News and Announcements
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.
Schuylkill River’s U23 Academy put on a dominant performance at Baltimore’s Rites of Summer tournament over the weekend. The guys fully committed both offensively and defensively en route to an overall point differential of 173-24 on the day with their smallest margin of victory being 24 points. In the championship match the academy won 42-7.
According to the Coaches, Xavier Steward was the leading try scorer and was almost untouchable throughout the day while Kyle Hegarty really stood out with his playmaking ability. Justin Lopez and Keyon McCloud-Holman were wrecking balls with the ball in hand and PJ Maher did an excellent job of leading the team as Captain. This tournament almost marked Brian Keown’s return to the side where he had an opportunity to partner with former college teammate Sean Barnes.
For the Premier side John McCurdy earned the nickname Johnny Tackles from Coach McHugh for his defensive commitment, Ben Janssen played well, and Danny Giannascoli was smooth. On the open side the guys bounced back from a slow start to beat Frederick in their final match and the coaches mentioned Brenden Stein, Pete Scuderi, and Perry Bowers (who one of the coaches called Perry Baker for the amount of tries he scored) as standout players. Armani Mendez also deserves a shout out for pulling double duty for the U23 and the Open side.
The boys return to action tomorrow at Philly 7s which takes place at the GCVSA Fields in Malvern.
Head 7s and 15s 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.
U23 Academy 7s Head Coach Biddy Boyle: Coach Boyle was an accomplished player on the field who played from 1977 to 2004 for Blackthorn Rugby, Philly-Whitemarsh, the EPRU All-Star team and the Atlantis Rugby Select Side 7s teams.
As a 7s coach Biddy has coached Blackthorn, Philly-Whitemarsh, Boddington, Wilmington, the MARFU All Stars, University of Delaware and Atlantis. He currently serves as the Head Coach for our U23 Academy side, Villanova University, and LaSalle High School. Coach Boyle is also serving as a coach for The North American Lions in Rugby Town and is the Director of 7s for Atlantis.
Coach Boyle holds the incredible distinction of having won a National Championship both as a player as a coach.
7s Associate Head Coach Chris Ryan: Coach Ryan has been involved with rugby for over 30+ years. He started playing at Conestoga High School in 1980 and continued to play until a torn biceps muscle stopped his career at the age of 39. He played and was selected at every position on the pitch. The clubs he played for include: Conestoga High School, East Carolina University, Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC, Bethlehem RFC and is player 157 of Atlantis, an invitational US 7s touring side.
He began coaching while still playing. He has honed his craft under and with a who’s who of American rugby coaches: Goerge Betzler USA Men’s 15s and 7s and Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC, Peter Stienberg USA Women’s 15s and 7s, Keystone RFC, Ray Cornbill USA Men’s 15s and 7s, Andrew Fautley USA Men’s and Women’s 7s, New York Rugby Club, Al Caravelli USA Men’s and Women’s 7s, Peter Bagetta USA Women’s 15s and 7s, Keystone RFC, Julie McCoy USA Women’s 7s and 15s, Atlantis 7s. And last, but not least Emil Signes Princeton University, USA Men’s 7s, USA Women’s 15s and 7s, Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC, Bethlehem RFC, Atllantis RFC.
Chris has won as a head coach or assistant 7 National Championships, placed 2nd three times and third 6 times. He is currently the Head Coach for Atlantis Elite Level Men’s 7s, and also the Head Coach for the Philadelphia Elite City 7s team. He has been coaching on and off at Princeton since 2005 as an assistant to Emil Signes and became the Head Coach in the fall of 2013. And he has also been the assistant for the USA women’s 7s team under two different head coaches. He has been involved at Schuylkill River since 2011, when the 7s team took 2nd place in the nation and lost only two games all year long.
7s and 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.
7s Assistant Coach and 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!
7s Assistant Coach Ryan McHugh: Ryan grew up in the Northeast Frankford section of Philadelphia and graduated from Roman Catholic High School before attending St. Joseph’s University and picking up the game of rugby along the way. In his professional life Ryan is small business owner who runs a painting company.
As a rugby player/admin Ryan has done it all. His past and present coaching positions include Schuylkill River’s 7s open side and U-19 side, Roman Catholic, Neumann University, Temple University and Princeton University. Ryan has also volunteered with the Northeast Frankford Boys and Girls Club, the Wissahickon Braves, and the Narberth Otters flag rugby program. Ryan has also earned MVP honors 5 times in his men’s club rugby career and has served on various Boards in all positions.
Ryan has been a key component in Schuylkill’s commitment to giving back to the local community and connecting with the Philadelphia youth through rugby through his tireless involvement in our numerous youth initiatives. As he enters the twilight years of his playing career it is admirable to see his commitment to passing along the game of rugby to the next generation.
Skill Rugby started the summer 7s season on a strong note by winning Lehigh Valley 7s over the weekend. Additionally, the team welcomed back Premier side players Ben Janssen, Bruce Dolan, and Matt Henderson from injury. After the tournament the coaching staff was excited about all of the young talent on the team and mentioned several players in particular.
The biggest impact on the day came from Danny Giannascoli who recently graduated from Loyola and made his first appearance in a Schuylkill River uniform. Dan had at least 8 combined tries and assists throughout the day playing for our top side and his most important try was a 50 meter break in the second half of the championship match which gave us the lead for good. According to the coaches “all week in practice the coaching staff could see Dan’s athletic abilities that were showcased on Saturday, but most impressive was Dan’s ability to keep his composure and excel in the most pressure filled moments of the tournament. Dan has a bright summer ahead of him here.”
Also joining us from Loyola is Jack Ramizes who made his Skill Rugby debut with the U23 side and instantly showed his ability to stretch the field with at least 4 tries on the day. None were more impressive than a 60 plus meter sprint down the sidelines that left Coach Mastromatto, a former speedster himself, more than just a little impressed. Coach Stro later said “that run looked effortless, I asked Jack on the sidelines if he even hit top speed on that run because he looked like he was in light stride while pulling away from defenders that initially had good angles. Honestly though, I was more impressed by his ability to tackle. Most speed guys shy away from contact but he stood out in the middle of our defensive alignment with countless solo tackles.”
Another U23 player who caught the Coaching Staff’s eye was Xavier Steward. X bring serious speed to the edge of our U23 side and scored three quick tries before shutting it down for the day. X is arguable the most fashionable player on the team and on the field he has the unique ability to score from anywhere. Coach Mastromatto says “X is a guy to me that has a lot of upside potential on the wind. You could see the progression from last year early on in the day with breakaway tries. He has a lot of raw ability that will continue to develop. Once he has all of the aspects of his game molded together he will be a serious problem for opposing teams.”
Justin Lopez, fresh off of an appearance for the Dominican Republic National Team was a clear standout early on with his physicality both offensively and defensively. His day was cut short but not before putting up 3 work horse style tries. Justin is no rookie to big 7s tournaments and that experience was well showcased on Saturday. The coaches said “Justin definitely caught our eye early on in the U23 games with his defense. There was one series we watched him control the tackle, poach the ball, stay on his feet and shake off two defenders for a try – that’s rare ability. He’s somebody we know we’ll see do big things all summer here.”
Coach Mastromatto also mentioned three guys from Kutztown; Mike Hubble, Keyon McCloud-Holman, and Anthony Donatelli who had some highlights on the day including a try from Keyon in the corner where he ran over the sweeper. Anthony from Delaware made a strong debut with 2 tries for the U23 Academy and was joined by Delaware teammate Jenko who had an encouraging start and lastly Temple’s Adam Shapiro looked really good at sweeper and Brendan Stein from Holy Family showed a lot of growth throughout the day and looks poised to continue developing into a good player.
The next tournament is Saturday June 15 at North Penn.