2010 NERFU Cup Tournament
By: Mike Keltner
Newport, RI- The New London County Rugby Football Club had one thing on their mind going into the NERFU Cup Tournament, and that one thing was to hoist the championship cup once again, signifying another championship in Division III, and another successful campaign. With a lot of determination, and an impeccable playing style, the New London Count Rugby Football club did just that.
New London started the weekend tournament with the unlucky 8:00 am kickoff against M.I.T., on a short, very windy field at one of the highest parts of the small city. From the start, both teams came up very strong, despite the early morning wakeup call, and the wind pouring in from all directions. Where both teams had big runs early on, neither we’re able to capitalize the strong play for an early score. At the half, both teams were tied at zero apiece.
The second half took off in the same manner as the first. Both teams were in a stalemate, tackling hard and low, but no threatening runs into scoring territory. Midway through the second half, New London County found themselves against a very amped up M.I.T. team desperately close in pounding the ball in for a score. New London and their outstanding defense wasn’t enough to hold on as M.I.T., as they eventually inched their way into the try zone. With the score, M.I.T. was up 5-0.
With only a few minutes remaining in the half, New London was in desperate need to get something going. With the wind not in their favor, they found in increasingly more difficult to advance the ball downfield. Where passes were on point a week prior, on this morning, the passes were just slightly off. With the referee blowing his whistle three times signaling the end of the game, New London headed to the sideline with an uncertain future.
New London’s second game of the day was against North Shore. North Shore had just previously beat M.I.T. by a comfortable margin, so a lot of pressure was on New London for a victory, as well as score enough points to qualify for a final match.
New London from the kickoff proved themselves that the loss earlier in the day was nothing more than a slight skip in their normal routine. New London came out strong, tackling low, and brought an intensity that was missing from the first. North Shore came out just as strong, and showed that they were capable to advance the ball with strong kicks deep into New London’s half of the field.
New London’s first bit of luck came from a penalty against North Shore that gave New London’s fly-half, Tim Johnson, a clear and direct path for an easy penalty kick, giving them a three point lead.
North Shore returned the favor, by slamming a hard earned try into the corner of New London’s try zone. New London was able to score another penalty kick by Johnson, giving them a narrow lead. With the penalties both becoming pretty regular on both sides, the ref warned both teams that another high tackle will lead to somebody being placed into the “sin bin,” the rugby equivalent to the penalty box. Unfortunately, this happened in North Shore’s favor, as one of New London’s own was sent off for ten minutes. Luckily for New London, North Shore wasn’t able to benefit from penalty.
With both teams going into the half with only a point difference, New London put on one of their best second half performances of the year, scoring two tries, and converting on 1 of them, as well as putting in another penalty kick. At the end of the game, New London won by the score of 21-5. With the win, and the point differential from the two games in New London’s favor, New London had the stage set for the championship game against the Boston Irish Wolfhounds on Sunday.
New London came into Sunday’s game well rested, and very relieved in Saturday’s performance. Judging by the scores the Wolfhounds put up in their group play, New London knew that every play, every drive, every tackle had to be well executed if they were going to see a championship.
With the sound of the whistle, New London was off like Bulls on Parade, sprinting to every play with a full head of steam as if it were the last play of the game. Within a few moments, it was clear that New London was focused, and certain of victory. Both teams showed that their team was very capable of advancing the ball, with a well string of passes, and hard-nosed runs up the middle. New London’s Johnson was able to execute pristine kicks that gave New London many options for advancement. One of these kicks was accurately kicked into the Wolfhounds try-zone where New London’s flanker, Greg Smith, placed it down for the first score for of the game. With the converted kick by Johnson, New London was out to an early 7-0 lead, and the momentum was building for them as well.
New London scored again later in the first half with a hard run by their fullback, Ricky Dickinson, and later on a drop goal by Johnson, giving them a commanding lead of 17-0 going into half time. With forty minutes left to play, New London was beginning to see the championship trophy a little more clearly.
At the start of the second half, a different Wolfhounds team came forward. New London was still fielding plays smoothly, but the Wolfhounds definitely brought up their intensity from the first half. The Wolfhounds scored early on, reading New London’s defense perfectly, by scoring on New London’s weak side in the furthest part of the try-zone. Fortunately for New London, the Wolfhounds missed a very hard converted kick, bringing the score to 17-5.
Where the momentum was clearly in New London’s favor in the first half, the Wolfhounds proved to capture the momentum in the second, scoring two more tries and converting on one of them evening the score at 17 all. With the time being very close to expiring, both teams dug deep, and continued to play at very outstanding levels of rugby. With close to a minute left on the clock, New London had a major scare as two of their players went down with injuries. New London’s outside center, Louis Zubek, and their fly-half, Johnson, were both carried off the field. With a penalty called against the Wolfhounds, New London poured every minute of strength looking for a late score to win the game. When the referee blew his whistle ending regulation play, both teams went to the sidelines to gather their thoughts for a sudden death overtime period.
In the five minute period, both teams extended their great play, but neither was able to come out on top. New London had a chance to win it, but the kick inched out wide, leaving the game to be decided by drop goals at the 22 meter line.
With both teams fully exhausted, it seemed unfortunate that the game would have to end it such an obscure way. Both teams gathered at the half line, where the referee signaled to New London that they were first to kick. New London’s scrumhalf, Liam Scott anxiously approached the 22 meter line, and kicked the ball straight through, putting the pressure on the Wolfhounds. The Wolfhounds extended the shootout by making theirs. Both teams missed the kick in the second round, but the third round would prove to be different. New London’s eight-man, Doug Parulis, made his drop goal, putting the Wolfhounds in a must make situation. With the pressure on, and everyone on the sideline in anticipation, everyone watched as the Wolfhounds kick swayed right of the posts giving New London the victory. New London’s sideline poured into the field for a mid-field celebration for clearly the most epic battle the team has ever been a part of.
New London continues their play in the fall, where they hope to continue their success in Division II. As for the summer, New London will host a Memorial Day picnic; sponsor a bike rally, as well as a golf tournament. For more scheduled events, the team asks that everyone please check out their website at www.nlrugby. org. The team is always looking for new players, and welcomes anyone and everyone from all different abilities of the game. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a new sport to play or a seasoned veteran new to the area, the New London County Rugby Football club is here to stay, and is very excited to share their winning tradition with everyone.