2004-05-14 / Sports

Rockaway Fisheads Battle But Succumb In Final

Rockaway Fisheads Battle But Succumb In Final

The Rockaway Rugby Club advanced to the Club Division Finals and learned a valuable lesson at the Long Island Rugby Classic this past Saturday: redemption begins with the man in the mirror. For much of the spring season, the Fisheads did not like the collective image staring back at them during the morning shave. The talented Fisheads underachieved this spring, at times seeming to forget their long history as a winning club.

Player/coach Bob Johnson, refusing to let the down season change his always positive attitude, challenged his team to redeem themselves and play up to their abilities at the Long Island Rugby Classic. The Fisheads did that and more. As if by magic, a collective awakening seemed to occur as the Fisheads rolled through the tournament before finally losing to White Plains in a controversial and hard fought tournament final.

The day began with adversity as the Fisheads were forced to face a competent New Haven side without a full complement of players. Confusion as to the start time found the Fisheads with only 13 players at the 9:00AM kick-off. Facing a full side of 15, the locals managed to take an early lead on a try by John O’Connor off an errant New Haven pass. Wayne Fox had not yet arrived and Kermit Egan attempted the conversion that sailed wide and to the left when New Haven scored on a penalty play and helped them win with a final score of 13-8.

Rockaway still had a chance to win their bracket, with the tournament format requiring teams to play every team in their division in order to determine the finalist. Rockaway came up big and vindicated Johnson’s stubborn faith in his club. Facing their long time rivals, The Morris (NJ) Lions in the second round, the locals finally had their full squad show up ready and angry. Rockaway jumped all over Morris early and never let them in the match. Tyrone Sperling scampered in for an early try to put the locals ahead. Irish Pat and Phil Tufano plowed in for the second and third trys of the match, with Wayne Fox adding conversions for 2 of the 3 scores plus a beautiful drop goal from 22 meters out. When it was over, the Fish won 22-10.

Next up were the New York City based Village Lions as the Fisheads did battle with another old foe in the

third match of the day. Once again Fish ate Cats as Rockaway rolled through the Lions with bruising forward play. New pick-ups "Kevin the Cougar" and "Oscar the Rasta" used their speed to compliment punishing forward play. (Oscar could not be dubbed "The Grouch" as that name is already taken). The affair was one sided from the outset as the now confident Fisheads crushed the Lions 24-0.

Point differential gave Rockaway the bracket and a birth in the tournament final. Facing what was widely seen as a "sandbagging" White Plains side, the Fisheads gave the opposition all they could handle in the title game.

The Fisheads came out with smash mouth forward play from Tim Kelly, Mike The Russian, Irish Pat and Phil Tufano. Playing in 10-meter phases, the Fisheads moved methodically and began to exact an early physical toll on White Plains. Sean and Chris Callahan played well, splitting time in the second row and helping out the rest of the brutally efficient Fishead pack. The teams traded penalty goals and the score stood knotted at 3, with the locals seeming to have the better of the play against the favored opposition. The referee inexplicably called a perfect Wayne Fox drop goal "no good" to the chagrin of the Fisheads. Bad blood boiled over near the end of the first half, resulting in 3 Yellow cards, 2 of which landed Rockaway players in the "sin bin", while White Plains lost only one player. Shorthanded for 7 minutes, the Fisheads held the opposition to a single try and went into the half down 8-3.

With Grouch McCann and Tim Kelly out of the "Sin Bin" Rockaway returned to their devastating forward attack. Controlling possession, the Fisheads kept the pill away from the speedier White Plains backs and threatened several times. Each offensive was thwarted by questionable penalty calls with the seemingly cursed Fisheads unable to claim any reward for their steady efforts. White Plains would score again when Irish Pat was sent off for seven minutes for no good reason. Battling as they did, the Fisheads were unable to beat a side like White Plains with 14 of 40 minutes played shorthanded. The Fisheads bowed 14-3, feeling they deserved better but still proud of their outstanding afternoon.

In the end, the Fisheads remembered who they were on Saturday and put the rest of the league on notice: the reports of Rockaway’s demise were premature to say the least. Many Met Rugby Union teams no doubt sense that the sleeping giant woke up and is in ill humor as the Fall season looms.

Rugger Pluggers: Ron Kemley, Crazy Legs and Kevin Stony Brook all stepped up big time in the backs. Attitude adjustments needed for a few younger members. 90% of life is WHAT guys? George "The Icon" Johnson did yeoman work at the hooker position. "Grouch" McCann remains the Rugby equivalent of Bill Romanowski. Underneath it all is a sensitive man trying to break out...or maybe not. John "Clothesline" O’Connor hanging another foe out to dry… Cow Head caught by FDA meat inspectors and falsely classified as "Mad." Lawsuit pending. Has anyone seen Adam Lynch? He may challenge Head Frank for the Darryl Strawberry award if he doesn’t re-surface. Conversely, the Best Sloping Forehead award will likely be uncontested this year.

Three cheers to Fishead second rower and Wave scribe Phil Tufano who stepped in as Captain for the injured Jim "Kermit" Egan and led the club with solid play and a level head. Be prepared Ladies and gentlemen for the return of the Rockaway Irish Festival to be held in the rugby club backyard this summer. More details to follow.... A post tournament fiesta took place at the home of Bob Johnson where the team broke in the new pool and celebrated their appearance in the open division finals. Many cerebral discussions took place on such topics as the future of the Fisheads, Redheads vs. blondes, bat races, and global warming. Has anyone seen BERSERKER? More Bigfoot sightings than Berserker appearances this season…. "Rockaway Seven’s" tournament up next. Read The Wave for updates.

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