Rockaway Fisheads Blank Village Lions
Fisheads coach Bob Johnson just might be the second coming of the "Great Karmak".
During last Saturday's pre-game rugby pow-wow, Johnson sounded very much like the famous Johnny Carson sketch character as he repeatedly cautioned his club:
"We tend to play to the level of the competition," Johnson said.
He couldn't have been more correct if he wore a turban and a blindfold. While Johnson tried to warn his team as to their tendency toward playing uninspired rugby against underdog opponents, the Fisheads found themselves doing just that as they pitched what could only be termed a disappointing shut-out. Rockaway won the match handily, 17-0, and was never really threatened by the feisty Village Lions who, to their credit, played a superb match on their home turf.
"It was a combination of two things" said Johnson: They played very well but couldn't score, while we played flat but scored enough to win.
It was one of those games that things just didn't quite click the way we wanted them to. Still, we got the win and good teams get wins... even when they don't play their best."
Rockaway was looking for its third straight victory and a share of first place in the Met Union Division 2 standings. They took the field at Randalls Island as heavy favorites against the home dwelling Village Lions RFC.
The match started on fairly even terms but two early penalty kick miscues by Rockaway foreshadowed an afternoon of small errors that continually sabotaged the Fisheads at every turn.
Eventually, the Fisheads did find a way to take a 5-0 advantage in the first stanza on a Chris Roberts try. But even the missed conversion which followed soon after the score would not be a factor. In fact, these were the only points the Blueshirts would actually need on this somewhat strange day.
They were also the only points the locals would score until midway through the second half; giving many on the Fisheads sideline cause to worry as time wore on.
Unable to execute properly, the Fisheads began to press and seemingly shot themselves in the foot at the end of every sequence.
Opportunities were squandered as missed passes here, a dropped ball there, or the loss of possession in the ruck or maul, continually dogged the visitors as they tried to put the game away.
Luckily, the Lions seemed to be unable to take advantage despite doing many things well throughout the day. They were the Fisheads equals in the loose play and even held their own in the line outs and scrum-downs.
Rockaway's superior skill and physicality would finally wear down the Lions late in the second half as local family man Tyrone Sperling scampered unmolested to the try zone from 30 meters out with 15 minutes left on the clock. The air seemed to suddenly go out of the hosts at that point, despite the fact that they trailed only 10-0.
"They couldn't score no matter what they did and I think they knew they definitely wouldn't score twice" said Andy Israel when asked about the Lions late game wilt.
"I knew they were discouraged after Tyrone's score"
Israel, a crafty veteran not known for his speed, took advantage of the Lions sagging spirits and pounded his way to the try zone from 20 meters out in the waning minutes. Israel's dad commented to this reporter on the sidelines that it was Andy's first try since his Marist college playing days.
The conversion was good and iced the affair at 17- 0 for Rockaway.
"Not our best but we will take the "W" said team captain Brian Ward. Those sentiments were echoed by Barry Cowhead, Tim Kelly, Kermit Egan and the rest of the Fisheads. "We got what we came for and we can turn the page now" said Fisheads prop "Big Jim" Leinert.
The Fisheads turn the page and get ready to face off against the Morris Rugby Club in New Jersey this coming Saturday with a chance to take sole possession of first place.
Kick-off is at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday. Go to www. RockawayRugby.com for directions and post match details.
The club member of the week is Andrew Israel. Since his full time return to action a year ago, Israel has been one of the most dedicated club members, and he is again battling Jim Egan for the best redheaded player award.
This past Saturday, Israel secured man of the match honors with some devastating open field hits, as well as a game icing try in the final minutes.
Halloween party: Rockaway rugby will be holding their annual Halloween fund raiser shortly. More details to follow. The final home game of the season will be on October 27th at Fort Tilden vs. the Princeton Athletic Club.