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With only three weeks until the end of the fall American Rugby Premiership season, the New York Athletic Club and Mystic River clobbered the Boston area teams, while Old Blue ventured to Georgia to play former ARP participant, Life, as part of the Atlantic Cup. In the DI Atlantic North/ARP competition, NYAC blanked Boston, 74-0, and Mystic River came back in the second half with four tries to beat the Boston Irish, 36-16. Rebounding from last weekend’s defeat against NYAC, Life outlasted Old Blue, 18-15, with a late try by fullback Mitch Wilson.
NYAC dominated Boston from the first whistle to the last as the New Yorkers pounded their opponent, 74-0. Eight players scored 12 tries as the cohesion between the forwards and backs clicked all day. With the first try coming 30 seconds into the match, NYAC dictated the pace and didn’t allow Boston any space to gain a foothold in the game.
“We were more cohesive than they were,” NYAC head coach Mike Quinn said. “We played well and didn’t give them a sniff. They came into town under-manned and we took advantage of that from the first second. Forward and back play was pretty tight throughout the match.”
Inside center Jack Fitzpatrick lead the way with a hat trick and wing Alex Hodgkinson and outside center Greg Voight scored a pair. Toby Henry, Ryan McTiernan, Robert Johnson, Chris Mattina, and Kevin Smith each crossed the whitewash to bring home the victory.
Coach Quinn stressed that it was the interplay between the forward pack and the backline that decided the outcome of the contest. “The more we play together, the more we understand the gameplan, the more we executed. Our #10, Harry Bennett, and #12, Jack Fitzpatrick, had outstanding games and they were the main playmakers and decision-makers. The guys understood what their jobs were and that came across against Boston.”
On Saturday, NYAC travel across town to Old Blue for a rematch of NYAC’s 19-13 win earlier this month. Both teams know each other extremely well and the rivalry between the clubs runs deep. NYAC knows that whoever wins in the forwards will win the game.
“We expect a ferocious forward battle against Old Blue,” Quinn remarked. “Everything they do is forward based. They play a very good tactical kicking game and they don’t try to play expansively, particularly from within their own half. So, we know if we can get parity up front, then we have a very good chance of winning this game.”
Quinn sees that NYAC has the advantage in the backs and that they can succeed on Saturday. “We fancy our backline ahead of theirs. Yes, they are big and strong throughout their team, but in terms of skill level and dynamism, I think our backline has the edge over them. But, that doesn’t matter at all if you are not getting any ball. We need be very physical, we need to dictate the physical encounters that we come up with against Old Blue. Once we do that, I think that we have a very good chance at winning the game.”
After a rough first half against the Boston Irish in Canton, Mass., Mystic River righted the ship and earned its fourth win of the season against the Wolfhounds for a sweep of the Boston area teams. Down 16-10 at the half, Mystic scored four unanswered tries in the second half to emerge victorious, 36-16.
“In the first half, we really struggled with sloppy handling in rain and mud. Boston Irish turned those mistakes into points,” Mystic head coach Josh Smith stated. “We did a good job in second half of playing patiently and limiting the unforced errors.”
The Wolfhounds were on a mission early in the game building a 13-0 lead behind a try by Daniel Collins and two penalties and a conversion by Patrick Owen. Mystic regained its composure and John Sullivan and Diego Maqueiria scored the next two tries. Up by three, Owen added a third penalty for the 16-10 advantage at the break.
Coach Smith regrouped his troops at halftime to refocus their efforts. Whatever Smith said, it worked as the offense woke up and the defense shut down the Irish attack. Four tries by Chris Frazier, Vini Daley, Maqueiria, and Robbie Malneek re-energized Mystic River, while the defense was stout keeping the Wolfhounds out of the endzone.
“It was good to the see the boys come together in the second half after struggling so bad for 30 minutes,” Smith said. “Veteran leaders, Chris O’Donnell and Dave McKenna, did a good job settling things down for us. Both are logging huge minutes for us and doing a good job in the set piece.”
Mystic relied on stand out performances from Thomas Thekaekara, Diego Marquieira, and Jon Kokinda in the forwards and Gabe Perrone and Robbie Malneek in organizing the attack from the backs.
With Life traveling to Malden this Saturday, Mystic is expecting an intense contest against a top echelon opponent. “We are looking forward to playing a quality club like Life at our home pitch,” Smith added. “It was good to get to add the match versus them.”
In the second leg of the Atlantic Cup competition, Life shook off the rust from its first match to come from behind in the second half to beat Old Blue, 18-15. In Marietta, Ga., the low scoring affair was punctuated by excellent defense and momentum swings for both sides.
For Life, the deciding factor of the match was defense and possession. “We really worked on cleaning up our defense, staying connected, and getting off the gain line,” Life head coach Blake Bradford said. “Attack-wise, I thought the guys were more patient with the ball. We were able to put together more phases and we were able to convert our pressure into points. We were able to keep the ball for long periods of time, which allowed us to find some holes in the defense.”
Life made a strong opening statement to begin the game as a driving maul ended with hooker Neethling Gericke dotting down the try. Duncan Van Schalkwyk missed the conversion, but connected on a penalty soon after. Old Blue’s flyhalf Stephan Rossouw responded with a PK to cut the lead to five points as the defense stiffened to keep Life out of the endzone for the remainder of the half. However, Life managed to launch a second penalty by Van Schalkwyk to extend the advantage to 11-3 at the half.
After struggling to assert itself in the first half, Old Blue adapted its strategy to start the second half. The visiting team spread the ball out wide taking advantage of an overload on the sideline to send #8 Alex Schwarz through for the try. After a successful conversion, Old Blue used the momentum to take the lead. Inside center Connor Wallace-Sims laid down a nifty grubber kick to wing Rick Kirkland who tip-toed down the sideline for the score.
Down by 15-11 late in the half, Life dealt the death nail with a brilliant set piece back play that saw fullback Mitch Wilson cut through the center of the defense to score under the posts. Van Schalkwyk added the finishing touch with the points after to earn the 18-15 victory.
After the match, Old Blue captain Alex Schwarz spoke with Rugby Today. “Tough game for us, we just didn't execute our gameplan for the full 80. It was a good contest to have before our rematch with NYAC as it gave us the chance to look at some elements under pressure, which we can iron out this week. Our Man of the Match went to Nate Augspurger, who was everywhere in attack and defense.”
Life’s Bradford knew if his team could stick with the gameplan and control the ball, Life had a good chance to win. “Old Blue has pretty fast line speed on their defense and we knew we had to tough it out and put together multiple phases,” Bradford said. “We knew the holes would come if we stayed patient with the ball.”
For the last stop on the Atlantic Cup tour, Life will fly to Massachusetts to meet the defending DI National Champions, Mystic River. “We know Mystic River has been a good team for the last two years and they have been competing well against teams in the Northeast,” Bradford said. “Mystic River is a new beast for us. We will do our homework on film and prepare appropriately.”