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As part of an ongoing tradition, Schuylkill River Rugby participated in two 7s tournaments over Thanksgiving weekend. First up was Apple Pie 7s in Fairmount Park on Black Friday to benefit the Josias A. Sterling Aquatic Education Program. Josias Sterling played rugby for St. Joe’s Prep and Temple University before tragically losing his life at a young age. The Foundation started in his name works to provide swim lessons to underprivileged individuals at the Salvation Army Kroc center. The lessons follow a 12 week plan and so far the Foundation has been able to provide 1500 lessons. This event carries a lot of emotional weight for the Philadelphia rugby community and it is great to see that the benefit it provides has been tremendous. Our top performers from that tournament included Lucas Brickley, Dave Gross, and John Hines Jr.
On Saturday we entered a side in the Men’s Premier Division of New York 7s. Schuylkill River Rugby is regularly the only domestic club side that enters into this division and is one of the only U.S. based club sides in the tournament at all. Our competition features mostly select sides and foreign teams while our side this weekend was a younger team of homegrown players, all of whom are previously established Schuylkill River players.
As explained by Coach Burch “New York 7s always seems to be a tough gritty day. As expected we faced some top level opponents. In pool play we were matched up against the eventual champion (Liberty 9410), tournament runner up, and bowl champion. The physical play left us with a couple of injuries going into knock out play but although we were down to 9 players we bounced back and the day culminated in a win against a good Pacific Islanders team.”
Coach Burch identified Brian Keown, Mitch Vanney, and Louis Baeza as standout players and mentioned that this was the first men’s premier 7s action for Baeza, Jabari Johnson, Kyle Kent, and Sean Barnes. Bringing a young squad to this tournament enabled us to gain some valuable experience which we hope to use in tournaments to come. Here’s the full New York 7s roster:
1. Dan Deal – St. Augustine Prep, St. Joe’s University #THWND
2. Brian Keown – St. Joe’s Prep
3. Jason DeNofa – Kutztown University
4. Pete Mulville – Temple
5. Matt Henderson – Lock Haven
6. Mitch Vannoy – University of Delaware
7. Sean Barnes – St. Joe’s Prep
8. Cody Bukowski – Drexel University
9. John McCurdy – Malvern Prep, University of Delaware
10. Jabari Johnson – Bloomsburg
11. Louis Baeza – Drexel
12. Kyle “Superman” Kent – Drexel
The Exiles finished up the fall season on a strong note Saturday by defeating the Pittsburgh Harlequins 40-12 to retain the Pelly Cup for another year. The Pelly cup is in honor of Eric Pelly, a U-19 player for Pittsburgh who tragically passed away in 2006. The game carries a lot of emotion for the entire Pittsburgh organization. In addition to honoring Eric Pelly, Schuylkill River remembers and honors our own Jason “Face” Siddell a promising young player with a never say impossible attitude who battled every game for us, often leading the way with a big hit or important try. Face passed away just before his 25th birthday on Jan 4, 2008.
Jimmy Wolfer got things started off for the Exiles with a try in the 15th minute but a failed clearance allowed Pittsburgh to get the ball back deep in our zone and take a 7-5 lead. Lucas Brickley scored 30 minutes into the match to help us take a 12-7 lead into the half. The second half of the match was a great 40 minute performance from the Exiles. Brian Keown hit a penalty 5 minutes into the half to give us a 15-7 lead followed up by a try from Randy Helsman 55 minutes in to make it 22-7.
Pittsburgh scored a try to make it 22-12 with 20 minutes to go followed by two quick penalties from Keown and a match sealing try from Dan Deal with 7 minutes left in the game to make the score 35-12. To the delight of the home fans the match ended with Matt “The Hawk” Henderson taking flight to score a diving try following an attempted clearance kick from Pittsburgh.
After the match, Coach Burch stated that “on a windy day we seemed to be the first to adjust to the weather. For the better part of the second half our tactical kicking put Pittsburgh under pressure. Lucas Brickley and Brad Volm had outstanding days by constantly causing pressure at the breakdown. We look forward to working hard over the winter and preparing for league play on March 16.”
Lucas Brickley earned man of the match honors for his performance in the front row. Austin Lucas also deserves credit for his hard work in the second half and John McCurdy earned a yellow card against Pittsburgh due to his hard running attack lines which enabled us to put them under tremendous pressure and seal the match.
Tries: Lucas Brickley (1), Dan Deal (1), Randy Helsman (1), Matt Henderson (1), Jimmy Wolfer (1)
Cons: Keown (3)
Pens: Keown (3)
Although the scoreline in a 38-5 loss against Northeast Irish might not show it, Troop also played a pretty strong match on Saturday. Against a team that previously beat us 67-0 this fall the guys came out and exhibited much improved ball retention and physical defense. It just wasn’t enough against a team that went 8-0 this fall and appears headed to the national playoffs as well as a likely promotion to Division 2.
Troop’s try was scored by Richard Casey following a sequence of pick and goes on the Northeast goal line.
Following the match, Coach Burch stated that "for the first 15 minutes we frustrated the Irish with great ball retention and physical defense. A couple long breaks, and the physical play, seemed to wear us down in the second half. Greg Mininger had a great day. His recognition and kicking put some unwanted pressure on the Irish back 3. We hope to solidify this side to make a push for playoffs next spring.
Greg Mininger earned man of the match honors for physical defense in the mid-field and effective tactical kicking throughout the match. Ross McMonigle and Mike Ruggeri also both played well and John “Cat Stevens” Vizzachero deserves recognition for showing up ready to play and making some huge tackles when called on as a reserve.
Tries: Rich Casey (1)
Season Scoring Totals:
Tries: Jabari Johnson (3), John Hines Jr. (2), Dave Hilley (2) Michael Bacon (1), Justin Brown (1), James Brunson (1) Cody Bukowski (1), Ed Carter (1), Rich Casey (1), Dave Hockenberry (1), Matt Hughes (1), Ross McMonigle (1), Lake Paul (1), Tom Stenberg (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (9)
Pens: Ryan Tower (4)
Tries: Sean Barnes (4), Randy Helsman (4), Dan Deal (3), Matt Henderson (3), Brian Keown (3), Joe Midwig (2), Pat Boyle (1), Lucas Brickley (1), Matt Chiaramonte (1), Jeff Hall (1), Dante Jacquet (1) Jabari Johnson (1), Ricky Schneider (1), Brad Volm (1) Jimmy Wolfer (1)
Cons: Keown (15)
Pens: Keown (8)
Schuylkill River Rugby travelled to South Africa for a tour from March 18 – 25. We got a little sidetracked but now that we’ve collected all of our photos and had a bye week we’re finally doing the write up. If you go to our Facebook page you can find an album with photos from the trip.
Day 1: After a long flight, and an even longer search for Brian Keown’s wallet, we headed to our hotel to check in before heading to the rhino park. At the rhino park we had the opportunity to play and take photos with tiger cubs and a cheetah while also seeing some full grown big cats, the rhinos, and the pygmy hippos. From there we headed to the Varsity Cup match between the University of Pretoria and University of Johannesburg. UJ opened up a 27-7 lead but the match ended up being a draw when UP scored a last minute try and nailed the conversion. Interestingly, they have a rule that allows for 9 point tries if you run the ball out of your own end which helped UP earn the tie. The hotel was part of a large circus themed casino complex and the guys took advantage after the match. Brenden Reif and Hunter Valentine were particularly lucky, winning about 10K Rand between the two of them.
Day 2. The following morning we traveled to Piet Retief which is Izak Du Plooy’s hometown. After we got settled in we headed to the rugby club for our match. Tries were scored by Ian Glatts and Eric Sucheki. Following the match we had a spit braai dinner at their clubhouse. The locals told us that we were the first foreign team to ever show up in their town and some of them told us this match was the biggest event in their town’s history. That might sound like an exaggeration but based on the fact that this was a Tuesday night match played at 7PM and the social afterwards didn’t end until 10:30AM I think it’s legit. At one point we bought the bar completely out of booze and the local police chief organized a brandy resupply for us. Throughout the night we traded our jerseys and polos for Piet Retief gear and Joe Midwig successfully traded his polo for a man’s wedding ring while the wife apparently looked on approvingly.
Day 3. Following James Teti’s volunteer construction shift we headed to a rugby clinic with Albert Schlebush and Lindelani Makhanya. Albert is the current coach of Piet Retief high school as well as the U16 Pumas (the Pumas are a Currie Cup team which is South Africa’s highest domestic competition) while Lindelani is a University player who has also played for the Pumas during Craven week which is a big University competition. The clinic went pretty well given our fatigue level and the guys were able to learn some new techniques and drills to bring back home. In the evening we had team dinner at Deja-vu Lounge for potjiekos and taught the locals Dreams and Nightmares by Meek Mill while explaining the global importance of the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Superbowl. Bus driver Joe then showed us how give the bus a sunroof and we headed back to our lodging.
Day 4. Following our second night in Piet Retief we headed to Kruger park which is one of the largest games reserves in all of Africa (it is almost the size of Belgium). It is so impressive that people travel from around the world to South Africa just to visit Kruger. By my count we saw the following animals: hyenas, monkey, lions, tortoise, impala, Warthogs, zebra, giraffes, gnu, kudu, springbok, elephant, hippo, crocodile, waterbuck. The lions were particularly awe-inspiring. As we drove down the road 3 younger male lions decided to lie down in the road (apparently because the weather was cold and the road is warmer) and block traffic. One SUV was somewhat impatient and tried to get around them resulting in one of the lions appearing ready to attack the car. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see that as the lions decided to head back into the woods. After Kruger we had dinner at the Deck Restaurant followed by a team wide pool party where some of the participants were a bit more willing than the others.
Day 5. We started off the day by driving for coffee at Izak’s favorite place, Alzu, which is a rest stop/zoo combo that owns Rhinos. We didn’t get to see them but we did see an Eland. We then had breakfast at another Izak favorite, Mugg and Bean before making it to Pretoria where we took a tour of Loftus stadium and did some jersey shopping at the club store. Lunch was in the stadium at a sports bar called TrademarX. Afterwards we traveled to our lodge, the Pride of Africa Private Nature Reserve and had dinner at Kingfisher Restaurant. The guys finished the night by hanging out at the campfire and playing pool/darts in the rec room.
Day 6. We had a pre-match breakfast together at Kingfisher restaurant before traveling to Boksburg for our match where tries were scored by Tyler Kelly, Ricky Schneider, and Eric Sucheki. We had another jersey exchange and traded their club a signed jersey of ours in exchange for a framed jersey of theirs that they had made up for us. After heading back to the preserve we had a court session and a biltong party by the fire.
Day 7. We woke up and headed to the casino near the airport to kill time before flight home. During lunch Izak’s fiancé joined us and the two of them went with Izak’s family to look at wedding venues. We wish them the best of luck with their upcoming marriage. Gambling took place at Emperor’s Palace and once again the guys were successful. After a long flight home it was time to get back to normal.
Our goal is to go on tour every 2 years so we’ll be announcing the plan for our 2020 tour in the near future. Thanks for reading!
It was another good day for Schuylkill River Rugby on Saturday October 6, 2018 as both the Exiles and Troop were victorious for the second weekend in a row. The Exiles travelled down to Washington DC and earned a 37-26 victory over Potomac while Troop hosted the Gryphons in the first of their four consecutive home matches and 33-12.
Following the Exiles match Coach Burch said “We stuck with our defensive structure and showed composure in our attack. With 27 points Brian Keown was a force from the 10 spot. Our forwards’ ability in the set piece put us on the front foot. Overall, a great team win.” Director of Rugby Pat Boyle added that the guys played a really solid game for the first 70 minutes to build a 37-5 lead but when you play a great team like Potomac you can never let your foot off the gas and that showed when Potomac scored 3 tries in the final 10 minutes to make it a 37-26 final.
Fly half Brian Keown played a strong match, scoring 2 tries and making 4 conversions and 3 penalty kicks. Other try scorers included Matt Henderson and Sean Barnes. Coach Burch also praised the play of John McCurdy, Joe Midwig, and Geoff Matthes. Boyle also gave a shout out to Henderson for a making a brilliant play to beat 3 defenders for his try and to Barnes for running good lines both with the ball, and in support. Matt Zebrowski was named man of the match by Coach Burch for his performance from the hooker position.
Tries: Keown (2), Barnes, Henderson
Cons: Keown (4)
Pens: Keown (3)
Despite Troop earning a bonus point victory against the Gryphons, Coach Pierce wasn’t satisfied and focused on what the side needs to do to reach their potential. “We were not able to display patience when required and requested. However, we increased our focus for 60 of 80 minutes and our last 20 minutes were our best” according to Coach. Izak Du Plooy was named man of the match in his return from the homeland and other strong performers included Ross McMonigle, John Hines Jr, and Brad Selman.
Tries were scored by Tom Stenberg, Dave Hilley, McMonigle, and Hines (2) while Ryan Tower added a conversion and 2 penalties. The penalties were particularly important given the difficulty of kicking on the muddy field and they helped us maintain a cushion when a couple of lapses in our play allowed the Gryphons to bring the score to 16-12 before a strong finish.
Tries: Hines (2), Hilley, McMonigle, Stenberg
Cons: Tower (1)
Pens: Tower (2)
Season Scoring Totals:
Tries: Jabari Johnson (3), John Hines Jr. (2), Dave Hilley (2) Michael Bacon (1), James Brunson (1) Cody Bukowski (1), Ed Carter (1) Matt Hughes (1), Ross McMonigle (1), Tom Stenberg (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (8)
Pens: Ryan Tower (3)
Tries: Sean Barnes (4), Randy Helsman (3), Brian Keown (3), Joe Midwig (2), Dan Deal (2), Pat Boyle (1), Jeff Hall (1), Matt Henderson (1), Dante Jacquet (1) Brad Volm (1)
Cons: Keown (12)
Pens: Keown (5)
It was a big weekend for Schuylkill River Rugby with Troop traveling to Blackthorn and earning a 21-17 victory and the Exiles getting a 34-10 win in a home match against the Washington Irish.
In the match against Blackthorn some early penalties gave easy field position to Blackthorn which helped the hosts take a 7-0 lead. Our guys fought back and evened things up off of a Dave Hilley intercept try. Towards the end of the first half we took a 14-7 lead thanks to a try from James Brunson which was assisted by John Hines Jr.
In the second half Blackthorn stuck to their strategy of relying heavily on the pick and go which starved us of possession. A try off of a messy lineout and a penalty kick gave them a 17-14 and it looked like time might run out on us. Thankfully Hines Jr. was able to break the line and carry the ball from inside our half into the opposing 22 and Ed Carter was able to finish off a sequence of picks to score on the last play of the match and give us a 21-17 win. Ryan Tower was steady with the boot all day to hit his 3 conversions.
After the match Coach Grasso said "we really had to weather the storm for the first 15 minutes as Blackthorn had a relentless attack. Our backs were hampered by a narrow, wet, field but took advantage of their opportunities. The forwards did a good job of stepping up to the challenge of repeated pick and goes and crash balls from the opposition. It was a great team win and the guys gave it everything until the final play.
Dave Hilley was named Man of the Match for his performance and Coach Grasso also mentioned Dave Gross, Hines, and Brunson as strong performers.
Tries: James Brunson, Ed Carter, Dave Hilley
Cons: Ryan Tower (3)
In the match against the Washington Irish we got off to a slow start on a muddy field and faced a 10-5 halftime deficit. The team battled back and had a great second half scoring 29 unanswered points to earn a 34-10 victory. Coach Pierce stated that “both sides struggled with the ground and wet ball. We battled through the first half, with some sloppy play putting us in trouble, but scrambling got us out of it. In the second half we took control with our attack coming together, on top of our territory management and defense suffocating our opponents.”
According to Director of Rugby Pat Boyle one of the things that set us apart was our bench. The subs we used came into the match ready to play and that gave us a big advantage. Boyle pointed specifically to the play of backs Matt Henderson and Jabari Johnson who brought a ton of speed into the match and let us pull away.
Austin Lucas was named Man of the Match by Coach Pierce for his work in the pack and other performers who earned recognition included Geoff Matthes, Dan Deal, Henderson and Johnson.
Tries: Sean Barnes (2), Jeff Hall, Dante Jacquet, Joe Midwig
Cons: Brian Keown (3)
Season Scoring Totals:
Tries: Jabari Johnson (3), Michael Bacon (1), James Brunson (1) Cody Bukowski (1), Ed Carter (1) Dave Hilley (1) Matt Hughes (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (7)
Pens: Ryan Tower (1)
Tries: Sean Barnes (3), Randy Helsman (3) Joe Midwig (2), Dan Deal (2), Pat Boyle (1), Jeff Hall (1), Dante Jacquet (1) Brian Keown (1), Brad Volm (1)
Cons: Keown (3)
Pens: Keown (2)