News and Announcements
Skill Rugby played one match in 2020 prior to the shutdown so aside from that it’s been 18 months since we’ve really had a season. That meant 20 players would be making their 15s debut this weekend with an additional 3 who had only played once for us before. Thankfully this was an incredibly strong recruiting class and the relative lack of experience playing together was not a hindrance for us as our D1 side (the Exiles) raced out to a 70-12 victory in our first match of the season against Baltimore-Chesapeake.
Coach Jamie stated that it was good to be back home welcoming some young class into the squad. The new players provided a spark and the homegrown talent surrounding them helped control the match. However, our defense wasn’t what we hoped for in our own 22 and despite not spending too much time there we did leak points in our own third. Additionally, our structure wasn’t what we wanted but at the same time, when you generate ball faster than you can structure and you’re scoring points then you really can’t complain. Coach and the team will look to address these issues in training this week.
In terms of Man of the Match it is a split between Chase Haberstroh who brought the fire in the pack and Danny Giannascoli who brought control, along with a little flare, just as requested from the flyhalf position.
T: Alex Ruiz (2), Danny Giannascoli (2) Jack Ramirez (2), Aaron Gray (1), Chase Haberstroh (1), Jeff Hall (1)
C: Danny Giannascoli (5), Ruiz (3)
P: Danny Giannascoli (3)
Our D2 side (Troop) played a closer match but there were also victorious. We got off to a 12-0 start thanks to tries from Anthony Sessa and Kyle Kent before Baltimore stormed back to make it 12-17. Bouba Bangoura scored a timely try before halftime and Matt Zebrowski added another on the other side of intermission to make it 26-17. After a Baltimore penalty Matt Rhodes scored in the 65th minute and Jon Ahern converted to make it 33-20. Two late tries by Baltimore almost cost us the match but thankfully the team held on to win 33-32.
Afterwards Coach Jamie said you should be grateful as a coach when your biggest concern is how to get all this talent enough time to shine. We definitely had a battle against a club who’s top string had a couple more absentees than us, but had as much strength in depth. Arguably we were lucky in the end, but this was earned with a lot of fight and adapting to plenty of player rotation.
In terms of Man of the Match Bouba Bangoura earned the distinction for 80 minutes of hard edged play up front that we needed. Coach also mentioned that Aaron Gray or John Ahern each exhibited excellent control from the flyhalf position in their respective halves.
T: Anthony Sessa (1), Bouba Bangoura (1), Kyle Kent (1), Matt Rhodes (1), Matt Zebrowski (1),
C: Ryan Tower (2), Jon Ahern (1), Kyle Kent (1),
Big thanks to Dan Callahan for showing up to take photos! Please feel free to use whatever you like from this link: https://lensdump.com/a/I3gDk/?sort=date_asc&page=1
Lastly, here is a list of players who made their debuts this weekend along with their schools/prior clubs:
Bill Shaw: Franklin & Marshall
Sully Gyerman: Temple
Danny Giannascoli: Malvern Prep, Loyola
Pat Frick: Loyola, Baltimore-Chesapeake
Niall Carlson: Northeastern
Alex Walsh: Towson, Baltimore-Chesapeake
Jake Smith: Coventry, Kutztown
Aaron Gray: Kutztown
Thaison Nguyen: Roman Catholic
Anthony Sessa: Kutztown
Zach Kelley: California University of Pennsylvania, Villanova
Bouba Bangoura: Kutztown
James Lampe: US Air Force – Played in Germany
Matt Rhodes: Rowan
Damir Creecy: University of Delaware
Martin Arceluz: Madrid Lions
Kobie Tuckson: Kutztown
Alex Mingowi: Kutztown
Jon Ahern: Downingtown, St. Joe’s
Jack Heffernan: St. Joe’s
Semi new (one match played previously):
Kyle Kent: Drexel
Dan Berger: Rowan
Joe Rooney: Drexel
Philadelphia United Rugby is a men’s select side that draws players from the Philadelphia area and surrounding regions. Last year the newly formed team took on the Old Glory Selects and were able to earn a 32-20 victory in their inaugural match. A second match between the development sides, Philadelphia United Militia and Capital Selects also took place.
Overall, Schuylkill River was able to make a big impact on the Philadelphia United rosters with a total of 18 past and present Skill Rugby players being chosen. Those players were: Ty Anderson, Louis Baeza, Lucas Brickley, Bobby Collins, Cesar DaFonseca, Bruce Dolan, Danny Giannascoli, Jeff Hall, Randy Helsman, Dave Hockenberry, Matt Hughes, Dante Jacquet, Ben Janssen, Dave Kornock, Justin Lopez, Jack Ramirez, Ricky Schneider, and Adam Shapiro.
With only one tryout and two training sessions under their belts United would have been forgiven for getting off to slow start but they actually took the lead early in the match thanks to a penalty kick from Danny Giannascoli. However, from there things went Old Glory’s way for the remainder of the half as the visitors kicked a penalty of their own and then added four tries in the last 15 minutes of the half to take a 27-3 lead into halftime.
In the second half Philly United made the commitment to do whatever it would take to win the match and tries were scored by Tom Parry, Ben Janssen, and Bruce Dolan to bring the score to 27-22. Chris Wiggins also deserves a lot of credit for setting the physical tone in the middle of the field. Old Glory added a penalty with under 10 minutes remaining in the match to make it 30-22 and it looked like Philly United’s comeback would fall short until Danny Giannascoli scored a penalty with 8 minutes to go and added a converted try with 4 minutes left to give Philly United a 32-30 lead and ultimately win the match.
On the sidelines Philly United was supported by a staff that included Pat Boyle, Jack Bukowski, Dave Codell, and Jon Grasso and a crowd of a few hundred rugby fans that braved the cold to come support the team.
When Schuylkill River Rugby got together for our 25th Anniversary Banquet the focus of the evening was on the 22 members of the original 1995/96 team that were in attendance and the legacy that they built. That legacy includes making it to Division 1 within five years of being formed and only spending one season in Division 2 as the team progressed from Division 3 to Division 1 in a two year span. It also includes several top 10 finished Nationally between 7s and 15s due to our members’ commitment to success.
That commitment manifests itself in our Club’s three guiding principles: (1) We will always compete at the highest level available to us. (2) Politics will play no role in our selections and the best player will play no matter what. (3) We will never forfeit a match regardless of level. (It should be noted that B-Side matches used to be mandatory so this principle was very meaningful in the early days of the club when guys were committing to 160 minutes of rugby in a day).
These principles, and the commitment that they embody, has created a foundation of success for our club to continue to build on to this day. Our players are able to play, and succeed, at the highest levels of club 7s and 15s because of the legacy of the men who came before us. This manifests in success on the field for our teams collectively, and in our individual players regularly being chosen for select side play in 7s and 15s as well as several players getting an opportunity to play professionally in Major League Rugby.
In addition to honoring our past at the banquet we also honored our current top players and handed out the following awards:
D1 Back of the Year – Jack Ramirez
Jack played high school rugby for Roman Catholic before playing collegiately at Loyola in Baltimore. The coaches of those programs are Fred Koniecki and Matt Cipriano, two guys that we have a ton of respect for and who always prepare their players well for success down the road. Jack and Kyle Hegarty initially joined us for winter touch rugby and right away we knew that we potentially had two special players on our hands. After helping Loyola take 3rd in their division of the Collegiate Rugby Championship Jack joined us for summer 7s in 2019 and made an immediate impression on us from his first tournament onwards. In 15s he is a tough and athletic outside back that tied for the team lead in tries with Ben Janssen and since joining our club he has also had an opportunity to make his first appearance for the Atlantis 7s side that won Barbados 7s last December.
Fun Fact: Jack Ramirez is a certified tiger handler.
D1 Forward of the Year – Ben Janssen
Ben Janssen’s defense, work rate, and support play is so ridiculously good that he tied for the Division 1 lead in tries scored this season, and was the leading try scorer from the forwards pack last season, and still isn’t known/considered for his offensive prowess. It just simply isn’t discussed. He scores plenty of tries in 7s, and had a huge second half try for Philadelphia United in their comeback victory over the Capital Selects but because of the fact that he makes such an incredible share of the tackles when he is on the field the first thing anyone will tell you about Ben is his commitment and defense.
Fun Fact: Ben’s dog Vlad is our official club mascot.
Special Mention – Ryan Tower
Before getting into the D3 awards it should be noted that although not an award winner this year Ryan Tower was singled out by Coach Chris Bailey at the awards banquet for his communication and leadership. Coach Bailey specifically mentioned how much easier Ryan makes his job and his commitment to our club has been hugely beneficial to us throughout the years. We’ve told this story before but it bears mentioning again – in the 2019 MAC playoffs against NOVA Ryan broke his hand (and it was fairly obvious) towards the end of the match but instead of leaving us down a man he stayed on the field and actually managed to score his first D1 try. It was an impressive display of grit from a guy that embodies everything we want this club to stand for.
Fun Fact: Ryan Tower might be the club’s single worst karaoke performer.
Bonus Fun Fact: During the COVID shutdown Ryan Tower has turned his property into an opossum sanctuary.
D3 Back of the Year – Dave Gross
Dave Gross is strong with the ball in hand and always does a good job of breaking the gain line to put our offense on the front foot. He is equally capable of playing in the centers or as a loose forward and truly shined last season as the defensive leader in the backline. He makes things much easier for our wings and fullback who can maintain their defensive depth knowing that Dave will tackle the opposing outside center and prevent a break out wide.
Fun Fact: Dave Gross and Ryan Tower played their college rugby for Millersville which is known as “the house that Greg Mininger built.”
D3 Forward of the Year – Ryan McHugh
Ryan McHugh is closer to the end of his competitive rugby days than the beginning and we really can’t thank him enough for still being willing and able to play competitive rugby at 41 years of age. His veteran experience is extremely helpful to our D3 players as they develop on the pathway towards playing Division 1 rugby. One thing that isn’t going away with age is Ryan’s innate ability to pick incredible attacking lines and spark the offense. With his try against Old Blue in March Ryan earned the distinction of scoring tries in 4 separate decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s) which is an awesome achievement and really well deserved. Ryan joined our club in the fall of 2016 and has managed to win an award every year since.
Fun Fact: Ryan has been the EPRU’s second best lineout jumper throughout his career and there’s a theory that he’s trying to play longer than Randy so he can claim the top spot.
15s Breakout Player – Chase Haberstroh
Chase Haberstroh provides an immense physical presence and he made a strong impression on our new coaching staff with his motor around the field. Chase was a standout in a group of loose forwards that make up one of the strengths of our team and his willingness to role up his sleeves and do the dirty work makes life a lot easier for the rest of his teammates. He’s the sort of tough player who shows up to do his job with a lunch pail mentality that every team can benefit from.
Fun Fact: Prior to joining Skill Rugby Chase was an armadillo rancher in Texas.
Holmes Harbson Coaches’ Award – Brian Keown
Brian Keown shows up and does his job every day without complaining. The St. Joe’s Prep product has an incredible feel for the game to go along with his skillset and he makes everyone around him better. His leadership style is to come out ready to play and get the job done properly which is something that has earned him a ton of respect from his teammates and throughout the Union. As a low maintenance star the coaching staff can rely on Brian Keown to set the tone and help lead the way. In the 2018-2019 season Brian scored over 100 points in league play.
Fun Fact: Brian Keown is an award winning harmonica player.
Jason Face Siddell Players’ Award – Randy Helsman
Randy Helsman doesn’t say very much to the guys on the field but when he does speak it’s always to dispense sage wisdom. He is an extremely experienced player with a ton of high level 7s and 15s experience that is invaluable to his younger teammates. He is also an enthusiastic participant in a lot of our social activities, particularly our annual toys for tots Christmas party. Randy’s tackling form is excellent and he is a phenomenal lineout jumper. He is also decisive in attack which makes him a fun teammate to play alongside. His commitment to the Club as a whole through the years has been extraordinary and it is only fitting that he win the award named in honor of his dear friend.
Fun Fact: The Randy Sports Report is Facebook’s most trusted source of sports information.
7s Premier Player of the Year – Bruce Dolan
After dealing with injury for a few years Bruce Dolan roared back with a phenomenal Summer 7s season in 2019. There are those out there who believe that his performance at the Philadelphia 7s Eastern Open was the best day of 7s that he has ever played in his career. His defensive effort was excellent all day and he created numerous 80 (or more) meter tries singlehandedly. His performance was a huge factor in us being able to punch our ticket to Nationals early on and turn our focus to that tournament. At the National Tournament Bruce again was fantastic earning his way onto the Club Nationals Dream Team and establishing himself as one of the best 7s players in the country. If you watch the replay of our final try against the Park City Haggis you’ll see Bruce beat 4 defenders by himself to score the try and set up Danny for the match winning kick. He also scored a full field try against Life West. Both of those teams are fully stocked with USA Eagles and MLR players which shows that Bruce certainly has the talent to play at that level and although unrelated to our Club his performance for Philadelphia United against the Capital Selects also confirmed that fact.
Fun Fact: Bruce Dolan has a tattoo of Ben’s dog Vlad but we can’t tell you where…
7s U23 Player of the Year – PJ Maher
As one of the older and longest standing U23 players PJ Maher was expected to continue stepping up into his leadership role and help with the development of younger players. The St. Joe’s Prep and Villanova Rugby product did all of that and more as a skilled two way player that set the tone and showed his teammates what would be expected as they continue to grow and develop into Premier 7s players.
Fun Fact: PJ refers to himself as the Donte DiVincenzo of Skill Rugby
7s Breakout Player – Danny Giannascoli
Referring to Danny Giannascoli as Schuylkill’s breakout player or only as a 7s breakout player undersells the fact that’s he’s one of the biggest breakout players overall on the entire east coast from 2019. After helping lead Loyola to a 3rd place finish at the Collegiate Rugby Championship Danny started showing up for us and right away the guys knew that he was a special player. Alex Faison-Donahoe (himself an experienced MLR player) in particular was quick to point out that Danny had an incredible future ahead of him.
Danny ended up making the Dream Team at Club 7s alongside Bruce and the try that he scored against Kansas City was chosen as one of the top tries of the tournament. Additionally, his sideline conversion against the Haggis gave us the win. His performance helped him earn a spot on the Collegiate All American side at Rugbytown playing for Stephen Lewis. Shortly thereafter he made his debut for Atlantis and helped them win Barbados 7s for the first time. We’ve mentioned some of the other guys who played for Philly United and it should be noted that Danny earned Man of the Match honors against the Capital Selects thanks to his 17 point performance.
Danny ended up being drafted by the Utah Warriors of Major League Rugby and after a strong showing in the fall developmental season he was signed to the team full time as a professional rugby player.
Fun Fact: Danny has actually worn a wristwatch set to mountain time since he was 11 years old.
7s Coaches’ Award – Pat Boyle
Having Pat Boyle on the team is the equivalent of having an additional coach on the field. He helps the coaches organize the rosters, works on all of the logistics surrounding the entire program, and handles his business on the field. Once known as one of, if not the best, sweepers in the entire country Pat has had a tremendous career as a 7s player and remains willing to take on any opponent on offense or defense. His leadership and determination simply can not be overstated and his 12 appearances at 7s Nationals are a testimony to his dedication and competitive nature. Nobody does more to make the coaches jobs easier for them than Pat does.
Fun Fact: Pat was offered a bowling scholarship out of high school and is known to be an excellent paintball player.
Skill Rugby goes on an international tour every two years. Following our 2016 tour to Ireland and our 2018 tour to South Africa we went to Turks and Caicos in 2020. While it’s generally true that what happens on tour stays on tour we were able to trade notes with Brian Taylor (BT) and Austin Lucas (AL) to declassify some information and tell us a bit about the trip.
When did you fly in and how long were you there?
BT: We flew into Turks and Caicos (T&C) around 10:00 am on Friday (Feb 28th) morning. The gang carpooled on the way up to JFK. We had the target goal to leave Philly at 6:00 am however that got delayed due to Austin being extremely hungover and waking up late. Joe Lee also had to do his hair so that delayed our journey even more. Due to are lateness, Austin averaged around 95mph on 95 on the way to JFK. I feared for my life but we ended up making it to the parking lot where we were happily greeted by our fellow teammates to take the shuttle to the airport. The lines were crazy getting through security but once we cleared, we all met up for a couple of pints at the finest pub JFK offers and waited till the last second to board our flight.
Unbeknownst to everyone but me, my passport was scheduled to expire on March 3rd and our return flight was scheduled for March 2nd. Luckily, upon arrival at customs, Joe Midwig and I smooth-talked their TSA agent who was a vibrant and flirty T&C native and she did not give my passport expiration date a second look. I cleared customs and embarked on my first tour with Schuylkill in a foreign land.
AL: I agree with Brian about my flawless driving skills. COVID was just beginning to become a topic regarding flying and some already had masks as we waited forever to get thru security. Once in T&C they even had us declare on forms what exposure we may have had. Our return flight home was improved as we got to start it off with Round 2 of Kangaroo Court earlier on the beach. We essentially had to manipulate half of the tour to take the 1st van back, thereby allowing some of us those precious extra 45 minutes.
What were the accommodations like and what was the highlight?
BT: The accommodations were a bit tight but could not complain. We had 3 units right next to one another on the corner of the hotel property that faced inward to a pool. Since Carlo did not have a bed to share with his lady friend, he haggled with someone that owned an additional unit on the property and they got to stay in a whole unit by themselves. I got to share a couch bed with Cat Stevens and we both learned that we like to watch Netflix to fall asleep so we bonded over the Formula 1 racing series before falling into a deep drunken slumber
AL: The accommodations were quite ideal for us as a rugby tour. We stayed at the Island Club in “villas” rather than small rooms so we were able to stack 6 of us in with multiple bathrooms, a living area, and nice kitchen. We had three of these villas in a row so we all could easily congregate and hang out on our patios when the night was coming to a close. We had a solid pool within 10 ft that we thoroughly made our own and plenty of mini-iguanas running around to entertain us. The Island Club helped greatly in arranging accommodations that fit our particular needs. I think they would love to have us again.
What did everyone do on Friday? [Hang by the pool, team dinner etc]
BT: Once we arrived, we made our way to stock up on booze that was very expensive compared to prices in the U.S. We talked to locals, and they stated that is because there are no taxes in T&C so there is more money left in the resident’s pockets to purchase groceries and booze. Also, it’s an island in the Caribbean so this factored into the upcharge of alcoholic beverages. We hung out by the pool and got comfortable and once it was time, we got ready for our fancy dinner and all dressed up in our tour-issued Hawaiian shirts. Since we needed to take two different vans to the restaurant, the first group was tasked with ordering the appetizers which I took it upon myself to champion. It had to be light on the seafood because some members of the group, specifically Austin, do not enjoy food from the sea.
We had an extremely large budget for the dinner, so we spared no expense letting the cocktails and delicious food flow. The other patrons at the restaurant looked over curiously at our large group with a lot of questions about what we were doing on the island. “Is this a bachelor party?” “No,” we responded. “We are here to play Rugby,” we replied with Pride.
After dinner wrapped up, we went back to the accommodation where some people passed out, specifically Austin, and the rest hit the downtown to explore the bars and local nightlife. We were well situated near some happening spots and most of the crew danced the night away until closing time. Some people ended up on the beach but that is a story for a different day.
AL: I cannot differ from or deny Brian’s account of what happened.
Saturday was match day. Did you guys do anything before the match? What was the level of competition like and what were some highlights?
BT: Saturday morning, most of us went over to a nice breakfast spot across the street and quenched our thirst with some hair of the dog and a bit of water. After breakfast, we hung out in the sun until it was time to tour Turk’s Head Brewery. After our tour we got to sample all of the beers they make which are all named after local sayings and expressions such as I-Soon-Reach which in T&C means that you’ll be there soon but won’t really be there soon. You’ll get there when you get there is pretty much the gist of the expression. We bought tons of cases of beer from the brewery since it was much cheaper than the supermarket. Unfortunately what we thought was a lot ended up running out before Sunday began. After the brewery tour, we got back to the accommodation and had 45 minutes to relax before it was time to get ready to walk over to the pitch which was a 15 minute walk. The pitch had lovely grass and was in the middle of a bunch of vacant land on the island. Apparently it was built all from the funds of one rich dude from Canada who is the president of the club there.
The highlight for me was our approach to the pitch. We appeared in a narrow clearing out of nowhere all in our tour Hawaiian shirts blasting dreams and nightmares by Meek Mill on our highly powered portable speaker. It must have been super intimidating to the opposing team who watched in awe and terror as we approached the entrance to the field. The Turks team was extremely athletic with tons of speed. While they did not have tons of Rugby experience, their speed in the forwards and backs alike gave them an advantage over a not fully sober Schuylkill squad. The match was even in the first half as our forward physicality allowed us to be successful.
As we began to tire in the second half, their rotating subs and speed became too much for us to overcome. The 3rd half was great as they had a big barbecue right next to the pitch which had a clubhouse on it with tons of great local food. After chatting with them, we learned that their fullback is actually a sprinter for their Olympic team and their 8 man who was man of the match for them was a sprinter at LSU.
Another highlight was all of the people that showed up. You would think that they were all locals but I would estimate that roughly half of the crowd there was in attendance due to our promotion of the event on Friday after talking to all of the vacationing people that we met out. This was mainly due to Joe Lee telling every person that we came in contact with that we were playing a match and much to our surprise a lot of people showed up to watch. We hung out on the pitch for an hour or so and then walked back to the accommodation to get ready for another night on the town. It was also Becca’s birthday so we got a cake and candles for her from the supermarket and all celebrated together.
AL: Tiny spent his entire day fighting his crusade that we should not have scheduled any rugby on our rugby tour. Once we all enjoyed the Brewery Tour and began to walk to the pitch, a majority of the Club felt he was wise for his position. An ideal rugby tour to T&C should be dedicated entirely to Friendship.
Sunday was hanging out at the beach. How was that?
BT: Sunday was great having the match behind us so we could wind down and truly get after it all day. We took vans to a beach spot that had a restaurant right next to it. We noticed a cool gazebo-like structure that was reserved for people getting massages but we did not see anyone using it so we took it for ourselves. We hung there pretty much all day. There was a fishing dock which was a nice height above the water level which made it fun jump from the dock to the ocean. Every 15 minutes or so, Austin or Glatts would lead a charge of players down the dock to jump in the ocean together. It was quite the scene. There was also a lot of sand wrestling which occupied the time. Some of the Turk’s players met up with us and hung out at the beach. Two players, Davidson and Levardo, hung with us the whole time. They also drove us all back to the hotel and helped us source relatively-cheap booze for the kangaroo court. They chilled with us until kangaroo court was over and I’m pretty sure Davidson slept on one of the couches in one of our units.
AL: Prior to our get-together at the beach bar recommended by the T&C rugby club, a few of us went on a snorkeling adventure at a nearby resort. The water is incredible in T&C and you can see so many shades of blue as you look out. We were allowed to get near the reef but had to keep our distance due to conservation efforts. Still, we swam right through schools of various fish and even were within arm’s reach of majestic turtles. Truly Incredible.
What was Monday like?
BT: We had a hard check out time at 11:00am. Due to late-night activities during the early morning from kangaroo court, the owner of the establishment was less than pleased with us. However, we did our best to clean up and headed over to our breakfast place where we were now local celebrities due to our fame gained on the dance floor at the local establishments. As we checked out, it was nice to hear from the owner’s wife that she was happy with how clean we left the place and stated that we were actually one of the best-behaved rugby teams that have come through. She allowed us to store our big luggage there and then we proceeded to hit the beach. We landed right next to the ritz or some fancy hotel that had beach equipment laid out on the sand in front of their establishment. We commandeered this for a bit until we were asked to move because these chairs and umbrellas were reserved for guests of the hotel only. We hung out on the beach as long as we could and then caught a van ride to the airport and flew back to JFK.
Brian – This was your first tour with Schuylkill. What are your thoughts and what are you looking forward to for the next one in 2022?
BT: I have nothing but positive things to say about the tour. While it was my first with Schuylkill, I’ve gone on several tours with my team in Madrid in the past and this one ranks high up there with them. Austin, Joe, and Izak did a great job of organizing everything and it was nice to just throw them my money and have everything pretty much sorted. It was awesome to get to know some of the players on the team a bit better and also meet some new people for the first time. I’ll certainly be back for more tours to come; especially any that take place on islands :)
Austin – this makes 3 tours with Schuylkill for you. How do you feel that traveling with your teammates has helped build Club culture and what do you most look forward to on tour?
AL: Every International Tour includes the wildest mix of players. Ages, positions, maturity, depravity – the entire gamut is represented. The fastest ways to bond with your teammates is either bleeding next to them or travelling with them and these tours give you both. Our tradition of touring also helps build the credibility of our Club and recruiting fodder. When we travel to these countries, the locals are always so intrigued and supportive of everyone playing the game. Skill Rugby leaves an impact when they travel.
I look forward to the chance of these tours. I might never get a reason to travel to South Africa, but rugby and this club gave that, and I took advantage of it and will always cherish the memories. I now have three different countries under my belt that I likely wouldn’t have had otherwise. I cannot wait to choose what’s next and I hope they keep getting wilder, more unique. When you return from a tour, you always feel closer to those that went with you and you feel bonded and like you are part of a unique bunch on a club that is already overflowing with unique guys.
On February 22, 2020 Schuylkill River Rugby hosted a 25th Anniversary Celebration which included players from the original 1995 team and up until the present day. The 1995 team collectively was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Coach Holmes Harbson for the legacy that they created. Holmes helped establish three key principles for our Club that have been instrumental to our success through the years. They are (1) we will always compete at the highest level available to us, (2) politics will play no role in our selections and the best player will play no matter what, and (3) we will never forfeit a match regardless of level.
Following these principles paid off when we won the EPRU Division 3 championship in 1999 and advanced to the Elite 8 in the National Playoffs and followed that up by winning the EPRU Division 2 championship the following year and making it the National sweet 16. These back to back EPRU Championships gave us a unique status within USA Rugby as a team that advanced from Division 3 to Division 1 in a two year span.
Our first season in Division 1 showed that our rapid climb was no fluke when we earned a second place finish in MARFU (now called MAC) Division 1. Unfortunately, a one-point loss in the MARFU playoffs prevented the club from advancing to Nationals for 3 consecutive years in 3 different divisions but in just 7 years our founding members had built a club that would compete at the highest levels of USA Rugby for a long time to come.
Thanks to this foundation, which we have built on throughout the years, Schuylkill River Rugby stands as one of the 10 or less clubs in the United States who can say that they perennially qualify for Nationals in 7s and make the playoffs in Division 1 15s. We remain Philadelphia’s only D1 rugby team, we field multiple sides in league play, and we have several top 10 finishes Nationally between 7s and 15s to hang our hats on.
None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Holmes and the original 1995 team and for that we thank you guys!
Original 1995/96 team members in attendance:
Paul Allegretti, Chris Bailey, John Falco, Matt Hainey, Steve Hardeski, Jack Henderson, Dave Lebisky, Joe Lopez, Brian Mahony, Dom Malatesta, Nate McAtee, John McSherry, Tony Monocco, Matt O’Boyle, Tom O’Malley, Jack O’Neil, Chet Radecki, Chris Steinmetz, Kevin Stretch, Jim Sweeney, Kevin Wentling, Butch Zarrilli
Butch Zarrilli, Dom Malatesta, Chris Bailey, Josh Mastromatto, John Hughes
Silent Auction Donors:
Rob Grasso – Round of golf at Whitemarsh Country Club
Liam Kelly – Dinner at Con Murphy’s
Jim Kernaghan – Round of golf at Philly Country Club
John Falco – Alcohol from around the world
Paul Alegretti – Sixers and Phillies tickets
Spoonie O’Neal – Dinner at O’Neal’s Pub
Carlo Sena – Overnight stay at Penn’s View Hotel/Panorama Wine Bar
Temple Men’s Basketball – Tickets to an Owl’s Home Game (shout out to Colin O’Shea for setting it up)
Ricky Schneider – Autographed sports memorabilia
Chris Bailey – Vintage rugby apparel
Cider Works – Gift bag