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New York Rugby Club and Old Blue both clinched spots in the Empire playoffs with wins this weekend. NYRC defeated Lansdowne, 45-6, and Old Blue nearly reached the century mark with a 92-31 victory over Long Island.
NYRC played Lansdowne on a small Tibbits Field, limiting NYRC’s ability to spread the ball wide. Combined with two weeks off, NYRC struggled a little bit early. “We threw the ball around a little bit too much, more than I would have liked,” said NYRC head coach Greg Norris. “By halftime we had squandered a bit more than we should have.”
NYRC slowly gained momentum, however, using the set piece to establish its dominance. NYRC defended lineouts very well, and in particular, Kurt Hold had a very good game in the pack. Flyhalf Johnny Chia had a strong second half distributing for NYRC. In the end, NYRC proved too much for Lansdowne and walked away with a 45-6 victory.
Old Blue continued its torrid pace, putting up 92 points in the fall season finale. Old Blue has found its stride in recent weeks, thanks in large part to a shift in playing style. “The last month or so we have been focused less on set pieces, and have just been focusing on just relaxing and playing the game,” said Old Blue Coach Gary Lee Heavner.
With success in 7s and deep runs in the 15s playoffs, Old Blue has been playing a lot of rugby over the last couple of years. In the beginning portion of the season it showed said Heavner. “Our guys had been so burnt out and it showed in September and October. We were playing like robots, very tight not very loose at all.” Early in the season, Old Blue struggled to score, playing a lot of defense and running set plays. “Now we are playing a much more flowing game where we are scoring a lot points,” added Heavner.
Kane Gillies tied the Old Blue Club record with six tries on the afternoon. From his center position, Gillies had acres of space, thanks in large part to the forwards and other people setting him up. “It was a team effort that really created wholes in the middle,” Heavner added.
Old Blue and NYRC will have the winter to recoup and prepare for the Empire playoffs. With three divisions in the Empire Conference, both teams will have to win several games for the right to take on the New England champion at Nationals.