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The first match for the newest associate member of Major League Rugby went better than expected as Rugby United New York used a dominant first half to defeat the Ontario Arrows on Saturday, 36-19. The match is a culmination of tons of hard work from the players, coaches, front office, and support staff to get the team prepared for the match.
“[The match was] amazing and really special,” RUNY Chairman James Kennedy said. “It happened to be a beautiful day, a great venue, and the guys were up for the game. It felt really gratifying to have those guys with their skill to represent RUNY.”
“They played really well,” Kennedy added. “I was surprised at how cohesive they were already. I know most of the players now individually and they are great players. That was their first game together and I was very happily surprised at how good they were, their team dynamics, and their interplay. We will clearly get a lot better. Honestly, I almost regret they are not in the league this year because they are that good and they could really have a shot.”
Playing on Mazzella Field at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., the side full of players from Old Blue, NYAC, the Village Lions, Monmouth, and Lansdowne scored the first four tries of the match to lead 33-0 just after halftime. Anthony Parry, Seamus Kelly, Marcus Walsh, and Ross Deacon found the endzone with Harry Bennett and Jack Fitzpatrick kicking two conversions each.
Starting in the 52nd minute, the Arrows fought back with three consecutive tries by Josh Van Horne, Shawn Windsor, and Andrew Wilson to cut the advantage to 14 points with ten minutes left. Ontario would not get any closer as RUNY drilled down the clock and Fitzpatrick kicked a penalty at the end to seal the 36-19 win the squad’s first victory.
“We did something [Ontario] did not expect; we stood up to them physically,” Kennedy said. “They are a very physical team, they are very big and in your face. We stood up to them physically and gave it back. On top of that, we had outstanding skills... When we got the ball into our hands, we were able to play, but more importantly, we knew we had a more skillful team and to see them win the physical battle was great.”
Seamus Kelly, Luke Hume, Chris Vakasisikakala, Anthony Parry, Dave Gannon, Nate Brakeley, and Marcus Walsh were all studs on Saturday, but the captain and hooker Dylan Fawsitt earned the Man of the Match. “Dylan brings an intensity and a feverish work rate all the time,” Kennedy explained. “He’s skillful, he’s capped with the Eagles for a reason. He’s another backrow forward on the field, gets to the breakdown, he makes a difference at every breakdown, and can play with ball in hand.”
With multiple clubs represented on the team, Kennedy hopes that RUNY will help rise the level of play of the New York area as a whole. “We are very heavy on Old Blue and AC, but we are working hard with those other clubs as well to not only recruit for them but to involve their players. They are good players everywhere and we found with the training they are getting with out coaches and being around better players, they are going to step up."
“We challenge them to step up. We never intended to be an AC/Old Blue select side. It’s only natural that we would be dominated by those teams right now but we are going to push hard to grow other clubs around the New York area. I see overall the level of club rugby lifting a lot around New York.”
RUNY’s next opponent is Mystic River on Saturday for the first ever professional test in New York City. Playing at Gaelic Park in the Bronx at 7 pm following the NYPD versus FDNY match, RUNY has sold over 3,000 tickets to showcase the best New York rugby has to offer.