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With the fall club season over on the East Coast, the premier players in the Rugby South and the Capital Rugby Union brawled on Saturday at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. The match featured the might of the Capital Selects’ forwards versus the speed and agility of the Rugby South’ backs. Each team had the upper hand at one point, but it was an explosive three-try second half by Detroit Tradesmen outside center Amir Khan that earned the Rugby South the 41-32 victory.
The Rugby South used this match to prepare for its January 9th, 2016 internationally NACRA-sanctioned game against the Bahaman National Team. With a unique mixture of college and club level players, the Panthers have been holding camps and practices since October to find the right blend of speed and strength to compete against the Bahamas.
For the Capital Selects, they demolished the Empire Select Side earlier this year, 96-17. After the fall season was completed, the geographic union organized a series of camps to evaluate new players and train the existing roster in the player pool. At the end of the camps, the squad looks immensely different with 12 new faces adding a new dynamic to the team.
The Panthers were prepared for the hard-running forwards-oriented style of their opponent. According the Rugby South’s Head Coach Rene Daniel, “the positive side was they guys for 80 minutes stuck the plan. Simple phase play with the forwards and then the gaps opening up, and spinning the ball out wide taking advantage of our backline speed.”
The Capital Selects jumped out to a 12-0 lead early in the match with tries by Alan Rhodes (Roanoke) and Nick Kuhl (Rocky Gorge). The Panthers recollected themselves and with tries by Jeff Reuther (New Orleans) and Ron Omondi (Atlanta Old White), they stormed back to tie the game at 12-12.
The Capital Selects slugged back when Josh Brown (Rocky Gorge) took an eightman pick close to the tryline and offloaded to Justin Bourgeois (Raleigh) for the try. Rugby South’s Matt Hughston (Charlotte) slotted a penalty kick near the end of the first half to close the gap as the Capital Selects led 17-15 at the half.
The Panthers started off the second period with Reuther’s second try as the Rugby South backline continued to exploit its counterparts. Kuhl would answer with a line-breaking 30 meter run for his second try to regain the lead and Johnny Cameron added to the 27-22 tally with a penalty kick.
The Rugby South kicked it into high gear and scored three consecutive tries by Khan to open up a 41-27 lead. Omondi was the catalyst for the offensive explosion as he continually set up his linemate. Alex Diegel (Potomac) would score a forwards try late for the Capital Selects, but they were unable to come all the way back before the final whistle sounded.
“It was a tale of two different teams,” Daniel stated. “They were extremely strong up front, a pick and go deal to keep it in the forwards. Our goal was our forwards would defend, get the ball, then use multiple runners out wide... All of our scores came through the backline. Most of our scoring came off long run scoring, good 15-20 meters, maybe if not further than that.”
Daniel applauded the efforts of his team with sticking to the gameplan and exploited the weaknesses of the defense. “Khan had a really good game,” Daniel remarked. “He had a good game because Ron Omondi, the inside center, set him up well. Ron was the Man of the Match. He played a hell of a game defensively, making the tackles and offensively, setting up the backline. Up front with our forwards, Todd Sherer played really well, as did Thomas Savoie and Matt Hughston, the captain.”
As for the Capital Selects, head coach Chris Porter said, “I was happy with how the guys played with having so many new guys in our lineup and for the amount of time we’ve worked together. We didn’t finish as strong as we would have liked, but overall, I was happy with how they played. Our set piece was a big strength for our forwards. It really set a platform for us. I thought when we had ball in hand, we ran pretty hard.”
Porter told Rugby Today that the key to Rugby South’s victory was its backline speed. “They were quick in the backline and they hit things at pace. Their forwards hit the ball at pace and their backline hit all their moves at pace. Jeff Reuther is a great veteran player as he has really developed into great leader and runs a great backline. Chance Doyle, from fullback, was hitting the ball at pace and their center, Amir Khan, from Detroit, did a great job. He as very difficult to take down, he has some really quick feet and made some good moves to set guys up really well.”
With this hurdle cleared, the Rugby South can now focus on the Bahamas and its match in January. “Some guys really showed what they had for us to play against the Bahamas,” Daniel added. “I think we’ve gelled well as a team and we are at the point now where we can play the kind of rugby that we want to play as a team.” For the Capital Selects, they are pleased to expand their player pool and look forward to their next opponent.
Rugby South Starters
1) Daniel Falkner (Appalachian State)
2) Thomas Savoie (Louisiana Tech)
3) Casey Davidson (University of Georgia)
4) Ben Lopata (Louisiana Tech)
5) Calvin Storey (Raliegh)
6) Todd Sherer (Columbia)
7) Matt Hughston (Charlotte)
8) Waymon Cassel (Nashville)
9) Jarrett Gartin (North Atlanta)
10 Jeff Reuther (New Orleans)
11) Corey Jones (Little Rock)
12) Ron Omondi (Atlanta Old White)
13) Amir Khan (Detroit Tradesmen)
14) Zach Blalock (Birmingham)
15) Chance Doyle (New Orleans)
Rugby South Reserves
16) Doug Stillwell (East Carolina)
17) Nathan Driggers (University of Georgia)
18) Jesse Hackworth (Middle Tennessee State)
19) Will Crawford (Louisiana Tech)
20) Tyler Bishop (Tallahassee)
21) Matt Mendeleson (Columbia)
22) Alejandro Ospina (Charlotte)
23) Irving Carcamo (Charlotte)
24) Jose Laphitzondo (Florida International)
Capital Rugby Union Starters
1) Steven Terjesen (Norfolk)
2) Matt Carroll (Rocky Gorge)
3) Brian Bidder (Norfolk)
4) Will Miller (Rocky Gorge)
5) Alex Czajkowski (Richmond)
6) Alex Diegel (Potomac Exiles)
7) Eric Hagen (Norfolk)
8) Josh Brown (Rocky Gorge)
9) Justin Bourgeois (Raleigh)
10) Johnny Cameron (Norfolk)
11) Zach Schell (Pittsburgh)
12) Alan Rhodes (Roanoke)
13) Hunter Naff (Roanoke)
14) Nick Sandoval (Norfolk)
15) Nick Kuhl (Rocky Gorge)
Capital Rugby Union Reserves
16) Erik Anderson (Rocky Gorge)
17) Sam Ausden (Rocky Gorge)
18) Lindsey Cousins (Newport News)
19) Adam Floyd (James River)
20) Kevin Jackson Jr. (Rocky Gorge)
21) Sam Johnson (Norfolk)
22) Joanel Joseph (Potomac Exiles)
23) Jacob Milchuk (Raleigh)
24) Kevin Mott (Norfolk)