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On Saturday November 25, 2017 Schuylkill River Rugby participated in the prestigious Men’s Premier division of the New York 7s rugby tournament hosted by New York Rugby Club. New York 7s first started in 1959 and is the largest, and longest running, sevens tournament in the United States with well over 100 entries annually.
Once again Schuylkill was the only club team participating in a division full of elite training academies and all-star select sides. Our home grown team of Philadelphia rugby players (see below) got off to a slow start on the day, losing matches to the Beltway Elites, and the Northeast Olympic Development Academy but our guys showed the heart and determination that Schuylkill River Rugby is known for and overcame the slow start to pick up wins against Canadian sides Equipe Quebec and R.C.C. to end up in 3rd place in the round robin style tournament.
Director of Rugby Pat Boyle felt that this tournament was a great opportunity to continue the development of our younger players, many of whom have both played for our U-23 Academy, and have been to Nationals with our Premier side. Pat also mentioned that our guys continued to play better as the day went on and that this bodes well for our future when the tournaments we play in will have knockout rounds.
Here is a list of the Philadelphia area High School and Collegiate rugby programs that were represented in the Schuylkill roster this weekend:
High School: St. Augustine Prep, St. Joe’s Prep, Roman Catholic, Doylestown, Coatesville, Downingtown
Collegiate: Villanova, Kutztown, St. Joe’s, Lock Haven, Penn State, Temple, Delaware
On Saturday October 11 we travelled to Pittsburgh for a D1 league match, followed by a D2 friendly, against the Pittsburgh Harlequins. Pitt came into this match highly motivated after narrowly missing out on an opportunity to reclaim the Pelly Cup earlier in the season and to their credit they played a tremendous first 50 minutes to claim a 35-3 lead.
As usual Schuylkill kept our composure and began to chip away at the lead. On a muddy track Chino Deal was able to find some footing to cut back against the grain and score our opening try and Lucas Brickley added one of his own soon thereafter. With 15 minutes to go Randy Helsman broke to the sidelines and was able to toss the ball back in field to Mike Centanni who scored the try in what was his first ever D1 match. Unfortunately this was as close at it got for River as the Quins added another penalty and try to earn a 43-22 victory.
Tyler Kelley was named man of the match for his 80 minute performance and other strong performers included Ricky Schneider, Jeff Hall, Centanni, and Brian Keown.
Tries: Deal (1), Centanni (1), Brickley (1),
Cons: Keown (2)
Pens: Keown (1)
The D2 match was a high scoring offensive shootout that we ended up winning by the final score of 63-29. It was a back and forth battle for the first 40 minutes which resulted in a 29-17 halftime lead for us but we stuck to our structure and were able to pile on in the second half before taking our foot off the gas in the last 10 minutes and giving up two tries.
The elusive Michael Bacon was named man of the match after scoring a hat trick and other players who stood out included Beau Lail, John Hines Jr, Ryan Tower, Dave Hilley, and Dave Gross.
Bacon (3), Lail (2), Tower (1), Hilley (1), Hines (1), Gross (1)
Cons: Tower (4), Hines (3)
After the match Coach Owen Jones offered these thoughts, “we would have preferred to finish our season on a high note with a victory, but away games at Pittsburgh are notoriously difficult. You are challenged to remain disciplined and efficient and we were undisciplined with our attacking platforms throughout the day. With this being the final game of the fall I think it more appropriate to reflect on the entire fall season. All in All I think we are right where we should be regarding the table standings. Coulda, woulda, shoulda with the Norfolk and Potomac Exiles matches, but we have another crack at each of them come Spring. The fall was a lot of hard work incorporating new players into the mix, learning a new structure, and managing players injuries. However, player after player has stepped up when called upon. I’d like to thank all players for their efforts this fall, enjoy the rest as they have earned it, and look forward to our spring campaign.”
I have a couple of thoughts I’d like to add from a personal standpoint. First, shoutout to our St. Joe’s contingent known as the “Baker Bandits.” The Deal, Kelley, Zebrowski, and Centanni crew have stepped up their game recently and the results have been good.
Secondly, I know we talked a lot about our Club structure in the last match report but I think this week’s matches also serve to show how our structure benefits the Club as a whole. Mike Centanni started playing rugby this season and his first ever match was September 30 but instead of playing bits and pieces here and there in B-Side games Tanni was able to cut his teeth playing 80 minute league matches, and because both of our sides travel together he was then able to watch the D1 team play. By giving everyone meaningful minutes, and giving them an opportunity to learn by watching the D1 matches, they’re ready to play when their number is called and we saw that on Saturday when Tanni scored a try and made several big hits in his first taste of D1 action.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here but if you want an opportunity to get meaningful playing time while learning the game, and improve your skills so that you can play at a high level Schuylkill River is probably the only Philadelphia rugby club that provides you with that opportunity.
Season Scoring Tally
Tries: Michael Bacon (4), John Hines (3), Beau Lail (3), James Brunson (2), Tito Callahan (2), Dave Gross (2), Dave Hilley (2), John Sneh (2), Pat Bellot (1), Mike Centanni (1), James Glatts (1), Josh Marchisio (1), Brian Taylor (1), Ryan Tower (1), Yuriy Trimba (1), Matt Tyris (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (6), John Hines (3), Greg Mininger (2),Tito Callahan (2)
Pens: Ryan Tower (1)
Tries: Ben Janssen (5), Rick Schneider (5), Cody Bukowski (3), Rich Casey (3), Chino Deal (3), Ryan McHugh (3),Pat Boyle (2), Roman Lowery (2), Lucas Brickley (1), Mike Centanni (2), Matt Giannascoli (1), Jeff Hall (1), Tyler Kelly (1), Brian Keown (1), Joe Midwig (1), Jim Rosato (1), Matt Tyris (1)
Cons: Brian Keown (15) Matt Chiaramonte (4) Cody Bukowski (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (4)
With some long-time regulars out of the lineup Schuylkill River was able to travel down to D.C. and earn a 34-24 victory over a very resilient Washington Irish team in the D1 match. It was all Schuylkill from the start as Ricky “Man Crush” Schneider, Ben Janssen, Tyler Kelly, and Matt Giannascoli were able to run in tries within the first 25 minutes of the match to give us a 22-0 lead. From there the Washington Irish were able to sandwich two tries around a score from Chino Deal to make it 27-12 at halftime.
Things got very interesting in the second half when the Washington Irish were able to score two tries and make it a 27-24 match in the final 10 minutes. In the 78th minute Jeff “The Closer” Hall scored on a pick and go to give Schuylkill a 34-24 advantage which ended up being the final score.
Our D2 side also played a match against Washington’s second side. The match was a friendly as the D2 league season is on hiatus until March 17. Washington ended up winning the match 42-25. Schuylkill’s tries were scored by Dave Hilley, Dave Gross, Beau Lail, James Glatts, and Brian Taylor.
After the D2 match Coach Mike Clark awarded Man of the Match honors to Brian Taylor and gave recognition to Andrea Fatatis, Josh Marchisio, and Dave Hilley for their strong performances.
After the D1 match Coach Owen Jones awarded Man of the Match honors to Jeff Hall and acknowledged the performances of Schneider, Ryan McHugh, Cody Bukowski, and Joe Midwig while also giving recognition to Ian Glatts, Matt Zebrowski, John Hines Jr, TJ McDonough, and Brian Taylor for stepping up from the D2 team to help out the D1 this week.
Jones told me “our six tries were scored by six different players which is a testament to our player depth and offensive versatility. I would like to highlight the game performance and season performance of Jeff Hall. We have had a rotation of players and the second row position but the constant has been Jeff. His reliable presence has allowed us to maintain a consistent and strong platform.”
I reached out to Jeff and asked him for his thoughts on Owen’s assessment and to tell me what it means to him to provide a steady presence for the Club, put in the hard work, and be ready for whatever the team needs him to do. I also asked Jeff to discuss how it feels to do hard work all match in the tight 5 and then score a big try at the end. This is what Jeff had to say:
“I think we’ve had our share of trials this fall. A few significant injuries and availability issues early in the season, particularly in the forwards, put us in a position where we’ve had to fill gaps. We’ve had players move into positions that aren’t typically their own; Pat Boyle, Ryan McHugh and Matt Zebrowski to name a few, and a good number of call-ups from the D2 side come in and make an impact. That’s what speaks to the nature of the Club this year. Knowing that whoever is standing next to you that week is there to do the job, regardless of who it is, and we can make it work. None of our wins this season have been a runaway victory for Schuylkill, but the effort on an individual level to benefit the Club has been keeping us up in the table. Every player seems ready for what the coaches ask of them, whether it’s to step up or change focus. That mentality gave us the win on Saturday. The game got tight towards the end, but since we’ve been in these positions so often, we could collect ourselves and let our pattern relieve some of the pressure until all I had to do was fall across the line from a few feet out and we could call it a win.”
Given the way that people stepped up for us this weekend across the entire Club roster I reached out to Director of Rugby Pat Boyle for his thoughts on how our success over the weekend reflects our Club culture and the structure that we are trying to put in place. Boyle told me the following:
“Playing road games, after suffering a season’s worth of injuries, can test a Club’s structure but we definitely answered the bell on Saturday. I’m really proud of how the guys responded this weekend and with our player development overall this season. We had three first time D1 starters in the pack and multiple reserves who got their first D1 experience at all. The moment wasn’t too big for anyone because the player pathway is very clear on our Club and these guys had been playing meaningful minutes for the D2 side for a couple of months now. More impressively, even though the D2 league matches are over our second side traveled to DC on Saturday for a friendly and will do so again in Pittsburgh this upcoming weekend. This shows that the entire Club has bought into our culture and that the D2 side really is the driving force in the Club. D2 is working towards a championship but also creates player pathway to D1, and without that pathway, D1 rugby is irrelevant."
Tries: Ricky Schneider, Ben Janssen, Tyler Kelly, Matt Giannascoli, Chino Deal, Jeff Hall
Cons: Cody Bukowski (2)
Tries: Beau Lail, Dave Gross, James Glatts, Dave Hilley, Brian Taylor
Season Scoring Tally
Tries: Tito Callahan (2), John Hines (2), John Sneh (2), James Brunson (2), Michael Bacon (1), Pat Bellot (1), Mike Centanni (1), James Glatts (1), Dave Gross (1), Dave Hilley (1), Beau Lail (1), Josh Marchisio (1), Brian Taylor (1), Yuriy Trimba (1), Matt Tyris (1)
Cons: Greg Mininger (2), Ryan Tower (2). Tito Callahan (2)
Pens: Ryan Tower (1)
Tries: Ben Janssen (5), Rick Schneider (5), Cody Bukowski (3), Rich Casey (3), Ryan McHugh (3),Pat Boyle (2), Chino Deal (2), Roman Lowery (2), Matt Giannascoli (1), Jeff Hall (1), Tyler Kelly (1), Brian Keown (1), Joe Midwig (1), Jim Rosato (1), Matt Tyris (1)
Cons: Brian Keown (13) Matt Chiaramonte (4) Cody Bukowski (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (3)
Schuylkill River has continued our mission to grow the game of rugby in Philadelphia by teaching phys-ed classes at Smedley Elementary over the past two Wednesdays. Club President Dave Codell and Club Vice-President Carlo Sena teamed up to provide the sessions and give the 4th and 6th graders an opportunity to enjoy the greatest sport on earth.
With help from enthusiastic teacher Ray Simpson, a former football star who played collegiately at Syracuse, the kids stayed focused, learned some core skills, and were able to improve dramatically over the course of two weeks. The first week was focused mainly on passing form and refraining from throwing the ball forward. Once the kids understood they had to stay behind the ball carrier they were able to spend more time playing competitive games of flag rugby in week 2.
Mr. Simpson reached out to us after hearing about the Summer camp that we participated in at the Northeast Frankford Boys and Girls Club. A lot of the Smedley students spend their after school hours there and it was helpful that each of the classes had several students who were familiar with rugby so that they could help teach the newcomers.
It’s extremely rewarding to teach someone rugby and then watch them show someone else the ropes so it was great to see then enthusiasm with which the Boys and Girls Club kids helped teach the game to their Smedley classmates. Schuylkill is proud of the role we have played in helping to develop Philadelphia rugby and we are in preliminary discussions to bring an after school program to Smedley in the spring.
Over the weekend Schuylkill River hosted a very successful Friends and Family Day in conjunction with Baltimore-Chesapeake. As reported previously, the wife of Norfolk Blues Captain Eric Hagen recently passed away due to a car accident. In an effort to show Eric some support in this difficult time we decided to put together a fundraiser for his children’s college funds. I am happy to report that Baltimore helped promote this event and was fully on-board with our plan.
A good turnout from both sides enabled us to raise approximately $350 from our snackbar and from raffle tickets. A big thank you goes out to Schuylkill River Hall of Famer Alex Yankowsky for handling the food, and for all of the Schuylkill players who donated items for the raffle.
Our goal was to also put forth a great day of rugby in addition to the fundraiser and we did just that winning the D2 match by a score of 17-12 and winning a 38-36 thriller in the D1 match.
Things got off to a slow start for Troop in the D2 match with Baltimore taking an early 12-0 lead in the first half. Baltimore’s flyhalf did a good job of placing his kicks and we were unable to take the ball the length of the field. The guys regrouped at halftime knowing that we would have the wind and sun in our favor for the second half and we were finally able to get the offense going.
Flanker Pat Bellot helped get things started off by crashing the ball out wide before offloading to the wing who was able to pass back inside to Fullback John Hines for the try. Hines added another try, with a conversion from Scrumhalf Tito Callahan, soon afterwards to make it as 12-12 match headed into the final minutes. Quick hands from Callahan, Hines, and Flanker/Center Dave Gross created space for Wing Mike Centanni to score the match winning try.
The Man of the Match was John Hines and other strong performers included Flyhalf Ryan Tower, Centanni, Hooker Ian Glatts, and Lock Andrea Fatatis.
Tries: Hines (2), Centanni (1)
Cons: Callahan (1)
The Exiles match was a high scoring affair from the get go with Balti’s #5 scoring an early intercept try that was matched by a try from Prop Ricky Schneider. Balti’s 8man, former Schuylkill 7s player Tyler Barberi, was able to break some tackles en route to giving Balti a 12-7 lead which was matched by a rare pick and go try from Center Chino Deal.
Balti then worked it to the corner for a score followed quickly by Brian Keown dragging a defender 20 meters for a try to make it 19-19. Things got a bit dicey for the Exiles from here when Balti’s #22 came on in the second half and really made a big difference as Balti was able to score 3 quick tries to take a 36-19 lead.
To their credit Schuylkill River showed the sort of guts and determination that you expect to see in Philadelphia rugby and were able to answer back. Cody Bukowski righted the ship by tightroping the sidelines to make it 36-24 and Ben Janssen took it from there. Janssen collected a wayward lineout in the offensive zone and scored to make it 36-31 and then he cut back against the grain out wide to find space and score a try to make it 36-36 with 12 seconds to play.
Brian Keown then lined up the conversion kick and put it right down the middle to give Schuylkill a 38-36 lead. Brian deserves a lot of credit not just for this kick but for all of the preparation that led up to it. In addition to practicing his kicking at training every week Brian frequently shows up a couple of hours before he needs to be at the field in order to get extra kicks in. The hard work paid off on Saturday.
Ben Janssen caught the ensuing kickoff and Fullback turned Scrumhalf Pat Boyle was able to boot it out of bounds to give Schuylkill a bonus point victory.
The Man of the Match was Ben Janssen with other strong performances from Brian Keown, Cody Bukowski, Tyler Kelly and Chino.
Tries: Janssen (2), Bukowski (1), Keown (1), Chino (1), Schneider (1),
Cons: Keown (4)
Season Scoring Tally
Tries: Tito Callahan (2), John Hines (2), John Sneh (2), James Brunson (2), Michael Bacon (1), Pat Bellot (1), Mike Centanni (1), Josh Marchisio (1) Yuriy Trimba (1), Matt Tyris (1)
Cons: Greg Mininger (2), Ryan Tower (2). Tito Callahan (2)
Pens: Ryan Tower (1)
Tries: Ben Janssen (4), Rick Schneider (4), Cody Bukowski (3), Rich Casey (3), Ryan McHugh (3),Pat Boyle (2), Roman Lowery (2), Chino Deal (1), Brian Keown (1), Joe Midwig (1), Jim Rosato (1), Matt Tyris (1)
Cons: Brian Keown (13) Matt Chiaramonte (4)
Pens: Brian Keown (3)