After Rugby Epic, Fisheads Bite Sharks
The Rockaway Fisheads knew it would be tough because it always is for them. They knew it would be physical because Rockaway and Montauk don’t know any other style of play. What they didn’t know, until the last whistle had sounded, was who would prevail.
In a slugfest worthy of comparison with the famous “Thrilla in Manilla”, the Rockaway Fisheads and Montauk Sharks waged a bruising battle that ultimately went to the hometown Fisheads 13-12.
80 minutes of absolutely brutal physicality by both sides featured ebbs and flows, 5 lead changes, and nailbiting suspense until the very end. Like Ali-Frazier 3, the pounding never stopped and both sides gave everything they had.
“It was like the Roman Coliseum out there today, said veteran Fishead Tim Kelly. “I have an idea what the gladiators must have felt like after today’s match. It seemed at times like we were battling for our lives against these guys. It was easily one of the toughest matches I have ever played in and a great win for our team.”
The victory put Rockaway alone atop the Metropolitan Rugby Unions’ Division 2 standings, as previously unbeaten Montauk dropped to a second place tie with the Union (New Jersey) Rugby Club. Rockaway faces winless North Jersey on the road next week, followed by another road match on Oct 22 against the always tough Montclair RFC. The season finale will be at Ft. Tilden in three weeks (Oct 29) against Union.
“The stars seem to be in line for us this year”, said the eminently quotable Grouch McCann. “These last 3 matches are games we should win and we control our own destiny if we win out.”
Getting to the “catbirds seat” was not easy. Montauk arrived this past Saturday still seething from a 3 point defeat the last time they visited Breezy Point. The match started with the usual rough stuff and prompted warnings from the referee in the early going. Rockaway drew first blood as the cagey veteran Kermit Egan converted a penalty kick from 20 meters out, giving Rockaway a 3-0 lead.
Veteran Phil Tufano took it upon himself to shadow the always dangerous Garth, delivering punishing hits to Montauk’s main intimidator every time he touched the ball. Rockaway played smothering defense and never allowed the younger, faster Sharks to get into open space. Bill and Tim Kelly, Mike the Russian, Grouch McCann and Adam Lynch provided the needed power in the scrum and Rockaway kept the visitors at bay despite a lopsided edge to Montauk in time of possession for most of the first half. But Montauk managed to sneak in a try off a penalty during advantage play and took a 5-3 lead into the half.
The second half was a mirror image of the first, but in reverse. Following an early red card penalty which gave Rockaway a one man advantage, the locals began to take the ball possession edge. Key contributor Lee Osbourne was knocked out of the game for Rockaway, but the Fisheads handled the adversity scoring quickly off a patented lineout, maul and drive to the try zone. Grouch McCann took the lineout, Tufano stripped the ball and the pack drove. Maintaining unit cohesion, the ball changed hands several times as the locals pushed Montauk 15 meters, culminating with the score by Mike the Russian. Rockaway led 8-5 after a missed conversion amidst driving rain and blustery winds.
Montauk answered back straight away with a quick surge and followed by a try from 10 meters out. The conversion was good and Montauk led 12-8 with 20 minutes to play. Rockaway turned it up a notch after losing the lead as Sebastian, Ashley, Prince and Sperling began to make gains from the back line with brilliant passing and lightning surges. Rockaway pounded Montauk with multi- phase play from the pack and the backs, gaining a 5 meter scrummage and a chance to take the lead. They didn’t waste it.
The Fisheads won the put-in and dragged the ball over for the score, pushing the fading Sharks backwards for 5 meters and symbolically driving them out of the match. Barry Cowhead did the honors, touching the ball down, as the Fisheads demoralized the Montauk pack.
Rockaway missed the conversion but managed to preserve the win at 13-12, holding off the Sharks for the final 10 minutes of the match.
The Fisheads savored the victory with a celebration at the Rugby Clubhouse, but knew there was still business to take care of. “We are on the cusp of being champions, but that only means we are one bad game away from a huge disappointment” said player coach Bob Johnson. “We need everyone to give all they have for the next 3 weeks.”
The Fisheads are on the road the next two weekends but finish the season at home against Union on Oct 29th. Said Johnson about potential late season outcomes; “If Union and Montauk stay at one loss going into the last weekend, it would make the Union Match the key for us. If we lose that game to Union and Montauk also wins, that would create a 3 way tie for first. We want to avoid all tie breaking scenarios with 3 wins and the first one HAS TO BE North Jersey this weekend.”
Follow the Fisheads exciting season every week in THE WAVE.
Rugger Pluggers: With the season winding down, some questions need to be answered: Pen and Teller can make an elephant disappear, but who made the equally ample Jim Turchiano vanish? Oh,Seamus....come out come out wherever you are. To Dan Lunny: In “A Bronx Tale”, Robert DeNiro’s character said the saddest thing in the world is: ________________. Watch the first 15 minutes and fill in the blank. Remind you of anybody?...Oakie the “Texas Necktie” O’Connor with a penalty free game. Grouch McCann yet to know such an experience, but was clocked at 90MPH on the radar gun after the match. No, he wasn’t throwing a baseball. It was a more cylindrical projectile but it had late movement on it. Tufano seems to only be able to go 50 minutes. Is he
in the twilight of his career? Barry Cowhead came out of the bullpen and payed big dividends. Can Cowhead’s come out of the “Bull”-pen”? Ron Kemly with another stalwart performance along with Omar and the late-inserted Brian McGuiver. Johnson pressing all the right buttons as Trevor Tubridy was a late game contributor as well… Big Bash coming up at the Rugby Clubhouse to say farewell to our foreign guests. Watch The Wave for details.