for the game. So I don’t listen to anything. I just try and chill out and talk to my friends before kickoff. But whenever I do need to get hyped, it’s KISS and DMX for me.
12. Everyone who gets interviewed is asked for cheesesteak recommendations. What are some of yours?
I gotta go Steve’s Prince of Steaks (16th & Chestnut). Get some of that double meat and wiz.
13. I’ve noticed that professional wrestling is big for you. What would you pro wrestling name and finishing move be?
Yeah my dad loved wrestling and used to compete himself (hence my usual gameday tank top with him flexing). Well sadly Stone Cold Steve Austin is already taken, so I don’t know what I’d do for a name but my finisher would definitely be the greatest submission move of all time, the figure 4 leg lock courtesy of the Nature Boy Ric Flair.
14. What is an interesting fact about you that your teammates would be surprised to hear?
Well most of them have probably heard this because it is the only interesting fact I can ever come up with, but I know all the Oscar Best Pictures since 1968. It’s kinda my thing.
15. We have 5 Villanova alumni on the team (4 law school, 1 undergrad) that I’m aware of. Since Villanova is so well known for its basketball team give me your 5 favorite players of all time.
I’d have to go Rudy Gay, Scottie Reynolds, and Kris Jenkins (purely for that shot). But since I am more of a football guy, I’ll shout out Brian Westbrook and my brother Dillon Lucas who played linebacker for Nova. [Editor’s note, Rudy Gay went to UConn, what the hell Austin? You really are more of a football guy, get it together…]
16. Aside from the South Africa trip, what are you most looking forward to for our Club this upcoming spring?
Home matches. With this injury I am forced to watch from the sidelines and we were mainly on the road in the fall so it sucked travelling only to watch. So I am excited that we will be making this playoff push on our home pitch.
17. You’ve requested in the past that we start using more nicknames in our Club and I’ve tried to work some into the match reports. Can I get 5 new, audience of all ages appropriate, official Austin Lucas approved nicknames for use this spring season?
I refuse to call anyone by their real name so I approve of this initiative. I mean, Brad Selman is saved in my phone as Thor Selman and I introduced Ryan McHugh to my mom via his nicname. How about seven layer bean Dip for Dipin George? Joe Midwig cut his beautiful locks recently, so now he can be Joey NoWig. Kyle King tried to make Taz stick for me. Speaking of King, I think we should all agree to just call him Prince. And if I may, I want to officially denounce one nickname, Brian Taylor as Jackhammer. He likes that nickname way too much.
18. Our club has strong Philadelphia roots. As a big time Eagles fan living in the city what did it mean to you, and what did it mean to the city to finally see the birds win the super bowl and what did you do for the parade?
It means that we can all die happy now. I still feel like it hasn’t really set in that the Eagles are objectively the greatest football team in the world right now, but maybe after proclaiming it non-stop for the next year it will sink in. I was on the north side of the parkway at 21st street with my brother, mom, cousins, friends, and our teammate Dave Gross. We had a good corner spot to see the parade and the jumbotron for the Superbowl replay and speeches.
19. The last time you and I spoke in person was at a fundraiser for the North Philadelphia Nomads high school rugby team and the time before that you were planning an upcoming opportunity for Schuylkill to visit a local children’s hospital. What motivates you to help use rugby as a way to give back to the community and how do you feel the response from the Club has been?
Every single person I mentioned the hospital visit to was pumped and excited. The Club never fails to seize an opportunity to help whether it be for each other, the youth, or the community at large. Whenever we can incorporate rugby into those efforts is just a boon, because we obviously all love the game and hope that others will to when introduced to it.
20. What does Philadelphia rugby mean to you and how do you try to embody those principles?
Anything Philly, you think gritty. Big hits and tough wins. But really, I think that Philadelphia rugby is an all-encompassing lifestyle. You don’t just play rugby on Saturdays and train a few hours a week. You hang out with teammates, go to Brolita’s with teammates, go on vacation with teammates, you live with teammates. Schuylkill River becomes a huge part of your life and I love that and try and add to that.