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Schuylkill River Rugby had strong representation at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan with several different groups traveling throughout the country. We caught up with three of them to get their take on the event.

1. What cities did you visit and what was the atmosphere like in Japan for the Rugby World Cup?
Ben Janssen: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. The atmosphere was pretty incredible, I have never been to a sporting event that brings together so many different cultures and although there was a fair share of jabs at each others’ teams the overall takeaway was that rugby really brings people together. Bars in Japan are very different than America, mainly they are tiny so most of the time you stood in the street and peered into a bar to watch the game surrounded by people from all over the world who love rugby. I had no idea how big rugby is in Japan but the culture has fully embraced it and I saw plenty of locals wearing jerseys from all of the top countries, and being fans of the game, in addition to the Japanese national team.

Ian Glatts: We flew into Tokyo on the first day of the Rugby World Cup and from there travelled to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Shizouka, and back to Tokyo. We were constantly using the bullet train to get from city to city, which saved us a lot of travel time. In places like Tokyo and Osaka, the world cup was less apparent just because of the sheer size of those cities, but during game day there was no avoiding it. The stadiums were packed with people from all over the world.

One of my favorite memories was from after the France-Argentina game in Tokyo. We left the stadium and made our way to a hole-in-the-wall bar down the street to watch the South Africa-New Zealand game. Before you knew it, the bar was overrun with rugby fans from France, Argentina, Australia, UK, New Zealand, and of course Japan. By the end of the game, half of the patrons were watching from the street! In total, we saw three world cup games abroad: France vs Argentina, USA vs England, and Japan vs. Ireland. 12 days total spent in 7 different hostels. We were constantly on the run.

Sean Beuche: We started in Tokyo and visited Shinjuku and Yokohama where we saw New Zealand vs South Africa and Ireland vs Scotland. We then went to Kyoto, Osaka, and then Kobe where we saw USA vs England. Lastly we visited Hamamatsu and Shizuaka for Ireland vs. Japan.

2. We’ve heard stories of the Japanese people being incredibly accommodating to visitors and doing a great job of hosting this event. Can you tell us about that?
Ben Janssen: The Japanese were some of the nicest people I have met in my travels, they seemed genuinely happy to have tourists in their country and were extremely accommodating. That being said, they had no idea how to properly supply a large scale sporting event. Multiple bars I went to ran out of beer, the stadium lines were outrageous (sometimes over an hour long), and they had very few bathrooms or concession stands in the stadium. I have serious concerns for the 2020 Olympics when it comes to serving large crowds at sporting events. I assume the Japanese culture views sports in a subdued manner compared to other nations around the world and have some improvements to make to the stadiums in preparation for the large crowds of 2020.

Ian Glatts: The passion of the home crowd was a sight to behold. Every game had a mixed bag of tourists but without fail, Japanese fans came out in droves to support the world cup. Even when their team was not playing, you could feel the rugby love from the host country. Well done Japan.

Sean Beuche: The Japanese are a very quiet and respectful people that were incredibly gracious in the face of 19 other, often-rowdier, and less-gracious people descending upon their homeland to party and support their countries. I was blown away with how pleasant and agreeable the Japanese people were across the country even when the same respect or grace wasn’t returned.

Watching the Japanese upset the Irish in the countryside of Shizuoka was an unforgettable experience that exemplified good-sportsmanship and national pride.

3. Having seen this event in a non-traditional rugby country like Japan, do you think the USA is ready to host this event?
Ben Janssen: The US is much more equipped to handle the actual sporting event than Japan is due to our stadiums but the logistics outside the actual games would be more difficult. All the transit I was on in Japan reviewed instructions in Japanese then English to accommodate tourism and they welcomed outsiders and made us feel as comfortable as possible. By contrast, we are not very accommodating to tourism here. Additionally there was a large Japanese presence at the stadium, these people genuinely wanted to watch rugby. I am not sure the fan base is large enough in the US to host the event of this magnitude.

Ian Glatts: Next question.

Sean Beuche: hell yeah.

4. Which players and teams stuck out in terms of entertainment value?
Ben Janssen: Japan was exciting because they still have the underdog narrative even though they have beat the best teams in the world. It was a pleasure to see the joy their fans got from watching them. The USA continues to disappoint. It appears our coaching staff does not know how to capitalize on the strength of our players and instead tries to mold them into a style that pulls them out of their element.

Ian Glatts: The first game between France and Argentina was a real nail biter – France ended up beating the Pumas off of a drop goal in the final minutes of play. A tactical match from two well-coached teams set the tone for an exciting world cup. Although it was an honor to see USA play England, the match was nothing to write home about. The highlight from that match goes to Teti for making a row of English supporters feel extremely uncomfortable for mocking our national anthem. Needless to say, he did not make it until the end of the game.

Sean Beuche: New Zealand travels as strongly as any other nation I’ve seen, pound for pound. Ireland is always good craic, and USA is the best country in the world

5. What was your favorite moment of the trip?
Ben Janssen: Seeing the country was Amazing, Japan is a beautiful nation with lots of history. I enjoyed seeing the difference between Tokyo and the smaller cities, as well as all of the temples and castles. My favorite moment was dressing up as Pikachu and driving go-carts around Tokyo, the locals loved seeing our group and we got to see the ins and outs of the city at street level.

Ian Glatts: Japan beating Ireland. The game was played in a remote town called Shizuoka 3 hours outside of Tokyo. Imagine if the Linc was situated out in Lancaster and the broad street line was half as efficient- that’s pretty much what our commute was like. Japan played a near perfect game defensively and the pace was full tilt the entire eighty minutes. By the end of it, even an Irish fan switched his green jersey for a Brave Blossoms jersey (by the way, almost impossible to find one of those, they were selling them like hot cakes). Walking out of the stadium, we must have hi-fived a thousand Japanese fans and yelled Nippon the whole way home. Some of us even hopped on the wrong train out of sheer excitement. I haven’t seen that kind of defense since Brian Dawkins wore midnight green. What an incredible game.

Sean Beuche: When Ireland was upset by japan and the Japanese players bowed to the crowd.

6. Anything else you’d like to add?
Ben Janssen: If you are over 6ft you are going to hit your head….a lot. The food was outstanding but be prepared to hit a fast food spot or convenience store within an hour because the Japanese are very small and their food portions match their stature.

Ian Glatts: Go to Osaka, don’t eat traditional sushi in Kyoto, and go to Osaka. NII-PON!!!!!

Sean Beuche: You can buy beer at every vending machine kiosk and corner store and drink on the street, but there is no trash or litter to be found anywhere and no public trash cans

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Schuylkill River Rugby had our annual Friends and Family Day over the weekend with a doubleheader against Potomac and Delmarva. In addition to the great Philadelphia Rugby action on the field the fans were treated to food and beverages as well as a raffle organized by the players as our way of thanking everyone for their support.

In the opening match of the day the Exiles took on Potomac. Flanker Ben Janssen got things off to a good start with a try in the 6th minute before Potomac scored 3 quick tries to make it 19-7 at the twenty minute mark. Wing Graham Johnston answered back but Potomac scored another try before halftime to make it a 26-14 scoreline at the break. Johnston scored his second try 51 minutes into the match to close the lead but Potomac was again able to answer back. A try from Prop Ricky Schneider 68 minutes into the match made it 33-28 but once again Potomac had an answer and took a 40-28 lead into the final minutes. In the 78th minute Janssen scored his second try of the match and ultimately the team was able to salvage 2 standings points from the match.

Graham Johnston was named man of the match for his two try performance and Coach also mentioned Jack Ramiez, Ben Janssen, and Chase Haberstroh as strong performers.

Scorers:
Tries: Ben Janssen (2), Graham Johnston (2), Ricky Schneider (1),
Cons: Brian Keown (5)

The second match of the day saw Troop take on Delmarva. Troop was able to keep the offense moving throughout the match and ended up winning this one by the score of 42-12. The match marked Tommy Higgins debut for the Club so welcome to the family Tommy!

This match was the best we’ve run our system so far this season. Our pods consistently broken the gainline and drew in multiple defenders which created a number of mismatches for us to capitalize on thanks to improved passing and ball retention. On defense we came up hard all game and we’re strong in the tackle with our centers in particular shutting down their attack. Our defense was also fueled by disruptive counter rucking.

From an individual standpoint, Dave “Tiny” Hilley was strong in the lineounts, Matt Zebrowski made a huge impact, Joe Barasse was strong throughout the match, Greg “Loopy” Mininger and Jabari Johnson had excellent all around games and were huge on defense and the young guys, including James Lesniak, Evan McKeever, and Keeno Brown continued to play well. Colin Sullivan was named man of the match for his performance.

Scorers:
Tries: Jabari Johnson, Keeno Brown, Ryan McHugh, Evan McKeever, Lake Paul, Colin Sullivan, Matt Zebrowski
Cons: Ryan Tower (2)
Pens: Ryan Tower (1)
Missed Drop Goals: Loopy (1)

Troop Season Stats:
Tries: Jabari Johnson (5), Ryan McHugh (3), Vito Nucci (3), Keeno Brown (2), Bobby Collins (2), Dave Gross (2), Jeff Hall (2), Evan McKeever (2), Alex Ruiz (2), Colin Sullivan (2) Kevin Allison (1), Louis Baeza (1), Justin Brown (1), Bryan McCorkle (1), Lake Paul (1), John “Cat Stevens” Vizzachero (1), Matt Zebrowski (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (17)
Pens: Ryan Tower (4)

Exiles Season Stats:
Tries: Ben Janssen (6), Jack Ramirez (6), Cesar DaFonseca (5), Rich Casey (3), Graham Johnston (2), Brian Keown (2), Louis Baeza (1), Ryan Blythe (1), Joe Midwig (1), Vito Nucci (1), Ricky Schneider (1), Brad Volm (1),
Cons: Brian Keown (20) Alex Ruiz (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (2)

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Skill Rugby’s D3 side (Troop) began a four match home stand in winning fashion with a victory over Blackthorn. Evan McKeever (wing) and Vito Nucci (prop) got things off to a good start with early tries and gave River a 12-0 lead 7 minutes into the match. Keeno Brown (wing) and Jabari Johnson (outside center) followed up with tries of their own to help the team build a 24-0 lead and take a 24-5 advantage into halftime following a try from Blackthorn’s fullback.

Jeff Hall (lock) got the second half scoring started with a try in the 57th minute which was matched by a try from Blackthorn’s fly half to make it 31-12. The teams continued trading tries throughout the half with River’s Bobby Collins (lock) scoring followed by a try from Blackthorn’s wing to make the score 38-19. Jabari Johnson continued his strong play with a 72nd minute try to make it a final score line of 43-19.

After the match team leadership stated that we started off strong running with the ball in hand, had a bit of a lull in the middle of the match, and then finished strong. When we ran our system we were successful and our defense was strong throughout. In particular, Bobby Collins, Matt Zebrowski (hook), and the backline played well defensively. Scrumhalf Ryan Tower ran a strong game and his kicking remained on point. The set pieces were also strong and thanks to the fact that we built a lead we were able to get a few young guys some playing time to finish off the match.

Jabari Johnson was named man of the match for his performance and James Lesniak (fullback) was also noted to have had a strong match.

This match also marks wing Scott Carter’s debut for Schuylkill River. Welcome to the Club Scott!

Troop and the Exiles return to action on Saturday October 26 with Friends and Family Day matches against Delmarva and Potomac.

Scorers:
Tries: Jabari Johnson (2), Keeno Brown (1), Bobby Collins (1), Jeff Hall (1), Evan McKeever (1), Vito Nucci (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (4)

Troop Season Stats:
Tries: Jabari Johnson (4), Vito Nucci (3), Bobby Collins (2), Dave Gross (2), Jeff Hall (2), Ryan McHugh (2), Alex Ruiz (2), Kevin Allison (1), Louis Baeza (1), Keeno Brown (1), Bryan McCorkle (1), Evan McKeever (1), Colin Sullivan (1), John “Cat Stevens” Vizzachero (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (15)
Pens: Ryan Tower (3)

Exiles Season Stats:
Tries: Cesar DaFonseca (5), Jack Ramirez (5), Rich Casey (3), Ben Janssen (2), Louis Baeza (1), Ryan Blythe (1), Brian Keown (1), Joe Midwig (1), Vito Nucci (1), Brad Volm (1),
Cons: Brian Keown (11) Alex Ruiz (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (2)

Mid-Season Recap

Posted by Schuylkill River RFC at Oct 16, 2019 6:51AM PDT ( 0 Comments )
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With both Troop (D3) and the Exiles (D1) sitting at 2-2 we’ve reached the approximate halfway point of the season. Troop has 4 league matches remaining while the Exiles have 6 matches left on the slate. Here are some facts and figures as we get set to start the second half of the season with a match this Saturday between Troop and Blackthorn at Pennypack.

As of right now the Exiles defense has given up the fewest points in the MAC while Troop has scored the second most points in their Division.

12 different players have scored tries for Troop so far this season while 10 guys have scored tries for the Exiles.

It’s actually 21 total try scorers, not 22, because Vito Nucci has managed to score tries for both sides.

Cesar “Southside” DaFonseca and Jack “Rack” Ramirez are tied for the Club lead with 5 tries on the season and each have a chance to surpass last year’s leader Matt Henderson who scored 10.

Troop has 5 guys (Dave Gross, Ryan McHugh, Vito Nucci, Jabari Johnson, Alex Ruiz) tied for the team lead with 2 tries. Last year’s leader was Jabari Johnson and now that he’s returned home from his European modelling adventure he’s expected to take the lead.

Brian Keown leads the Club with 33 points overall. Ryan Tower’s kicking has been a strength this season for Troop and he’s right behind Keown with 31 points of his own.

When asked about where the Club stands right now and what our goals are going forward Coach Jon Grasso stated that “both teams are trying to win their respective MAC championships and both teams appear to be on track to make the playoffs right now, despite some disappointing results. To get there we just need some more time together to get better cohesion. I’ve been pleased with how hard guys have been working and their focus when they’re at practice.”

Troop returns to action this Saturday with a home match vs Blackthorn. The Exiles return to action on October 26 with a home match vs Potomac as part of our Friends and Family Day celebration.

Troop Season Stats:
Tries: Dave Gross (2), Ryan McHugh (2), Vito Nucci (2), Jabari Johnson (2), Alex Ruiz (2), Kevin Allison (1), Louis Baeza (1), Bobby Collins (1), Jeff Hall (1), Bryan McCorkle (1), Colin Sullivan (1), John “Cat Stevens” Vizzachero (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (11)
Pens: Ryan Tower (3)

Exiles Season Stats:
Tries: Cesar DaFonseca (5), Jack Ramirez (5), Rich Casey (3), Ben Janssen (2), Louis Baeza (1), Ryan Blythe (1), Brian Keown (1), Joe Midwig (1), Vito Nucci (1), Brad Volm (1),
Cons: Brian Keown (11) Alex Ruiz (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (2)

Troop gets a big win on the road!

Posted by Schuylkill River RFC at Oct 10, 2019 8:44AM PDT ( 0 Comments )
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Our D3 side, Troop, took Philadelphia rugby on the road this past weekend and traveled to Happy Valley to take on the Barbarians. After a somewhat slow start that saw the teams tied 10-10 a third of the way through the match Troop was eventually able to build a 34-15 lead before a try in the 78th minute made it a 34-22 final in favor of Schuylkill River.

Fullback Louis Baeza drew first blood in this match by scoring a try in the 12th minute that was converted by scrum half Ryan Tower. Tower made a penalty kick sandwiched between two unconverted tries for Happy Valley to make the scoreline 10-10 before Dave Gross continued his recent run of strong play with a try. Happy Valley was able to answer back quickly to cut the lead to 17-15 in River’s favor and the next 40 minutes were dominated by Schuylkill thanks to tries from Bobby Collins, and Alex Ruiz as well as great kicking from Ryan Tower who totaled 14 points on the day. Happy Valley earned a bonus point with a try in the 78th minute to make it a 34-22 scoreline.

The first individual that the Captains and Staff wanted to mention when asked about the match was Chuck Nucci. Chuck’s son Vito is a first year player on the team who has been playing well in the prop position and Chuck not only made the drive from South Jersey for this match but also ran water onto the field for the guys and kept stats so thank you Chuck!

Strong on-field performances were had by Bobby Collins who was named man of the match, as well as Vito Nucci, Kevin Allison, Ryan Tower, and Louis Baeza. Our biggest strength on the day was great work in the line outs and solid phase play.

Scorers:
Tries: Louis Baeza (1), Bobby Collins (1), Dave Gross (1), Alex Ruiz (1)
Cons: Tower (4)
Pens: Tower (2)

The exiles return to action this weekend with an away match vs the Washington Irish on October 12. Troop returns to action with a home match against Blackthorn on October 19.

Troop Season Stats:
Tries: Dave Gross (2), Ryan McHugh (2), Vito Nucci (2), Jabari Johnson (2), Alex Ruiz (2), Kevin Allison (1), Louis Baeza (1), Bobby Collins (1), Jeff Hall (1), Bryan McCorkle (1), Colin Sullivan (1), John “Cat Stevens” Vizzachero (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (11)
Pens: Ryan Tower (3)

Exiles Season Stats:
Tries: Cesar DaFonseca (5), Jack Ramirez (4), Ben Janssen (2), Louis Baeza (1), Ryan Blythe (1), Rich Casey (1), Brian Keown (1), Joe Midwig (1), Vito Nucci (1), Brad Volm (1),
Cons: Brian Keown (8) Alex Ruiz (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (2)