Youth Served As Fisheads Bow to Anchors In Rugby Play-Off
For 65 minutes last Saturday at Aviator field, it appeared as if the veteran Rockaway Fisheads Rugby Club might turn back the clock on Father Time.
The aging locals were locked in a 12-12 tie with the visiting South Shore (Boston) Anchors and with 15 minutes to go, still stood a chance of notching a play-off win. Facing a youthful and athletic opposition, the Fisheads managed to stem the tide with good defense and a few lucky breaks up to that point.
But, alas, it was not to be. South Shore pulled away from the locals as fatigue and cumulative age disparity joined forces and finished off the valiant but, in the end, overmatched Rockaway gang.
South Shore scored 20 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to lock up an impressive 30-12 win over the
Fisheads. It was a bittersweet conclusion to an exciting play-off run for the locals that left them disappointed but not discouraged.
South Shore was behind from the first minute of the match as Grouch McCann rumbled in to paydirt from 10 meters out with the assistance of the mauling Rockaway pack. Another score put the Fisheads up 12-0 as a penalty try and a conversion by Kevin Wrafter had Rockaway out to a somewhat comfortable lead.
To careful observers, however, the locals were doing a high wire act as South Shore repeatedly threatened but failed to cash in on numerous scoring chances.
It seems like they are trying to hold back the ocean. The levee has to break eventually the way this game is shaping up," said retired Fishead Hall of Famer Robbie Ostrander from his specially constructed luxury box at halftime.
Ostrander's observation proved prophetic as the Fisheads, leading 12-7 at the half, would not notch a second half score. South Shore tied it almost immediately after adjusting their tactics at half-time. The Anchors jettisoned their first half strategy of trying to match strength with the Rockaway forwards and instead let their very athletic and speedy backs run to daylight.
The Fisheads had no answers as they simply could not catch the high flying Anchor back row. "They were too young, too fast and too fit" said Fisheads scrumhalf Kermit Egan.
Rockaway does indeed seem to be stuck in the proverbial play-off mud. Having earned highly coveted play-off berths the last four seasons with a combined 21-7 regular season record (5-2, 5-2, 6-1 and 5-2), the Fisheads have placed themselves among the elite of the Metropolitan Rugby Union's Division 2 clubs. Dominance in the regular season does not, however, guarantee play-off success.
Said player coach Bob Johnson: "We have lost two play-off games by a combined total of four points, coupled with two rather one-sided defeats over the last 4 years. No matter what the score, a first round exit tells you that you are a big fish in your small pond but swimming with the play-off sharks is a little tougher."
The Fisheads are putting out the word, as usual, for their younger players and new recruits to attend Thursday night practices (7:30 PM) at Fort Tilden which, thanks to the new lighting the team has purchased, should be more productive.
The young legs on the peninsula are needed if the locals are to take the next step and if you have been away for a while, please come back and help the team in its championship quest. Some spring exhibition matches and tournaments are still to be played followed by the 30th annual Rockaway 7's Tournament. The old timers are hanging on and waiting for the youngsters to shore up the ranks, so get down to the Fort and help out.
The Fisheads send special thanks to the entire Rockaway community for turning out in droves to support the club last Saturday. The support of our fans made it possible for us to hang in there as long as we did.
We also want to thank the staff at Aviator field for letting us use their first class facility and providing us with a classy post game party location. We hope to be back many times in the years to come.
The Fisheads also welcomed back past president Pat Savage, who attended the match and looked terrific as he continues his recovery. It was great to see Pat looking so well and on the road back to good health after a very serious illness.
Keep up the good work Pat and God Bless. Big thanks to our brothers and faithful teammates Ratman, Chase and Chris for helping to make us better and being such good friends of the club. Finally, the Fisheads would like to give collective congratulations to the gentlemen of the South Shore Anchors.
The Anchors played a great match and deserved the victory. They are a clean club and fine ambassadors of the game of rugby. Not a single on field scuffle or cross word was exchanged during the entire 80 minutes of a very physical and hard fought match.
That is as rare, as it is enjoyable, and we wish them the best as they move on in the ERU playoffs.