News and Announcements
Heading into the weekend’s matches we were excited about the opportunity to take on Mystic River and looking forward to testing ourselves against a team that has won 2 of the last 4 Division 1 National Championships and has a successful D2 side as well.
The Exiles got off to a fairly strong start behind the boot of Danny Giannascoli and held a 6-0 lead 15 minutes into the match. Unfortunately from there Mystic River was able to gain control and turn a match that was 6-14 at halftime into a 6-43 scoreline.
As Coach Jamie said – we wanted to put ourselves against the best and today we did. We came up short but the score doesn’t do justice to the progress we’ve made. We got a lesson in defense and got worn down which led to mistakes in the final quarter after the game had been a real fight for an hour. This match has given us a lot to learn from and we’ll be strong for it.
Chase Haberstroh played a strong match from the No. 8 position to earn himself Man of the Match honors for the 2nd time in three weeks.
P: Danny G (2)
The second match was a thrilling affair that saw Troop get off to a slow start and give up 4 early tries to take a 0-24 deficit. However, a James Lesniak try and conversion from Ryan Tower on the stroke of halftime helped right the ship a bit and Bouba Bangoura continued his torrid run of play with a try 2 minutes into the second half to bring the score to 12-24. Mystic was able to answer back and make it 12-29 and then the teams traded tries with Matt Rhodes finding the try zone for a third consecutive match. With the score at 19-34 Troop got late tries from Kobie Tuckson and Jon Ahern to close the gap but couldn’t get the final score in a 29-34 defeat.
After the match Coach Jamie indicated that we may have allowed a seed of doubt to creep in ahead of the second match which showed in how we played the first 20 minutes. However, the boys came back really hard and made a great match off it. This Mystic River side was a legitimate D2 side who we could have beaten and this match was our best performance yet. Again, we will learn from this match and the first lesson is that we can hang with the big boys.
Bryce Lanhart earned man of the match honors for his work in the flanker position.
T: Bouba Bangoura (1), James Lesniak (1), Jon Ahern (1), Kobie Tuckson (1), Matt Rhodes (1)
C: Ryan Tower (2)
Cleeandre Ross – Indiana University
Season Scoring Totals:
T: Alex Ruiz (2), Ben Janssen (2), Danny Giannascoli (2) Jack Ramirez (2), Aaron Gray (1), Chase Haberstroh (1), Chris Wiggins (1), Dan Berger (1), Jeff Hall (1)
C: Danny Giannascoli (7), Alex Ruiz (3), Alex Walsh (1)
P: Danny Giannascoli (7)
T: Bouba Bangoura (3), Matt Rhodes (3), Kobie Tuckson (2), Kyle Kent (2), Anthony Sessa (1), James Lesniak (1), Jon Ahern (1), Matt Zebrowski (1),
C: Ryan Tower (8), Jon Ahern (1), Kyle Kent (1),
We promised a great day of rugby ahead of our doubleheader with Rocky Gorge and we did not disappoint. The Club went 1-1 on the day with both matches being decided by a try in the final minutes.
The Exiles started off the day with a back and forth match that saw the teams trade tries for the entire match. Rocky Gorge got on the board first with a try in the 12th minute that was quickly followed by a try from Chris Wiggins in the 16th. Danny G added a penalty kick in the 31st minute and after a 37th minute try for Rocky Gorge made it appear as though the visitors would be taking a lead into halftime Dan Berger scored to end the half and help put the Exiles up 17-12 at intermission. Rocky Gorge got off to a good start in the second half with a quick try and a 17-19 lead but Danny was quick to put River back on top with another penalty to make it 20-19. Things slowed down a bit from there with no scoring for the next 23 minutes but that was really just the teams ramping up for an incredible finish. Ben Janssen scored a try in the 70th minute to extend the lead to 25-19 but Gorge answered back almost immediately to take a 25-26 lead and just when it looked like time might run out on us Ben scored his second try of the match in the 79th minute to make it 30-26. Alex Walsh stepped in to provide an extra cushion and the boys held on for a 32-26 victory.
Coach Jamie described the match as heart in mouth stuff and indicated that we dominated for about 20 separate 3 minute periods. When our opponents had the ball our defense was generally able to shut them down, however too many of our periods of dominance ended in mistakes and turnovers which a quality team like Gorge will gouge you on in the open field. Jamie was pleased to see the team fight back after giving up the lead in the 70th minute and reclaim it with a late try.
Man of the match: Ben Janssen’s first half was quiet by his standards, but in the second half he roared back with great leadership and he led the comeback by scoring our final two tries.
Tries: Ben Janssen (2), Chris Wiggins (1), Dan Berger (1)
Cons: Danny Giannascoli (2), Alex Walsh (1)
Pens: Danny Giannascoli (2)
The Troop (D2) match was another nail biter and was really a tail of two halves. In the first period tries from Kyle Kent and Bouba Bangoura staked us to a 14-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes followed by a try from Rocky Gorge and a score from Kobie Tuckson before half time to give us a 21-5 lead at the break. Rocky Gorge got off to a great start in the second half with 2 tries in the first 15 minutes to make it 21-19. A 61st minute try from Matt Rhodes made it 28-19, thanks to a 4th successful conversion from Ryan Tower, and was almost enough to deliver a victory but unfortunately the boys weren’t able to see it through as Gorge scored in the 70th and 77th minute to earn a 28-33 victory.
Coach Jamie stated that we had some periods of play and our young talent shone by doing what Gorge had done to use in the first game and slicing them up in open field opportunities. Unfortunately when Rocky Gorge came back hard in the second half our defense didn’t stand up as well as we would have wanted it to.
Man of the Match: Shared between Matt Rhodes and Bouba Bangoura who each showed some monster ball carrying and scored tries on the day.
Tries: Bouba Bangoura (1), Kobie Tuckson (1), Kyle Kent (1), Matt Rhodes (1)
Cons: Ryan Tower (4)
Bryce Lanhart – Minnesota Duluth, Metropolis
Chris Wiggins – Wilmington, Delaware Black Foxes
John Davis – Capital Selects
Season Scoring Totals:
T: Alex Ruiz (2), Ben Janssen (2), Danny Giannascoli (2) Jack Ramirez (2), Aaron Gray (1), Chase Haberstroh (1), Chris Wiggins (1), Dan Berger (1), Jeff Hall (1)
C: Danny Giannascoli (7), Alex Ruiz (3), Alex Walsh (1)
P: Danny Giannascoli (5)
T: Bouba Bangoura (2), Kyle Kent (2), Matt Rhodes (2), Anthony Sessa (1), Kobie Tuckson (1), Matt Zebrowski (1),
C: Ryan Tower (6), Jon Ahern (1), Kyle Kent (1),
Huge thanks to all of our camera people!
Gary Citrone’s album is here: https://lensdump.com/a/I7MYe
Dipin George’s album is here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/koyTYKrAL3K5k4FTA
Lisa Berger has posted her photos to our Facebook page.
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.