News and Announcements
Saturday September 14, 2019 was a great day for Skill Rugby as our D1 side, the Exiles, opened up the Mid-Atlantic season with a thrilling 27-25 victory over defending champions Rocky Gorge while our D3 side, Troop, earned a convincing 48-7 win over the Hibernians.
The Exiles’ match was a back and forth affair that featured eight lead changes before things were all said and done. Rocky Gorge got on the board first with a penalty kick before Cesar DaFonseco, one of seven players making his Division 1 debut for Skill Rugby, answered with a try. Gorge responded with a try and a penalty kick to take an 11-7 lead before Cesar scored his second try of the match to make it 12-11. From there the teams traded tries with Gorge scoring first and Jack Ramirez responding before Brian Keown hit a penalty kick to make it 20-18 in favor of Schuylkill River.
The final five minutes of the match were tense as Rocky Gorge took possession of the ball and managed to score a try in the 77th minute to take a 25-20 lead. Off of the kickoff we were able to force them into a maul and turn the ball over. The ball went out wide to Ben Janssen who went on a 60 meter run to score in the corner at full time and make the score line 25-25 and earn a bonus point for us. This meant it all came down to the foot of Brian Keown to see if we would win or settle for the tie on a conversion from the sideline. Keown struck it true and gave us a 27-25 victory.
After the match Coach Jon Grasso said “it gives us great momentum to win our first match of the season against a team that has generally dominated the Mid-Atlantic for a number of years. Our team definitely has the potential to be special, but this was only the first of many steps, and there’s still a lot of hard work to be done this fall. While we performed well in certain areas there are still a number of things to work on. I’m proud of the way guys kept their composure throughout the game. After holding a small lead for much of the second half we gave up our first points of the second half at the 77 minute mark. Instead of laying down, we worked to turnover the ball quickly and moved the ball to space to allow Ben to go on a 60 meter run to touch down in the corner. Keown then came through with a clutch kick from the sideline. However, as much as we enjoyed the win it’s back to work this week as we get ready for a tough Pittsburgh team.”
Cesar DaFonseca was named man of the match and other players mentioned by the Coaching Staff for their strong play included Ben Janssen, Pat Boyle, Austin Lucas and Joe Midwig. Making their D1 debuts for Schuylkill River included: Louis Baeza (flanker), Ryan Blythe (8 man), Jack Ramirez (wing), Cesar DaFonseca (full back), and reserves Dave Hockenberry, Louis Snyder, and Alex Ruiz.
Tries: Cesar DaFonseca (2), Ben Janssen (1), Jack Ramirez (1)
Cons: Brian Keown (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (1)
Troop’s match was more one-sided as the team took a 15-0 halftime lead and was able to turn that into a 48-7 victory. We controlled possession for the majority of the game and our tackling and defensive line speed were much improved from last week which allowed us the shut out our opponents until the very end of the match. Our tight 5 in particular had a dominating performance and the combination of Jeff Hall’s lineout jumping and Matt Zebrowski’s throws allowed us to win every lineout in the match from both teams with one exception. Philadelphia rugby super fan Mike Codell was in attendance at the match and he was impressed with the performances of Vito Nucci and Bryan McCorkle in particular. Vito was described as a runaway freight train and McCorkle earned praise for his physical play which was reminiscent of a young Lake Paul.
Matt Stringer was named man of the match from the fly half position as he and Ryan Tower controlled the ball and ran a great game. Dave Gross and Evan McKeever were also noted by the Staff to have had strong performances. This match featured the League Match debuts for Vito Nucci and James Lesniak as members of our program. Welcome aboard guys!
Tries: Ryan McHugh (2), Vito Nucci (2), Jabari Johnson (1), Bryan McCorkle (1), Colin Sullivan (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (5)
Pens: Ryan Tower (1)
Troop Season Stats:
Tries: Ryan McHugh (2), Vito Nucci (2), Jabari Johnson (2), Kevin Allison (1), Jeff Hall (1), Bryan McCorkle (1), Alex Ruiz (1), Colin Sullivan (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (6)
Pens: Ryan Tower (1)
Exiles Season Stats:
Tries: Cesar DaFonseca (2), Ben Janssen (1), Jack Ramirez (1)
Cons: Brian Keown (2)
Pens: Brian Keown (1)
The Schuylkill River Troop (D3) side may not have gotten the result we wanted over the weekend in a 34-22 loss to Lehigh Valley but the future looks bright with a lot of new faces stepping into the squad and making a big impact. This match also marked the return of Skill Rugby Hall of Famer Chris Bailey to the sidelines. Coach Bailey’s experience provides these players with an excellent opportunity to continue developing on our player pathway.
Making their league match debuts over the weekend were starters Kevin Allison (flanker), Louis Snyder (8 man), Alex Ruiz (scrum half), Bryan McCorkle (outside center), Evan McKeever (wing), and James Lesniak (fullback). There were joined by reserved Rob Palladino, Seamus Meekes, Colin Sullivan, Pete Scuderi, and Kai Killebrew.
The match started off well for Troop who took a 17-15 lead into halftime and were tied with Lehigh Valley 22-22 with 10 minutes to go. Unfortunately the boys ran out of steam a bit and gave up two late tries. Our tries were scored by Jeff Hall, Alex Ruiz, Kevin Allison and Jabari Johnson. Notable performances were had by Allison, Snyder, Hall, Ross McMonigle and Matt Zebrowski.
While disappointed in the loss, Coach Bailey, as well as Captain Ryan Tower, were happy with the overall effort. “Lehigh Valley is an experienced side who was in Division 2 last year, and their cohesion showed. The good news for us we had 11 new guys of the 23, and still hung in there. Once we get more comfortable playing together this is a championship caliber squad,” noted Bailey, Tower echoed a similar response, “ it was a great showing by all of the new guys making their River debuts. We ran our system effectively for 60 minutes and once we can clean up the remaining 20 we will be a tough team to compete against.”
Other highlights included: Kevin Allison making an 80 meter run featuring 3 dummy passes and scoring his try on a great hustle play, Louis Snyder being extremely active all day earning Man of the Match, Jeff Hall providing solid play as usual and being a force in lineouts, Evan McKeever flashing on a number of plays, Alex Ruiz providing vocal leadership, and Bryan McCorkle having a strong defense match.
Troop returns to action this weekend with an away match vs Hibernian while the Exiles (D1) host Rocky Gorge.
Troop Season Stats:
Tries: Kevin Allison (1), Jeff Hall (1), Jabari Johnson (1), Alex Ruiz (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (1),
Our Coaching Staff is set for the upcoming season and we are happy to announce that the following individuals will be leading the way for us on the field this year.
Head 15s Coach John Grasso: Coach Grasso started his playing career at Binghamton University in 2003 where he also served as Captain and Player-Coach. While at Binghamton he played for the Northeast 7s All-Star Team and in 2007 he was a USA Eagles Camp participant. He also toured Paraguay in 2007 with the Atlantis 7s Select Side. During his college career he also played 7s in the summer for Long Island where he was the Captain for 2 seasons.
After graduation Coach Grasso joined Long Island full-time from 2007-2009 and finished top 12 in the Nation twice before moving in to the Norfolk Blues where he played until 2012 finishing top 8 in the Nation in 2011 and top 12 in 2012.
Coach Grasso brings an incredible variety of coaching experience to our Club which should enable him to develop the skills of any player in our program. As a 7s coach he has worked with the Norfolk Storm (2012), Norfolk Blues (2013), Baltimore-Chesapeake (2015-16), The Stars Rugby touring side on three tours from 2017-2018, and Beltway Elite from 2017 to the present. Coach Grasso is actually the Founder and Head Coach of Beltway Elite who have won the MAC and qualified for Nationals in both years of their existence. Furthermore, Beltway also won the Elite New York 7s Tournament in 2017.
As a 15s coach he has worked with Ithaca College (2007), William & Mary College (2010), Virginia Women Collegiate All-Stars (2010-2011), Norfolk Blues (2012-2013), Baltimore-Chesapeake (2014-2017), D.C. Furies (2016) and the Capital Selects from 2015 to the present.
Coach Grasso has won championships and coached select/all-star sides at every level and we are beyond excited to have him join our program.
Division 3 15s Coach Chris Bailey: Coach Bailey has been associated with rugby for almost 30 years. He is one of the co-founders of Schuylkill River Rugby and was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment is the culture and standard he has set for Schuylkill in always trying to push the team and himself to play and compete at the highest level.
As a player he was the President and Captain of LaSalle University Rugby and while there the team won the Division II Northeast Championship which is LaSalle’s highest finish in program history. From there he went on to found Schuylkill River Rugby in 1995 and Captained the Schuylkill River teams that won the Mid-Atlantic Division III and Division II in back to back years as Schuylkill went on to win 20 consecutive league matches. He also played on the first Schuylkill team to compete in the Division I level and qualify for Nationals. Chris remains one of the all-time try leaders in Schuylkill River history and once scored 5 tries in a MAC league match.
Off the field he has previously served as Captain, President (two separate administrations) , Treasurer, and Head Coach of Schuylkill River Rugby.
15s Forwards Coach Michael “Beaver” Burch: Coach Burch began his playing career in 1999 with Drexel University where he was named to both EPRU and MARFU All Star teams. His playing career continued with Schuylkill River from 2003-2011 where he was Club Captain for 4 seasons and qualified for Nationals in 7s twice, including a National 2nd place finish in 2011, and for 15s in 2006. Coach Burch was also named to Schuylkill River’s All-Time 10 Year Anniversary Team.
Coach Burch has served as Drexel’s Head Coach in both 15s and 7s from September of 2011 to the present while also serving as a Schuylkill River Assistant 7s Coach from 2012-2016, Associate Head 7s Coach in 2017 and Head 7s Coach in 2018. At Drexel his teams have participated in USA Rugby Collegiate Championships as well as the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) sponsored by Penn Mutual.
As a coach in Schuylkill River’s 7s program Coach Burch has participated in Nationals 6 times and has won 4 MAC Championships. He also played a key role in establishing Schuylkill’s U-23 Academy program which won the MAC Open Division in 2016 and 2017 and came in second place in 2018.
15s Backs Coach Jamie Williams: Coach Williams grew up playing rugby in England and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our club. Coach Williams’ playing career went from 1988-2015 with stops at Bristol Grammar School, Chew Valley RFC, Nottingham University, Clifton RFC, Baltimore-Chesapeake RFC, and Schuylkill River.
Coach Williams began his coaching career in 2015 and has coached Baltimore-Chesapeake as well as the Beltway Elite 7s program. As another former Schuylkill player rejoining the Club on the coaching staff Coach Williams knows what our Club is all about and is ready to help us get the job done!
15s Skills and Fitness Coach Josh Mastromatto: Coach Mastromatto came to the game of rugby after he enjoyed a tremendous football career for Kutztown University where he totaled approximately 5000 all-purpose yards in his career and scored 38 touchdowns. The team went 30-3 over his final 3 seasons after going 2-8 his freshman year and this was in large part due to his performance as a 3 time All-Conference running back and All-American all-purpose player. Coach Mastromatto has been named to Kutztown Football’s All-Decade team and has been inducted into the Kutztown University All-Time Team.
From there Coach Mastromatto embarked on a professional football career and ended up playing for the Philadelphia Soul in the Arena Football League. After retiring from football Coach Mastromatto gave rugby a try and got his start as a resident with the Tiger Academy in North Carolina. He played in the famous Serevi Town 7s tournament with both Tiger as well as Atlantis and for 15s he played with Southern Pines who earned a trip to the D3 National Semi-Finals.
He then moved to Philadelphia and tried a little rugby league with the Philadelphia Fight before joining Schuylkill River. Coach Mastromatto was the MVP of Schuylkill’s 7s program in 2017 and earned a trip to Nationals with the Club. As a fun fact, he also enjoyed a short tenure on the Philadelphia 76ers dunk team.
Schuylkill River Rugby, representing the city of Philadelphia, traveled to Kansas City for Club 7s Nationals over the weekend of August 10-11. As usual the team was locally grown as 12 of the players played either high school or college rugby in the Philadelphia area.
Things got off to a rough start for River in the first match against Belmont Shore. Belmont was able to control possession of the ball through kickoffs and keep us deep in our zone. This allowed them to play a 7 man up defense on the occasions where we did have the ball which put the team under a lot of pressure. Ultimately we lost the first match 34-0 and had to re-group.
In the break between matches Team Captain Ben Janssen showed that his qualities as a player extend to his leadership qualities as well. Coming into the tournament Schuylkill River was picked by at least one Rugby 7s publication to go winless in pool play. Ben used this as an opportunity to motivate the team by saying how great it would feel to prove everyone wrong if we could get out of pool play.
The second match of the weekend went much better for us. This time around we were the team controlling the kickoffs which allowed us to apply pressure and build an early two try lead against the Chicago Lions. We went on win the match 21-12 and take control of our own destiny.
The third and final pool play match was against the host team, the Kansas City Blues. This match drew a large crowd and had a lot on the line as whoever won would go on to the quarterfinals while the loser would have to settle for a place in the consolation bracket. Kansas City got off to a great start and built a 19-0 lead at halftime. However, Skill Rugby never wavered and the second half was an entirely different story as we scored 3 unanswered tries and escaped with a 21-19 victory which put us in the quarterfinals.
Following the match a few of our players were interviewed by Dustin Rosen of Rugby 7s Magazine, a video can be found here (https://twitter.com/Rugby7sMagazine/status/1160325001796562950?s=19). The interview quickly generated a lot of buzz and from this moment on made our Club one of the most popular teams at the event. In fact, even the Kansas City players and fans started cheering for us at this point.
Our quarterfinal match was set for the following day against Park City Haggis from Utah. With River down 10-5 at the end of the match Bruce Dolan made an incredible run and beat four defenders with a combination of an inside step, spin move, stiff arm, and then a race for the corner to score a try and even things up at 10-10. Danny Giannascoli then stepped up and hit a sideline conversion with no time left on the clock to give us a 12-10 lead. Both Bruce and Danny were named to the Tournament Dream Team by FloRugby and this moment probably had a lot to do with it. Additionally, following the tournament it was announced that Danny earned a place on the Collegiate All American team for Rugby Town and it certainly helped that US National Coach Mike Friday was watching this match and impressed with his performance. Video of the try and conversion can be found here (https://twitter.com/FloRugby/status/1160616385174806528?s=19)
Unfortunately we weren’t able to keep the momentum going in the semifinals and ended up losing 22-14 to Life West before dropping the third place match to Old Blue 22-7. The guys may have run out of steam at the end but it was an excellent performance overall and certainly something our guys can be proud of!
Here is the roster that competed for us in this event as well as the high school and college programs that they’ve played for:
Pete Mulville – Downingtown Dingoes, Temple University
Kyle Hegarty – Malvern Prep, Cal Poly
Danny Diannascoli – Malvern Prep, Loyola Maryland
Ben Janssen – Coatesville, Penn State
Graham Johnston – University of Pittsburgh
Mitch Vannoy – Christiana, University of Delaware
Alex Faison-Donahoe – Eastside Tsunami, Kutztown
Daquan Perry – Conestoga, Kutztown
John McCurdy – Malvern Prep, University of Delaware
Bruce Dolan – Blackthorn, Kutztown
Young Dave Kornock – Kutztown
Pat Boyle – Villanova
Brian Keown – St. Joe’s Prep, South Carolina, West Chester
The coaching staff included:
Beet McKinnon was on hand as trainer to keep the guys fresh.
Sam Devine (Roman Catholic High School, Doylestown U19, Kutztown) would have played in the tournament if not for injury but made the trip anyway and did an excellent job as manager.
Photos from the event can be found on our Facebook Page in the albums section.
Schuylkill River Rugby got the job done at the USA Rugby Eastern Open Super Qualifier and earned a spot in Nationals by winning the tournament against a strong field that featured 5 teams ranked in the FloRugby national top 20 including; Schuylkill River (2), Old Blue (4), Beltway (5), Dallas (8), and Washington (19), as well as Austin who was nationally ranked prior to the tournament and talented sides from NOVA and Pittsburgh. See below for details on Schuylkill’s matches.
The tournament also featured a great Men’s Open division which included NAV (ranked 12th nationally but unable to compete in the Premier division due to being a new Club) as well as Washington Irish, NOVA, Washington RFC, Beltway, Norfolk, Lehigh Valley, Maryland Exiles, NOVA, Old Blue, Frederick, Schuylkill River, and the Molly Maguires. Unfortunately lightning caused the Men’s Open knockout rounds to be cancelled but with NAV, Skill Rugby U23, Beltway, and Old Blue all going 3-0 the stage was set for an incredible finish and we hope to have an equally strong field next year.
The Women’s Premier division was probably the strongest overall division featuring 2016 7s National Champions Scion alongside 2019 D1 15s National Champions NOVA as well as the DC Furies and Philly Women’s Rugby who are both perennial contenders at Nationals in both 15s and 7s. The Women’s Club division featured Philly, DC, NOVA and the Maryland Stingers. Scion won the Premier Division and prior to weather issues Philly was set to take on NOVA for the Club Championship in what would have been a great match.
While our Club is proud of the fact that we were able to host such talented and competitive senior divisions, we are equally proud of the fact that for the first time at Philly 7s we were able to host a flag rugby event for children aged Kindergarten-6th grade. This event was free for all participating teams and was attended by Blackthorn, Coventry, and Narberth. The kids had a ton of fun on the field but the best part for them was probably the Rita’s Italian Ice truck that we had parked right next to their field. We are definitely looking forward to making the flag event bigger and better for the kids every year!
In Schuylkill’s first pool play match the guys were able to claim a 19-7 victory over a well put together NOVA Club that traveled to our tournament with 4 sides. As an aside, we’d like to thank NOVA for bringing so many sides to the event and give them a shout out for maintaining a strong 7s program for numerous years while also having an excellent 15s season in their return to D1 this year.
The second match of the day was a back and forth battle against the Dallas Reds who were the Eastern Open defending Champions and a top 5 team at Nationals last year. Dallas struck first to take a 7-0 and that was followed by tries for Schuylkill from Pete Mulville and Bruce Dolan to put us up 12-7 at the half. Dallas scored the first two tries of the second half to take a 21-12 lead but Schuylkill answered back with a try from Jack Ramirez to make it 21-19. Unfortunately it was too little too late and Schuylkill ended up losing the match.
This meant that heading into our third pool play match we knew that we needed to beat Washington by at least 11 points to guarantee a spot in the semifinals. This wasn’t going to be an easy task as Washington has improved dramatically recently and had already claimed an 8 point victory over Dallas and a 22 point victory over NOVA earlier in the day. In an outstanding performance the guys were able to turn it on against Washington and earn a 19-0 victory. Tries were scored by Bruce Dolan, Mitch Vannoy, and Kyle Hegarty and after the match Coach Josh Mastromatto and Coach Pat Boyle both reported that we retained possession of the ball for approximately 13 minutes in the 14 minute match and never allowed our opponents to possess the ball in our half of the field.
By earning a spot in the semi-finals we got an opportunity to take on our local rivals, Beltway Elite. Things got off to a good start for Schuylkill when Pete Mulville scored a try midway through the first half and Bruce Dolan scored early in the second half to make it a 12-0 game. Beltway wouldn’t go quietly though and scored midway through the second half to make it 12-5. Our defense was able to hold up and Schuylkill won the match 12-5. We really have to tip our cap to Beltway for an excellent match, they are a very well coached program with talent up and down the roster. We look forward to continuing to compete against them.
In the finals we were matched up against Old Blue. If you know anything about rugby in America you probably know about Old Blue. Their roster features numerous MLR players/USA Eagles and their Club structure/administration is second to none. Schuylkill drew first blood in this match with a try from Pete Mulville but unfortunately a yellow card saw us down a man and Old Blue was able to capitalize with two quick tries to take a 14-7 halftime lead.
In the second half it appeared as though we made a fatal error by turning the ball over near our 22 meter line. Old Blue recycled the ball and attacked a 3-2 break but in an incredible turn of events our defense was able to scrape over and cause a knock on followed by Bruce Dolan running the full length of the field, and breaking 3 tackles in the process, to score a try and tie the match. Daquan “Big D” Perry, one of our most physical as well as photogenic players, scored to put us up 19-4 with less than a minute remaining and a well contested kickoff led to a knock on which ended the match.
The consensus from the players and coaches was that this was a full Club effort from top to bottom and that everyone from players, coaches, staff, and volunteers deserves credit for putting us in position to go to Nationals. Additionally, Pete Mulville, Bruce Dolan, Daquan Perry, and Pat Boyle in particular played well throughout the day.
Schuylkill River will be at the Wilmington tournament on July 13, the NOVA tournament on July 20, and the National Championship tournament in Kansas City the weekend of August 10.