2005-04-15 / Sports

Fisheads so Close......Yet So Far in Rugby Classic

They are calling it the “Hartford Heartbreak”, a very fitting epitaph for one of the most bitterly disappointing defeats in Rockaway Rugby history. For seventy-five minutes last Saturday, the East Coast Rugby Union was turned on its ear as the underdog Rockaway Fisheads were shocking the heavily favored Hartford Wanderers.

The locals were the wild card entry in this year’s ERU play-offs and faced the first place Wanderers, who thought before the game that it would be a routine win.

Few gave the visiting Fisheads much of a chance. The boys from Rockaway had other ideas. The Fisheads physically dominated the younger Wanderers and imposed their will on the home team, taking a 15-5 lead up to the 75th minute of the match. The bewildered Wanderers and their fans saw it all slipping away as Rockaway stood on the cusp of a shocking first round upset....but alas it was not to be. Hartford took advantage of the tiring legs of the veteran Fishead squad and notched two scores in the final 5 minutes, escaping with a 17-15 win.

Fatigue was the undoing of the Rockaway crew, lacking needed reserves at key positions. In the waning moments, it all came undone and the valiant Rockaway side would walk away empty handed. Still, the locals had much to be proud of. The Fisheads earned a respect few Wild Card teams are afforded, serving notice that they were for real and fully intended to return next year for a third consecutive play-off appearance. 

The match began with the two sides slugging it out like two heavyweights in the center of the ring. Neither side was willing to yield an inch.

Hartford struck first at the 30 minute mark, powering in from 10 meters out. The conversion failed and Hartford led 5-0. Rockaway struck back a few minutes later as John McMorrow plowed in from 20 meters. Kevin Wrafter’s conversion was good and the Fisheads went to half up 7-5 and carrying the momentum.

The locals took control of the match in the second half, bullying the Hartford side with superior rough stuff and ball control from the pack. Grouch McCann took a lineout at the Hartford 10 meter line and was driven in by his mates in a textbook “maul and score” Hartford was unable to match the physical prowess of the Fisheads and seemingly had no answers as the Fisheads completetly controlled the action. Wrafter missed the conversion on McCann’s score but added a penalty goal a short time later that appeared to clinch matters for the visitors with 9 minutes remaining.

The longest steps of the journey would be the last ones as the Fisheads began to wilt in the hot sun. Hartford was able to utilize their vast reserves. The Wanderers scored two breakaway tries in the waning moments and put the Fisheads away. Like the fabled last second knockout, Hartford came up with the big punch when they needed it.

The Fisheads will try and put last weeks disappointment behind them and continue their winning ways this week in White Plains. The Fisheads Spring exhibition schedule resumes against the always tough Whiteplainsmen. Kick-off is 1 p.m. at White Plains. Interested fans can follow the team or hitch a ride at the Rugby Clubhouse on Saturday at 10:00 a.m.

RUGGER PLUGGERS: Oscar Prince continues to impress with his rugby. His English is less impressive. Grouch McCann is back on track this past week. Surly demeanor and penalties abounded, as he appeared to be in vintage form despite a one week lay-off. Kermit Egan will likely capture best red-headed player for the 5th year running.

Bill “The Rule Book” Kelly told the ref what was what all day long, while brother Tim did his usual plowhorse job at prop.  Berserker is the Greta Garbo of rugby. Rarely seen and reclusive. Adam Lynch returned and was “Larger than Life.” Joe Millionaire looked more like Joe Billionaire. Omar continued his skillful play while George Johnson has yet to “plant a flag” at a match this season. Hayden will play his final match this week before heading back to New Zealand. He will be sorely missed.A big welcome to Glen the Aussie who appears to be the real deal. “Deliverance” Kevin Stony Brook and Local Family Man Tyrone Sperling played well as usual....that’s all for this week.

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