Fisheads Victory Sets Up Title Game At Fort Tilden
The Rockaway Fisheads “Impossible Dream” season continued its magical course in New Jersey last Saturday, as the visiting Fisheads pried a 5-3 victory away from host Montclair. An 80 minute slugfest saw a meager 8 combined points scored, as the locals managed to come from behind and take home the win.
The victory kept the Fisheads alone at the top of the Metropolitan Rugby Union’s Division 2 heap at 6-0. Rockaway will play host at Fort Tilden to the Union (New Jersey) Rugby Club this Saturday at 1 p.m. with a chance to be undefeated champions.
Said veteran Billy Kelly: “It’s a rare opportunity to achieve perfection and we knew that we had to win this game in order to give ourselves that chance. It was tough conditions...a lot of wind, mud and rain, but we like it rough and dirty.
“We got a little spoiled after all the points we scored last week (57 at North Jersey), but we knew this would be a tough one. Montclair always has a good side and you will never have an easy time of it with them. If you win, it’s usually not by much.”
Having circumvented their latest obstacle to the championship, the Fisheads now look ahead to the final challenge. Player-coach Bob Johnson had this to say on the upcoming battle for the title: “We need all Rockaway residents who are friends and fans of the Fisheads to turn out this Saturday. We need your support and we want you to be a part of the celebration if we pull it off. We take a lot of pride in this community and want this championship as much for the people of Rockaway Beach as we do for ourselves. I’ll just say this: Be at Ft. Tilden at 1:00 and be a witness to Rockaway sports history. We have a chance to do something great.”
Getting to the big dance was not easy, as the Fisheads found themselves in a 66 meter war with Montclair. The two clubs battled between the 22 meter lines in a rough and entertaining stalemate. Each team would penetrate and then be repelled by skillful kicks into touch. The action was crisp and the tackling brutal, but nothing translated to points until a Montclair penalty kick near the end of the first half put the hosts up 3-0.
Rockaway was unfazed by the score, realizing the conditions played a big role in the way the game was taking shape. Rockaway was also confident they would find a way to win the match. “We have won offensive shootouts, defensive struggles, back and forth battles, you name it”, said Fishead stalwart Grouch McCann. “Each week we have found a way to win. We are 6-0 and have won each match using basically the same strategy but with slightly different tactical approaches based on the way each match took shape. We stick to the things we do well and see how we can eliminate the things our opponents do well.”
The Fisheads did just that as they denied the speedier Montclair backs possession of the ball and controlled the action with their signature rough-house gameplan. Rockaway kept the ball with mauling and muti-phase loose play, forcing Montclair to play most of the match in a defensive mode. Mike The Russian burrowed into the try zone after a long distance maul, putting the Fisheads ahead 5-3 midway through the second half.
The locals played a low risk, possession style of Rugby for the rest of the match, opting to lock down the win with a conservative approach. Kermit Egan summed up the Fisheads closing out of Montclair: “Basically, once we got ahead, we played keep away. We have fought some tremendous battles to get ourselves to this position and decided to make sure we didn’t allow it to slip away.
“With a slippery ball and conditions being what they were, we figured we could win if we just avoided making a big mistake. With our defense, it was just a matter of holding the ball as much as possible and making our tackles on the rare occasions they had the ball. It worked out and here we are.”
Montclair waged a tremendous fight but ultimately could not get through to paydirt. The Fisheads took the match 5-3 and have the chance to do what few teams in any sport, at any level, have been able to do.
Winger/scrumhalf Oscar Prince shared his thoughts on what a Fisheads victory this week would mean to him and his team: “You’ve got the 1972 Dolphins, Rocky Marciano, the 2004 USC Trojans and a handful of others. You won’t read about us in Sports Illustrated, but the achievement will be just as great as far as we are concerned. Rugby is not a mainstream sport in the U.S. but it is probably the most physically demanding game in the world.
“Those who play it know how difficult it is to win every match on your schedule. We will be thrilled to have earned the admiration and respect of the rugby community if we can win this last match. No matter what level of sport you compete at, being a champion is the ultimate satisfaction.” Turn out this Saturday (Ft. Tilden 1:00) and help the Fisheads make their mark in Rugby history. DONT MISS IT!!!!