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The second installment of the American Rugby Premiership kicked off two weeks ago but with a slightly different fit in the entire USA Rugby structure. After NYAC was awarded a spot in the DI playoffs with a second place finish in the ARP last year, a controversy ensued over whether the team was entitled to a playoff spot. As a result, the ARP is also acting as the Northeast DI this season. Life, however, will only participate in ARP action and Mystic River will only take part in Northeast play.
It looks as if structuring the competition is USA Rugby’s solution to last years controversy. The fall schedule is wildly inconsistent, with some teams playing multiple games before reigning champions Life play any. However, for NYAC and Life, who have a number of players participating in the Rugby World Cup, the light early schedule allows players to return to the competition without missing much of the league season.
In the two games that have been played, New York had its way with the Boston sides. NYAC dismantled Boston 44-3 while Old Blue outlasted the Boston Irish Wolfhounds 48-21. For NYAC, the roster is currently turned over at the moment, with a number of players and head coach Phil Bailey at the Rugby World Cup. Mike Petri, Al McFarland, John Quill are all in England while Troy Hall has retired and Toby L’estrange has gone back to his native Australia. Three starters, Harrison Edwards, Paul Jarvis and another rugby world cup participant Seamus Kelly are all moving on from the club. Neil McMillan, NYAC assistant coach also indicated Bailed will not return as the skipper for the club.
“We are pretty hard hit from that respect,” said assistant coach Neil McMillan. “With all that going on it was going to be a bit of an uphill struggle getting the season started but the boys with some new guys coming in stepped up pretty well."
NYAC is not without its reinforcements, however, getting an English player, Luke Cousins, on the squad. Cousins earned a pair of tries in his first game with the squad. Several guys who have been on the periphery stepped up, leading to a quality win.
“We were massively excited. We had to be realistic that we didn’t have the best lead into the season with all the people moving on. We didn’t have a practice or warm game before the actual season so despite all that we were pleased with the way the guys worked. The fact that a lot of our team are away gives all the guys that are pushing for positions a real opportunity,” said McMillan.
The other New York side managed a 7-2 try advantage in a comfortable win over the Wolfhounds. The team had four new faces in the roster for the game, with Ryan Blythe the Collegiate All-American out of West Virginia manning the eight-man position. Richie Kirkland, who was a fixture on the 7s circuit, started at wing and added a couple tries in his debut. JJ Corpuz-Jackson out of AIC and former all Arizona standout and Eagle 7s pool player Ryan Matyas also entered a revamped Old Blue backline.
“It is always good to start with a win but we actually played some pretty good rugby in parts,” said Old Blue coach Steve Lewis. “I was pretty happy for a first outing.”
NYAC and Old Blue finished 2nd and third respectively in the ARP last year. Both teams and the rest of the league are chasing Life. “They are obviously the golden standard,” Lewis said of the Georgia side.