2007-11-02 / Sports

Rugby Crown Comes To Rockaway as Fisheads Smack PAC

In years past, they would have stumbled.

The Rockaway Fisheads had the chance to lock up the Met New York Rugby Union Division 2 Championship last Saturday at home.

They did so in spectacular fashion, demolishing the Princeton Athletic Club 44-7. All the pieces were in place for a Rockaway letdown as scrumhalf Kermit Egan and "8-Man" Barry Cowhead was unavailable for the season finale.

Several others were also missing due to injury as Rockaway had the minimum 15 players at the opening kick-off with uncertainty riding side-saddle at Fort Tilden. The 15 who made it turned out to be more than enough as the Fisheads exorcised some demons and finally won the big one that seemed to elude them so often in seasons past.

Truth be told, this one was never a contest as the locals came out with an extra bit of nasty for the visitors from New Jersey.

Chris started things off with a penalty kick for a 3-0 Roc away lead and Big Jim Leinert barreled in shortly afterwards for a 10-0 Rockaway advantage.

Princeton could not contain the rampaging Fisheads as Kozzi, Ward, Sperling and the ferocious Rockaway pack combined to make life miserable for Princeton. Even aging veteran Phil Tufano got into the act, scoring off a maul from 5 meters out as the Blueshirts piled the points on early.

With Tim Kelly, Mike The Russian and Leinert beating Princeton up in the front row, the visitors could find no phase of the game to their liking and had no answers for the multi-phased Rockaway attack.

Brian McGiver and Grouch McCann kept Princeton on their heels and pounced on the visitors after every set scrum. The Grouch also used his veteran acumen and adjusted his lineout calls in deference to the severe wind conditions. Abandoning the almost surefire second jumper throw to Mike The Kiwi, the Grouch called his own number for the entire match.

It worked splendidly as the Grouch dominated the lineouts and even spoiled a good number of Princeton throw-ins. The locals took a 34-0 advantage into the halftime break with the outcome realistically having been decided much earlier.

"We took it to them good" said veteran second row Andy Israel. "They never got in the game and we couldn't have done any better than we did. We beat them, we won the championship and we did it convincingly."

Israel was one of the main reasons Rockaway finally became champions as he showed his teammates what true intensity was each and every week. Tackling hard and never letting up were Israel's calling cards throughout the season and it seemed to rub off on his fellow Fisheads. Rockaway was the stingiest defensive club in the league in addition to being the most prolific scorers. They were much more proud of the former distinction as disappointment registered on the faces of the home team.

Princeton was awarded a penalty try in the second half that spoiled what would have been a Rockaway shutout.

Rockaway notched 10 points in a mostly meaningless second stanza, the final tally coming off Jim Leinert's second try of the game. The big front row took a feed at the 15 meter line and barreled in to paydirt leaving opposition bodies strewn in his path.

Rockaway felt safe enough to insert some late arriving reserves for final moments as local cult hero "The Dishwasher" saw late game action to close out the affair. It was the type of game the Fisheads never seemed to play when it mattered most but on this day they put it all together.

The cathartic, crown- clinching victory was a shared experience as former Fisheads John O'Connor, Jim Coyne and Ooch Boyland (still seeing occasional action) looked on with pride as the Rockaway finally closed the deal.

"Its great to see a win like this and a championship along with it" said O'Connor. "It's been a long time coming."

RUGGER PLUGGERS: Special thanks go to Mr. and Mrs. Israel for being our #1 fans every week this year.

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