2004-04-23 / Sports

Fisheads Stumble In N.E. Rugby Union Tournament

Fisheads Stumble In N.E. Rugby Union Tournament

The Rockaway Fisheads traveled to the popular, seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island this past weekend for a play-off match with the Newport
Rugby Club. Visiting with their strongest side, the locals hoped to spoil the hometown team’s hopes and
advance in the New England Rugby Union Play-off tournament.

It was not to be.

The Fisheads glorious fall season (The Play-offs were postponed until the Spring due to the horrendous weather) ended with an ultimately futile effort as the hometown Newport Sharks proved to be too much for the visiting Blueshirts. The Fish battled hard but ultimately fell by a count of 27-10.

With the spring exhibition season still ongoing, the Fisheads tried to look at the bright side.

"Today’s match was a reward for a great fall campaign. We deserved to be here and we will be back," said player- coach Bob Johnson shortly after the match. "We will continue to use the spring season to develop younger players and look forward to more success in the fall when the games really count. Today’s match was the only one that meant anything this time of year. We came up short but we took a step."

Now for a re-cap of Saturdays action:

The match started fairly evenly as both sides came out ready to rumble. Hard hitting and brutal forward play marked the first stanza, with neither
side willing to give an uncontested inch. Newport scored first off of a penalty deep in Fishead territory. Gail force winds forced the conversion to the turf and the score stood at 5-0 for the hometown Sharks. The Fisheads answered back immediately and looked to be poised to take control of the match. "Grouch" McCann came down with a lineout throw-in (his specialty) and the Fishheads schooled together to drive him down the field. Phil Tufano stripped him of the ball and put it to deck about 10 meters from the goal line. The forwards maintained possession and scrumhalf Kermit Eagan picked up the pill and sent it to his backs. An initial surge gained only a few feet but the Fisheads still had the ball. By this time, Tufano had recycled himself out to the weak side and yelled for the ball. Driving through would be tacklers, he was able to extend his arms just far enough to find the end zone and touch the ball down into paydirt. Wayne Fox added a conversion from a nearly impossible angle and the Fish led 7-5.

The action was furious for the rest of the half with most of the action in the Rockaway end. The Fish hung in but yielded a try and a penalty goal before the half expired. With the score at a manageable 17-7, the Fisheads had reason for optimism as the second half began. This would prove to be misplaced optimism, as the Newport club would turn the wind and their best play on the Fisheads when the action resumed.

The Fisheads could barely complete a pass after changing ends as the ball flew every which way with the wind velocity increasing throughout the day. Newport was apparently very adept at playing the seaside breezes and kicked the ball to good field position while conserving energy. Rockaway was forced to give chase while not afforded the luxury of kicking their way out of trouble. The ball would actually fly backwards when kicked by Rockaway players. Not even "Grouch" McCann could outsmart Mother Nature, as his normally dominant lineout play was virtually non-existent during the second half of play. Newport took advantage and began to outpace a tiring Fisheads side.  Scores began to mount and the Newport club pulled away. The Fish never quit, with Irish Pat, Adam Lynch, and Mike the Russian battling every minute of the contest. Welsh imports Chris and Chris were unable to use their skills to very good effect but tried mightily to get the Fisheads within striking distance. The match finally ended with an out-scored but not out-gutted Fisheads team on the short end of a 27-10 affair.

The Fisheads "B" side turned in an excellent performance in the days second match but came up short at 32-21.  "Manchild", Sean Callahan and Chris Callahan turned in great forward performances with Vlad the Russian also standing out. Kevin Stoney Brook, Paul Pace (who left the game with a hamstring injury) and the rest of the young Fishead backs played good possession Rugby although occasional wind-aided interceptions resulted in a few easy Newport scores. 

"Ooch" and Timpy provided veteran leadership as the Fisheads of tomorrow continued the developmental process. Following the match, the club enjoyed the local New England flavor and sampled the nightlife. "Local Ladies Man" Tyrone Sperling turned in a strong performance on the road. "Matinee Idol" Kevin Wrafter was sidelined with a knee injury but still mustered a social effort for his many female fans. He may return to the pitch next week.

The Fisheads play home this Saturday (April 24) at Fort Tilden vs. the Union (New Jersey) Rugby Club. Two games will be played, with the A-side match beginning at 1:00 PM. Turn out for great sports action that the whole family can enjoy.           


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